Unable to Shake Conley’s Story Rosser Ends Cross-Examination

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
August 7th, 1913

On the opening of court Wednesday morning when Judge L. S. Roan announced that he would postpone his final decision in regard to the admissibility of Jim Conley’s evidence in regard to Leo Frank’s alleged misconduct and also to the negro’s acting on previous occasions as his “lookout,” Luther Rosser began his final effort to break the negro down.

Conley stayed on the stand until 10 o’clock and was then excused. He had been testifying for fifteen hours in all and of this thirteen hours had been under the merciless grilling of Attorney Rosser.

The negro stuck to the last to the main points of his story, and, while admitting that he had lied on previous occasions, swore that he had only tried to save himself and that about the murder he was telling the whole truth. No amount of effort could break him from this declaration.

Conley also added a new point to his story when under additional questioning from Solicitor Hugh Dorsey he swore that he had seen Frank hide Mary Phagan’s meshbag in his safe. Before that both sides had declared that they could not account for the disappearance of the pocketbook or bag in which the girl had carried her money.

Reads Black Affidavit.

Mr. Rosser opened the morning cross-examination by reading to the negro the second affidavit he made to Detective John R. Black and Harry Scott. It was in this that the darkey swore he had left home at about 9 o’clock and after visiting several saloons and poolrooms, among which was one bearing the name of the “Butt-In” saloon, he had won 90 cents at dice and then gone to the factory at about 1 o’clock. In it he had admitted to writing the murder notes, but made no mention of helping Frank dispose of the body.

Then the lawyer read the next affidavit in which the negro declared he had aided Frank in taking the dead girl’s body to the cellar in which, despite the fact that he had put into it the claim that he was telling the whole truth, he had not told certain things which he waited until he got on the stand to tell.

Mr. Rosser made Conley acknowledge to having made these affidavits and with particular emphasis called his attention to the various discrepancies between them and also between the final one and his sworn testimony.

Then the lawyer asked the witness about several conversations he is alleged by the defense to have had with various factory employees after the murder was discovered and before he was arrested.

“Jim,” began Mr. Rosser, “soon after the murder weren’t you working near where Miss Rebecca Carson was and did she say to you, ‘Jim, they ain’t got you yet for this,’ and didn’t you say, ‘No, and they ain’t goin’ to, ‘cause I ain’t done nothin’?’”

“No, sir,” replied Conley: “dat lady ain’t never said nothing like dat to me and I ain’t never said nothing like dat to her.”

“Didn’t she say, ‘Well, they’ve got Mr. Frank and he ain’t done nothing,’ and didn’t you then say, ‘Mr. Frank is ez innocent as you is and de Lord knows you ain’t guilty’?”

“No, sir,” replied Jim positively: “no, sir, Mr. Rosser, wasn’t nothing lak dat passed ‘tween us.”

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Conley Remains Calm Under Grilling Cross-Examination

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
August 6th, 1913

ROSSER ADOPTS NEW TONE MONDAY

Jim Conley, upon whose story practically the entire result of the Frank case is believed to rest, went on the stand at 9:03 o’clock and when court adjourned for lunch at 12:30 he was still being cross-examined by Luther Rosser for the defense.

The lawyer had reached that point in his cross-fire of questions where he had begun to hector the witness and to take him up whenever he made a mistake, but it appeared that he was only about half through with his work. When the adjournment was taken Conley was still sticking to the main points of his story in a way that was considered remarkable, although he had admitted discrepancies in many of the minor points and had grown confused over them.

When Attorney Rosser started out Monday his manner was mild, but only throughout the afternoon he worked up to a slightly harsher manner. When he began Tuesday he was using his usual rather abrupt tone of voice.

Solicitor Hugh Dorsey and Frank A. Hooper, his colleague, made frequent objections to the manner in which the cross-examination was being conducted and did, to a certain extent, restrain the defense.

“Jim, you made your second statement to Mr. Black and Mr. Scott on a Saturday, didn’t you?” was the first question Mr. Rosser asked.

“I disremembers the day, boss,” replied Conley.

“You told them, though, that you wrote those notes on Friday?”
“Yes, sir, I tole ‘em dat.”

“They they [sic] told you that that wouldn’t do, didn’t they?”
“No, sir, dey didn’t say nothing about that.”

“Didn’t they tell you that it wouldn’t fit in?”
“They didn’t say them words.”

“Are you sure, Jim?”
“Yes, sir, I’m sure.”

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“He Shore Goes After You” Says Conley of Mr. Rosser

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 6th, 1913

Jim Made for a Newspaper and a Cigarette as Soon as He Left the Stand—He Is Interviewed Through Medium of His Attorney

Jim Conley wasn’t garrulous after he left the witness stand Wednesday morning, and that’s saying the least of it.

Perhaps Jim figured that he had done enough talking to last him a few weeks.

He went into the reporters’ room first and sat down and heaved a sort of sigh. Then he picked up an edition of The Journal and commenced to read about himself.

A reporter turned from the telephone and said something to him, and thereupon a deputy sheriff, standing [1 word illegible], gave an imitation of a balloon ascension.

About that time William M. Smith, Conley’s lawyer, stuck his head through the door. It was the first chance the lawyer had been allowed, since Conley went on the stand, to talk to him.

“Come over here, Jim,” said Attorney Smith, and led the negro across the hall into a little ante-room.

Jim shucked off his coat as he crossed the hall, and made for a chair, stretched out his legs, and heaved another sort of a sigh. He sat there, gazing out the window, his eyes on the face of a brick wall some distance away.

A reporter came in.

“How about it, Bill,” said he. “Let me talk to him.”

“Sorry, old man,” said the lawyer, “but you see they’re already trying to get some of you boys balled up about a story some time ago, when Conley was in jail. Jim, don’t you say a word to anybody, do you hear?”
“All right,” said the reporter. “Then you do the talking. Ask him what he thinks of Rosser.”

Attorney Smith, “What do you think of Rosser, Jim?”
Jim gave a combination of snicker and a laugh. He waged his head expressively.

“He shore does go after you, don’t he?” said Jim.

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Judge Will Rule on Evidence Attacked by Defense at 2 P.M.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
August 6th, 1913

As soon as court opened Mr. Rosser asked the judge if he was ready to hear argument on the proposition to eliminate parts of Conley testimony. He said he was prepared to support his motion with authorities.

Judge Roan replied that he would postpone this decision until 2 o’clock.

Solicitor Dorsey declared that he had witnesses he expects to put on the stand Wednesday morning to substantiate the part of the negro’s testimony in dispute. He said:

“I just want the court to understand that I am going to do this.”

Judge Roan replied:

“I’ll give you the benefit of whatever you bring out.”

Conley was then recalled to the stand for the conclusion of his cross-examination.

Jim Conley was the same cool, unafraid negro when he returned to the stand Wednesday morning in the trial of Leo Frank after almost two whole days under the cross-examination of Luther Rosser. He had passed through fire and didn’t seem to mind it. He had no fear of anything that was yet to come.

Mr. Rosser might threaten him or might joke with him; it was all the same to the negro. He had tried both and had established but one thing—that Conley is a liar, and Conley admits that.

Arnold might describe him as “that miserable wretch in the witness chair,” he could gaze calmly out the window as he had done before. He didn’t quite understand all those names they were calling him, anyway.

If, in all the time that Conley was under the raking fire of Rosser’s cross-examination, he was disturbed in the slightest degree it was when he was being asked about that mysterious affidavit of William H. Mincey.

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Lawyers on Both Sides Satisfied With Conley

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 5th, 1913

They Haven’t Shaken Him a Particle,” Says Dorsey—“He Has Told About 240 Lies Already,” Declares Attorney Reuben Arnold

Both the state’s attorneys and the counsel for Leo M. Frank Tuesday at noon expressed satisfaction with the progress of the cross-examination of James Conley, the negro sweeper. The negro had been on the stand then for more than nine hours, during eight hours of which he had undergone a strenuous grilling at the hands of Attorney L. Z. Rosser.

“They have not shaken him a particle,” declared Solicitor Dorsey, “and that isn’t all. I don’t believe they will be able to do so.” Attorney Frank A. Hooper, who is assisting Mr. Dorsey in the prosecution of Frank said: “Mr. Rosser will go ahead and wear himself out, and Attorney Arnold will hurl questions at Conley until he, too, grows weary, and when it is all over the negro will still be there ready for more.”

Mr. Rosser was confident that he had made great headway in discredited Conley’s testimony. He smilingly commented upon how he had tangled up the negro when he got him away from his recited story, but said that when Conley got back into his well-drilled tale he ran along like a piece of well-oiled machinery. “I’ve caught him in a mass of lies,” asserted Mr. Rosser.

“Conley has lied both specifically and generally,” declared Reuben Arnold. “He has lied about material things and he has lied about immaterial things. He has told about 340 lies since he has been under cross-examination. I kept tab on him until he had told over 300 lies, and then they came so fast I couldn’t keep up with him.”

* * *

Atlanta Journal, August 5th 1913, “Lawyers on Both Sides Satisfied With Conley,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

Rosser Goes Fiercely After Jim Conley

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
August 5th, 1913

The determined onslaught against Jim Conley, his string of affidavits and the story he told before the Frank jury had its real beginning Monday afternoon.

Luther Rosser, starting with the avowed purpose of breaking down the negro’s story and forcing from the negro’s lips a story more incriminating to himself than any he had uttered, went deeply into Conley’s past history, his home life, his prison record and everything that directly or remotely might have a bearing on the solution of the murder mystery.

Before taking up the events of the day that Mary Phagan was murdered, the attorney made Conley admit that he had been in jail seven times. The negro did not seem particularly loath to make this admission, but was inclined at first to let it go into the record that he had been behind the bars “five or six times.”

Rosser, however, seemed to have about as thorough an acquaintance with these circumstances of Conley’s life as did Conley himself, and he refreshed the negro’s memory until Conley was willing to agree that it probably was seven times.

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Rosser’s Grilling of Negro Leads to Hot Clashes by Lawyers

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
August 4th, 1913

A bitter, determined cross-examination of Jim Conley by Luther Rosser was marked by a prolonged battle between counsel for the defense and State over the method of questioning the negro.

The defense won a complete victory, Judge Roan ruling that the accuser of Leo Frank could be cross-examined on any subject the prisoner’s lawyers saw fit.

In the course of this legal tilt Luther Rosser said:

“I am going after him (referring to Conley) and I am going to jump on him with both feet.”

Turning to counsel for the State he added significantly: “And I won’t enlighten him, either. Your period of enlightenment is over.”

Rosser, before the afternoon session concluded, got the negro to say that he had been lying when he said that he got up at 9 o’clock the day of the crime. He said he got up at 6 o’clock.

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“Smile,” Says Gheesling, “When Facing Bear-Cat Like Luther Rosser”

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 2nd, 1913

“Keep smiling on the witness stand.”

That is the motto of Will Gheesling, of the P. J. Bloomfield undertaking establishment, who testified at the Frank trial Thursday.

“When you get a bear cat like Luther Rosser after you,” he declares, “the only thing you can do is to laugh at him.”

Gheesling was one of the few witnesses who came through the ordeal of Attorney Rosser’s cross-examination with flying colors.

His face wreathed in beatific grins, and he calmly fanned himself with a tremendous palm leaf fan from the moment he took the stand until he left it several hours later. Not once did Attorney Rosser’s cross-fire feaze him, not once did the battery of questions from the guns of the defense ruffle his demeanor.

While other witnesses left the stand with dripping brows and a vast respect for Mr. Rosser’s quizzing powers. Gheesling only grinned.

“It was the fan did it, you see,” he stated. “It gave me good luck. Keep fanning and keep smiling. How could I get rattled with this palm leaf?”

Defense Claims Members of Jury Saw Newspaper Headline

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 2nd, 1913

WHEN JUDGE ROAN UNWITTINGLY HELD RED HEADLINE IN FRONT OF JURY, DEFENSE MADE POINT

Jury Is Sent Out of Room While Attorneys for the Defense Tell the Court That the Jurymen Were Seen Reading Red Headline, “State Adds Links to Chain” — Judge Then Calls Jury Back and Cautions Them

FOLLOWING JUDGE’S SPEECH TO THE JURY, TESTIMONY IS RESUMED, NO FURTHER MOTION MADE BY DEFENSE

In His Address to the Jury, Judge Roan Declared That They Must Not Be Influenced by Anything They Had Read in the Newspaper, but Must Form Their Opinion Solely on the Evidence That Was Developed in Court

A red headline in a newspaper, held in the hands of the presiding judge, came near causing a mistrial Saturday about noon in the case against Leo M. Frank.

While the defense did not ask the court to declare a mistrial in the case, it seriously considered in a conference of attorneys, asking that the case be stopped, and while apparently satisfied with an admonition to the jury to disregard anything they might have seen in a paper, it is probable that the incident will be a part of the basis for an appeal, in event the verdict goes against the defense.

During the course of the discussion of the incident Solicitor Dorsey contended that the jurors had not seen the headline.

During the progress of the trial Judge L. S. Roan picked up an extra edition of an afternoon Atlanta newspaper bearing an eight column red headline touching on the case before the jury. The headline read:

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Frank Juror’s Life One Grand, Sweet Song—Not

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
August 2nd, 1913

O. B. Keeler.

The juror’s life is not unmixed with care.

Look him over next time you attend the Frank trial. Size up his little job. Weigh his responsibility. Consider his problems.

And then, if seeking employment, go out and sign a contract to make little ones out of big ones.

It’s a more satisfactory way of earning $2 a day.

The juror’s business is to collect evidence by the earful, sift the same, separate the true from the false, and make it into a verdict as between the Stat[e] of Georgia and Leo Frank.

On the face of it, the plan is beautifully simple.

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Detective Black Muddled By Keen Cross-Examination Of Attorneys for Defense

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 31st, 1913

Detective John R. Black, the officer who went in Rogers’ machine from the factory to Frank’s residence on the Sunday morning that Mary Phagan’s body was discovered, was next put up by the state. He took the stand at 11:45 o’clock, and was still there when court adjourned for lunch.

In answers to Solicitor Dorsey’s questions he said he had been on the police force for six years and previous to that had worked as n cooper for the Atlanta Brewing and Ice company.

“Do you know any of the directors of this company?” began the solicitor, when he was quickly interrupted by the defense. Despite Mr. Dorsey’s claim that he had a material end in view, the judge ruled with the defense and without making further ado the solicitor started another line of questions.

Black told how he had been waked up at his home on that Sunday morning and told to report at headquarters and how, after a talk with Lee at the station, he had gone to the pencil factory and from there to Frank’s house with Rogers.

He told practically what Rogers had said about Mrs. Frank’s appearance at the door and of Frank’s stepping from behind a portiere curtain in the hall.

“He came out before I got through talking with Mrs. Frank,” said the detective.

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Rosser Riddles One of the State’s Chief Witnesses

Solicitor Dorsey is shown in a characteristic attitude as he questions the state’s witnesses. To his right the defendant, Leo M. Frank, is shown.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
July 31st, 1913

Detective John Black “Goes to Pieces” Under Rapid-Fire Cross-Questioning of Frank’s Attorney at Afternoon Session

Action characterized the Wednesday afternoon session of the Frank trial, and it was the first time the tedious proceedings had taken on life enough to attract more than passing interest.

This action came in the fierce and merciless cross-examination of Detective John Black by Attorney Rosser, leading counsel for the defense. Black has taken a prominent part in the investigation of the Phagan murder, and it was expected that he would prove one of the state’s principal witnesses, but before Mr. Rosser had finished with him he went all to pieces and admitted that he was hopelessly confused.

There were only two witnesses at the afternoon session—Detective Black and J. M. Gantt, the former shipping clerk at the pencil factory. Gantt was on the stand but about twenty minutes and the only two important points in his testimony were assertions that Frank knew Mary Phagan and that Frank seemed to be frightened and very nervous when the witness saw him at the pencil factory door on the evening of the murder.

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State Balloon Soars When Dorsey, Roiled, Cries ‘Plant’

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
July 31st, 1913

By JAMES B. NEVIN.

Poor John Black!

With this unwitting assistance of the Solicitor General and the assistance of Luther Rosser, he furnished all the “punch” there was in Wednesday’s story of the Frank trial.

Black evidently was undertaking to tell the truth, and was unwilling to tell more or less than the truth, but that didn’t help matters much, so far as the State was concerned.

When Solicitor Dorsey exclaimed “plant!”—which means nothing more than “faked” or “framed up” evidence for the benefit of the defense—I glanced rapidly at Rosser.

I saw precisely what I expected to see—a momentary flicker of a smile about the lips and eyes of the man, an almost immediate lightening of the lips and narrowing of the eyes, and then a quick return of the habitual ferocious frown.

I knew Dorsey had put his foot in it—put it right in, away up over the ankle, and I also knew that getting that foot back to solid ground again was going to be an undertaking pregnant with extreme difficulty and danger.

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Clash Comes Over Evidence Of Detective John Starnes

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 30th, 1913

When Sergeant Dobbs was called from the stand Detective J. M. Starnes, prosecutor of Frank and a detective attached to police headquarters was called in. He has been associated with the solicitor general throughout the Phagan investigation.

The defense and prosecution clashed in perhaps their most spectacular battle over an attempt of Attorney Rosser to force the detective into recalling the exact words of a portion of his testimony at the coroner’s inquest.

An argument was advanced by both Attorneys Dorsey and Hooper and each member of Frank’s counsel Attorneys Arnold and Rosser.

The apparent motive of the defense was to discredit certain portions of Starnes story relative to his telephonic conversation with the accused superintendent when he notified him of the tragedy at daybreak Sunday morning.

The result was a rule by Judge Roan to allow the defense to remind the witness of the exact statement he was wished to recall the exact date and circumstances. It was followed by an amendment, the question finally going unasked.

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Lee, Dull and Ignorant, Calm Under Gruelling Cross Fire

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 30th, 1913

Newt Lee, the negro night watchman of the pencil factory, who telephoned police headquarters of the finding of Mary Phagan’s body at the pencil factory, was again placed upon the stand when court convened Tuesday for the second day’s session.

Attorney Luther Z. Rosser renewed his cross-fire of questions by which he sought to confuse the negro and secure new admissions or change valuable points in his testimony, and thus expose a vulnerable point for a concentrated attack upon his entire statement.

Mr. Rosser took up practically where he had left off the afternoon before.

“Newt, when you raised your lantern you walked forward a few feet. How far did you have to go before finding out what the object that attracted you was?” he began.

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Flashes of Tragedy Pierce Legal Tilts at Frank Trial

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
July 30th, 1913

By O. B. KEELER.

The trouble is, plain human emotions won’t stick at concert pitch all the time.

And so the Frank trial, after the first twenty minutes, say, becomes much like any other trial.

Except in the flashes.

You get into the courtroom with some formality. At once you are in the midst of order. It is rather ponderous, made-to-order order. But it is order.

Officials stalk about, walking on the balls of their feet, like pussy cats. But they do not purr. They request you to be seated. You must not stand up; you must sit down. Unfortunately, you must stand up to walk to a place to sit down. And that grieves the officials. They mop their faces. One in particular uses an entirely red bandana handkerchief—sometimes for for his face, sometimes to flag standing spectators, who must sit down.

There is order.

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Rosser’s Examination of Lee Just a Shot in Dark; Hoped to Start Quarry

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian
July 30th, 1913

By JAMES B. NEVIN.

If Mr. Luther Z. Rosser’s bite is one-half so dangerous as his growl undoubtedly is disconcerting and awe-inspiring, there will be little save shreds and patches of the prosecution left when the State comes eventually to sum up its case against Leo Frank.

Rosser’s examination of Newt Lee was one of the most nerve racking and interesting I ever listened to.

It reminded me much of a big mastiff worrying and teasing a huge brown rat, and grimly bent eventually upon the rat’s utter annihilation.

A witness up against one of Rosser’s might bombardments is in a decidedly uncomfortable predicament—no doubt about that!

True, Lee snapped back at Rosser and growled angrily every little bit, and strove this way and that to get away from the insistent prod of the tremendously menacing mass of humanity forever in front of him, worrying, teasing, sneering, and threatening, but he could not.

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Will Leo Frank’s Lawyers Put Any Evidence Before the Jury?

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 29th, 1913

Will Frank’s lawyers put any evidence before the court?

That is a question that was much discussed on the opening day by a score or more of lawyers who secured seats in the courtroom in order to hear the trial and to watch the way in which the skilled attorneys on both sides handled the case.

The fact that so many witnesses have been summoned by the defense does not mean to the legal mind that Attorneys Rosser and Arnold will put up any evidence any more than the summoning of scores of the accused man’s personal friends means that Frank’s lawyers will put his character in evidence.

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Frank Trial Will Last One Week And Probably Two, Attorneys Say

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
July 29th, 1913

Indications Are That Trial Will Be Longest Over Which Judge Roan Has Presided, To Hold Two Sessions Daily

Attorneys both for the defense and for the prosecution of Leo M. Frank believe that his trial will last at least one week, perhaps, two weeks.

If the trial continues through more than one week it will be the longest over which Judge L. S. Roan has ever presided.

But, while he will expedite the trial as fast as possible, he intenrs [sic] to give attorneys all the time needed for the introduction of testimony and for argument.

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Frank’s Lawyers Ready for Trial

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 26th, 1913

They Have Started Summoning Witnesses and Are Quoted as Having Agreed to Go to Trial.

That Attorneys Reuben R. Arnold and Luther Z. Rosser, representing Leo M. Frank, charged with the Mary Phagan murder, have decided to go to trial Monday when the case is called was information made public Friday from an apparently reliable source. Coupled with this, and apparently making the trial doubly sure, is the news that the defense has started summoning its witnesses and making final preparations for the actual trial.

Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey reiterated Friday his statement in regard to the stand the state has taken and declared that he would oppose every move for continuance, unless there should prove an extraordinary reason for putting it off.

Judge L. S. Roan who will conduct the trial and who was slightly ill Thursday, had apparently recovered Friday and expects to call the case Monday morning should nothing unusual happen.

Despite the fact that the attorneys for the defense still maintain a blank silence in regard to their position and decline to say whether or not they will ask for a postponement, the impression has got out that they have agreed to having the trial come off.

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