Bits of Circumstantial Evidence, as Viewed by State, Strands in Rope

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 8th, 1913


They call it a chain that the State has forged, or has tried to forge, to hold Leo Frank to the murder of Mary Phagan.

But isn’t it a rope?

A chain, you know, is as strong as its weakest link. Take one link out, and the chain comes apart.

With a rope, it’s different.

Strand after strand might be cut or broken, and the rope still holds a certain weight. Then might come a time when the cutting of one more strand would cause the rope to break.

The point is, the finished rope will sustain a weight that would instantly snap any one of its several strands.

Bits of Evidence Threads.

And that is what the various bits of circumstantial evidence might better be called—strands or threads.

Edgar Allen Poe, in “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” has nearly exhausted the philosophical phase of accumulative circumstance and its relation to evidence.

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Frequent Clashes Over Testimony Mark Second Day of Frank Trial

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

Atlanta Journal
July 29th, 1913


We Might as Well Begin to Show the Negro a Criminal Now as Later,” Declared Attorney Rosser, In Arguing for Admissability of His Questions—Negro Was Taken Over His Testimony Many Times in Effort to Break Him Down


Morning Session Enlivened by Clashes Between Attorneys, Every Point Is Bitterly Contested—Frank Keeps Serene and Untroubled Throughout Session—Full Story of Testimony Given by Witnesses During the Morning

After a luncheon recess of an hour and a half Tuesday the trial of Leo M. Frank was resumed at 2 p. m. with Police Sergeant L. S. Dobbs still on the witness stand. The morning session was given over to the continued examination of Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, and the direct and cross examination of Sergeant Dobbs.

There were frequent clashes between the attorneys for the defense and the solicitor during the morning. Every point was bitterly contested, and once the jury was sent from the room while the lawyers argued the fine points of the law. It was evident that the case was to be fought at every point.

The most significant feature of the morning session was an intimation by Attorneys Rosser and Arnold, counsel for Frank, that they might seek to connect the negro nigh watchman with the murder. It was during a colloquy between the lawyers for the defense and the state relative to the admissibility of the negro’s testimony as to what was said to him by the police officers about the contents of the notes found beside Mary Phagan’s body.

Solicitor Dorsey made the point that the notes had not yet been introduced as evidence and unless the defense was seeking to impeach the witness or to connect him with the crime it was not proper for him to questioned concerning the contents of the notes.

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Defense Claims Conley and Lee Prepared Notes

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

Atlanta Georgian (Hearst’s Sunday American)
July 27th, 1913

Theory Is That Watchman Surprised Sweeper Attempting to Dispose of Body and Entered Into Pact.

An amazing chain of evidence, laying bare the mystery of the two notes found beside the body of Mary Phagan, which have proved the most baffling of all the facts connected with the girl’s murder, came to light as in the possession of the defense Saturday.

According to the theory of the defense, Conley murdered the girl and was unexpectedly discovered with her body in the basement of the pencil factory by Newt Lee; that the night watchman declared the blame for the murder would be placed upon himself instead of Conley, and that the two notes, laying the blame upon the negro fireman Knoyls, and openly accusing the night watchman of the crime, sealed an agreement of secrecy between Lee and Conley.

Motive of Notes.

The first note, written by Conley, to soothe Lee’s fears, is believed to have been the one reading:

Continue Reading →

Grim Justice Pursues Mary Phagan’s Slayer

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

The Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, July 20, 1913

As Famous Murder Case Nears Trial the Public Mind Again Reverts to the Discovery of the Crime; and Again the Great Question Comes Up:

“What Happened in the Pencil Factory Between Noon Saturday and 3:15 Sunday Morning?”

By Britt Craig.

Automobile in which detectives and newspaper men went to the scene of the murder. In the machine are Detective Starnes, Harry Scott, W. W. (Boots) Rogers and John Black.

There are things that happen right before our eyes that defy the pen of a god to describe. The mind of a master would find itself lamentably incompetent, and the words of a Demosthenes would become panic-stricken in the attempt.

One of these was the night Mary Phagan’s body was found. It was a night as dramatic as the fury of a queen and poignant as her sorrow. It wrote the first thrilling chapter of Atlanta’s greatest criminal case, and it will live forever in the minds of those who knew it.

This story is no effort at description, because description is impossible. It is just a plain, ordinary story of the happenings that night when Newt Lee went down into the basement to wash his hands and emerged, overcome with fear, the discoverer of a crime that put an entire state in mourning.

A week from tomorrow, Leo Frank, manager of the pencil factory, where Mary Phagan’s body was found, will be placed on trial charged with the murder of the young girl, and interest in this mysterious crime again goes back to the night when Newt Lee startled police headquarters with news of his grewsome find.

Finding the Body.

Continue Reading →

Writ Sought In Move to Free Negro Lee

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, July 3, 1913

Attorney for Watchman Declares Client Knows Nothing of the Actual Crime.

Bernard L. Chappell, attorney for Newt Lee, negro night watchman at the pencile [sic] factory, held in the Phagan case, stated Thursday morning that he would swear out a writ of habeas corpus for the release of the negro.

Attorney Chappell stated that he had come to the conclusion that there was nothing the negro knew about the crime except finding the body, and that the State had no right to keep him without some charge or as a material witness.

Lee was the first suspect arrested in connection with Mary Phagan’s murder. He was ordered held by the Coroner, but when a bill of indictment was offered the Grand Jury at the same time of the Frank indictment, no action was taken against the negro.

Weak Spots in Conley Tale.

Chappell said the writ of habeas corpus would compel the State either to order the negro held as a material witness or make some charge against him.

Conley, in relating his dramatic tale of carrying the body of Mary Phagan from the rear of the second floor and disposing of it at the direction of Frank in a dark corner of the gloomy basement, said that when he reached the elevator he had to wait until Frank went into his office for a key to the elevator door.

The defense will maintain, it is understood, that the elevator door had not been locked for some time. Witnesses will be called to testify that the door had remained unlocked in accordance with instructions from the firms with which the building was insured. From this alleged circumstance, it will be argued that the negro’s story is a fabrication devised to shield himself from the charge of murder and to shift the responsibility onto another man.

Continue Reading →

Report Negro Found Who Saw Phagan Attack


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

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, June 6th, 1913

St. Louis, June 6.—That a negro, who is alleged to have said he witnessed the murder of Mary Phagan in Atlanta, is under arrest in Cairo, Ill., and is about to be returned to Atlanta by a Pinkerton detective, was the information brought into St. Louis today by a passenger who declared he overheard a conversation betwene [sic] the detective and an attorney in the case who were on the train en route to Cairo.

According to the passenger, the negro has admitted that he was in Atlanta with a show at the time of the murder, and was shooting craps in the basement of the National Pencil Factory with a negro watchman when the watchman told him that he would attack the Phagan girl, which was done in his presence.

Inquiry at Cairo failed to-day to verify the report of the arrest of the negro.

Strenuous denials of any knowledge of the mysterious affidavit reported to have been made by Jim Conley, in which he was said to have confessed to A. S. Colyar that he murdered Mary Phagan, was made to Chief of Detectives Lanford Friday by both men.

Conley, on the grill, declared that he had never heard of Colyar until he read his name in the newspapers in connection with the pictograph controversy. The negro said he had never either talked with him or seen him, and that he had at no time made an affidavit other than the ones given to the police.

Colyar made a similar denial. Following the examination, Lanford declared that the whole report was wholly without foundation. He also stated that Conley had reiterated the truth of his former affidavit and that there was nothing further to add to it.

“I attribute this report to Colonel Felder’s work,” said the chief. “It merely shows again that Felder is in league with the defense of Frank; that the attorney is trying to muddy the waters of this investigation to shield Frank and throw the blame on another. Continue Reading →

Bitter Fight Certain in Trial of Frank


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

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, June 3rd, 1913

Defense Prepares to Show Glaring Discrepancies in Affidavit of James Conley.

[Minola McKnight, the negro cook at Frank’s home, made a written statement Tuesday afternoon to the police following a cross-examination lasting more than an hour at the police station.

The woman was questioned by E. H. Pickett and Roy L. Craven, both of whom are employed at the hardware store of Beck & Gregg. While the bearing of her statement on the Phagan case was not revealed, it is generally thought to relate to the actions of Frank and other inmates of his household on the morning following the murder.

She is believed to have stuck to her story that Frank was home at 1:30, which is one link in the alibi chain the defense is forging.

That Louise H. Beck, foreman of the Grand Jury which indicted Frank, is a co-partner in the establishment with which Pickett and Craven, the questioners of the negro woman, are employed is believed to lend much significance to the cross-examination by the two men. This connection, however, was not made public.

The cook was later released after her statement had been taken, and with her husband left for her Pulliam street home. It was said that she might be called as a witness in the trial of Frank. Much as the detectives attempted to shroud her evidence in mystery, all the indications were that she had not materially changed her statement in favor of Frank. She was released on an agreement with her counsel, George Gordon. — added from a later edition of the Georgian — Ed.]

“Developments of a startling nature may be expected from day to day in the Phagan case,” said Chief of Detectives Lanford Tuesday morning. “They may be expected right up to the date that the trial of Leo Frank begins.

“That we feel we practically have a conclusive case against the factory superintendent does not mean that we are resting in our labors to the slightest extent. We are a little more at rest in our minds, that is all.

“The detectives are working constantly on new clews that present themselves and are investigating every story that is heard, whether it is told by a witness favorable to Frank or against him. We wish to go into court prepared to establish our case against Frank so that not a doubt of his guilt will be possible. That is, of course, if it still appears at that time as certain to us that he is the guilty man as it does now.”

With the continued activity of the detectives, it has become noticeable in the last few days that the defense is at work on its case. Both sides are preparing for a titanic battle when Frank is put on trial for his life the third week in this month. Frank’s cook is still held at police headquarters.

To Cite Time Differences.

Differences in the time given by Jim Conley in his affidavit and the testimony of Coroner’s jury witnesses will be pointed out in the defense of Leo M. Frank against the charge of killing little Mary Phagan, it was revealed Tuesday. They will be used as indications of the superintendent’s innocence because of their many seeming deviations from fact.

One of the most glaring was the negro’s declaration that while he was in Frank’s office to write the notes Miss Corinthia Hall and Mrs. Emma Clark entered. Conley said that this was 1 o’clock or a few minutes after. But Miss Hall had left the building more than an hour before, according to her own testimony before the Coroner’s jury. Continue Reading →

Frank Asked Room to Conceal Body Believes Lanford


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

Atlanta Constitution

Monday, June 2nd, 1913

Detective Chief Forms New Theory as to Reason Why Prisoner Is Said to Have Phoned Mrs. Formby.


Lanford Says He Will Find Her in Time for Trial, But Does Not Know Where She Is Now.

That Leo M. Frank telephoned Mrs. Formby on the night of Mary Phagan’s murder for a room to which he would be able to remove the victim’s body and thereby lessen suspicion against himself, is the theory on which Chief Newport Lanford is basing a search for Mrs. Formby, which is extending over the entire south.

She mysteriously disappeared several days ago. Efforts to locate her have been futile. The entire detective department is puzzled. The Pinkertons are mystified. Her whereabouts is a matter that interests detectives and the Pinkertons.

Mrs. Formby, in a recent interview to a reporter for The Constitution, told him that she had been made several offers of money to leave Atlanta until the Mary Phagan trial had been completed. She also openly announced that within a short while she intended leaving the city for New Mexico, in which state she said she intended to live.

Chief Determined to Find Her.

Chief Lanford says, however, that he will produce her at the trial of Leo M. Frank, and that she will be an important witness. He admits, though, even with this announcement, that he has not yet been able to find her.

“We were able to find the girl’s murderer,” says the chief, “and surely we will be able to locate Mrs. Formby.”

His theory is that the suspected superintendent, after deliberating over the crime the chief accuses him of having committed, communicated over the telephone with Mrs. Formby to obtain a room to which he could remove the body, thereby lessening the suspicion which would likely cling to himself if the corpse remained in the factory basement. Continue Reading →

Frank’s Defense is Outlined


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

Atlanta Journal

Monday, June 2nd, 1913

Mary Phagan Met Death on First Floor, Is Claim

Defense Will Endeavor to Show That Conley Struck Her in Head and Threw Her Down Elevator Shaft


Blood Spots on Second Floor Explained by Fact That Employes Frequently Cut Fingers—Theory in Detail

From apparently reliable authority it was learned Monday that the theory to be advanced in defense of Leo M. Frank, the pencil factory superintendent, who has been indicted for the murder of Mary Phagan, will be that James Conley, the negro sweeper, and he alone, killed the girl and hid her body in the factory basement.

Notwithstanding Luther Z. Rosser, chief counsel for Frank, maintains his sphinxlike attitude and declines to discuss the theory of the defense, it is understood that the arguments in Frank’s favor will be based upon the idea that Conley was without assistance in the commission of the crime and that Frank had no knowledge whatever of it.

The defense will, it is said, take the position that Mary Phagan was killed on the first floor of the factory at the foot of the stairs where the negro admits he was in hiding. The suggestion of the girl having been killed on the second floor, as declared by Conley in his affidavit of confession, will, it is said, be ridiculed.

It will be contended that Conley was in hiding on the first floor from about 9 o’clock in the morning, most probably with the intention of robbing some of the women employes who came for their pay.

It will be shown that many of the incidents which the negro swears happened while he was secluded among the boxes by the stairs occurred before Frank went over to Nelson street, and therefore, the negro must be lying when he says that he met the superintendent at the corner of Nelson and Forsyth streets and followed him back to the factory sometime between 10:30 and 11 o’clock. Continue Reading →

Conley’s Statement Analyzed From Two Different Angles


At the top is a photograph of the note written by James Conley, the negro sweeper, at the factory Friday afternoon after he had pantomimed his part in the murder of Mary Phagan. He wrote from memory and without prompting. At the bottom is a portion of one of the notes found by the dead girl’s body and which Conley admits he wrote.

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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, June 1st, 1913

The Weak Points in the Negro’s Story Are Shown in One Analysis and the Points That Would Seem to Add to Its Reasonableness Are Weighed in the Other.

Below are given analyses of the negro, James Conley’s latest statement or confession from two viewpoints. In one analysis the negro’s statement is weighed with the idea that Conley has not told the whole truth, that he is endeavoring to hide his own responsibility in an accusation of Mr. Frank, who is innocent of the crime, is the victim of a chain of circumstances which link his name with suspicion. In the other analysis Conley’s confession is discussed from the standpoint of the man who regards it as being truthful and its points are argued from that partisan angle. The Journal presents these discussions without any wish to influence any reader to either view but simply for whatever news value they may have in throwing light on the case.

Conley’s Story Is Unreasonable from This Viewpoint

Those who have all along argued that Superintendent Leo M. Frank could not have had any hand in the murder of Mary Phagan, the pencil factory girl, whose body was found in the factory basement on Sunday morning, April 27, are, since the confessions of James Conley, the negro sweeper, more than ever convinced that Frank is innocent.

They now hold to the theory that the negro not only took the girl’s body to the factory basement and wrote the notes found beside it, as he says in his confession, but that he, and he alone, committed the murder.

Calling attention to the fact that Frank is an educated, gentle and refined man, and one whose past record and reputation are such as to win the respect and loyalty of his friends and acquaintances, all of whom still believe in him, despite certain unfortunate circumstances which militate against him, they make the flat assertion that Frank, being the man he is, could not have committed the brutal crime charged to him by the grand jury.

After asserting this proposition, those who believe in Frank’s innocence and the negro’s guilt undertake to analyze the evidence adduced at the coroner’s inquest and the negro Conley’s affidavit of confession. In doing this they seek to substantiate the statement made by Frank at the inquest and to point out the improbabilities and weakness of the negro’s story. Continue Reading →

Conley is Unwittingly Friend of Frank, Says Old Police Reporter

conley-isAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 1st, 1913


Developments came thick and fast during the past week, and one is able to approach consideration of the Phagan case to-day with more assurance and ease of mind than heretofore.

Distinctly have the clouds lifted, so I think, from about Leo Frank, and if not yet are they “in the deep bosom of the ocean buried,” they have, nevertheless I take it, served to let a measure of the sunshine in.

Leo Frank, snatching eagerly at that faltering ray of blessed and thrice-welcome light, may thank the negro Conley for it—albeit Conley let it in neither by way of an impulse of sympathy nor intentional truth.

If I were a de-tec-i-tiff—which, praise be to Allah, I am not!—I think I should cease shouting from the housetops my unshakable belief in Frank’s guilt, and should begin to contemplate in solemn and searching analysis the shifty and amazing James Conley, negro!

It is my opinion, bluntly stated, that Conley is an unmitigated liar, all the way through, and that the truth is not in him!

His statement appeals to me an Old Police Reporter—and not a de-tec-i-tiff, again praise be to Allah!—as distinctly the weightiest document in Leo Frank’s favor that yet has been promulgated.

Would Belong in Asylum.

Certainly, if Frank DID do the astonishing things Conley attributes to him, he should not be sent to the gallows, in any event, for he surely belongs in Milledgeville, safely held in the State lunatic asylum. But, more of Conley hereafter. The issue of murder has been made with Leo Frank, and he must face trial. The Grand Jury has indicted him, and he will be arraigned in due time and in order.

It will be a finish fight between the State and the defendant. There can be no compromise now—either Frank is guilty or he is innocent, and the truth of that is for twelve men, “good and true,” to say. Continue Reading →

Plan to Confront Conley and Frank for New Admission


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

Atlanta Georgian

Saturday, May 31st, 1913

Police Hope Meeting Will Prove Whether Negro Will Stick to Latest Story Under Eyes of the Man He Accuses—Ready to Pay Penalty.

[Important Developments Looked For, but Nothing Sensational Made Public—Insists He Has Told All, but Further Confession Is Expected.

For hours Saturday James Conley, negro sweeper, whose sensational confession accuses Superintendent Leo M. Frank of the murder of Mary Phagan, explained in detail to Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey the dread mysteries of the National Pencil Factory on April 26, explaining many things that had not been clear to the officials, but sticking tenaciously to the story he told the city detectives.

Conley was taken to the Solicitor’s office at that official’s request and put through a severe cross-examination. With an elaborate diagram, drawn for the Solicitor by Bert Green, a Georgian staff artist, to guide him, the negro traced the various scenes in the factory after the slaying of the girl.

He told just where he first claims to have found her and how he and the superintendent he accuses attempted to dispose of the body. The drama he enacted in the factory Friday for the detectives he re-enacted for the Solicitor in the little room at the court house with the artist’s charge as the stage and his finger as the tracer of tragedy.

Dorsey Well Satisfied.

The Solicitor was well satisfied with the results obtained in the secret conference behind closed doors and certain points that had been vague to him before were made clear.

At Conley’s own request, through William Smith, his counsel, the negro was later transferred to the police station. The negro had been so besieged by questioners at the county jail that he asked to be put within the shelter of police headquarters, where he had been closely guarded and where none but policemen had been allowed to interrogate him.

Conley intimated that he had been threatened at the jail, but little credence was put in his ramblings. It was plain that he wanted rest. He had told his story so often—each time, it may be noted, in almost the same words—that he was tired. The police agreed that he had answered enough questions from outsiders and he was moved. — The above section in brackets is additional information reported in the earlier “home” edition of the Georgian from the same date — Ed.]

A determined effort is being made by the police department to bring Leo M. Frank face to face with his accuser, Jim Conley, the negro sweeper.

The detectives wish to learn how Conley will go through the ordeal of confronting the man he accuses of directing the disposal of the body of Mary Phagan, and dictating the notes that were found her body. Continue Reading →

Mary Phagan’s Murder Was Work of a Negro Declares Leo M. Frank

14390922_10155190778292977_6948068707988274765_nAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Saturday, May 31st, 1913

“No Man With Common Sense Would Even Suspect That I Did It,” Prisoner in Fulton Tower Tells Attache. “It’s a Negro’s Crime Through and Through.” Asserts His Innocence to Turnkeys and to Fellow Prisoners.


“I Believe He’d Let ‘Em Hang Me to Get Out of It Himself if He Had the Chance,” Says Negro Sweeper—Chief Lanford Is Pleased With Work of Department and Ready for the Case to Come to Trial Immediately.

“No white man killed Mary Phagan. It’s a negro’s crime, through and through. No man with common sense would even suspect that I did it.”

This declaration was made by Leo M. Frank in his cell at the Tower to a jail attaché, the attaché told a reporter for The Constitution last night. He is also stated to have made incessant pleas of innocence to turnkeys and prisoners who are permitted within the sacred confines of his cell.

No newspaper men are allowed to see him. He has instructed Sheriff Mangum to permit no one in his presence except at his request. The sheriff is obeying the order to the letter. Even Chief Lanford, headquarters detectives and Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, which agency is in the prisoner’s employ, are denied admission to his cell.

Coupled with the declaration Frank is said to have made to the jail attaché, comes his statement made Friday to Sheriff Mangum that he knew not who was guilty, but that the murderer should hang. This was made after news reached him of Conley’s confession, it is said.

Many Friends Visit Frank.

Frank devours newspaper stories of the Phagan investigation, it is said at the jail. His cell is crowded daily with friends and relatives who bring him papers and delicacies. His wife now visits him once each day. He talks but little of the crime to anyone beside his friends, and but little is gained from him by the jailers and prisoners who visit him. Continue Reading →

Conley’s Confession is Given in Full

Jim Conley

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

Atlanta Journal

Friday, May 30th, 1913

“On Saturday, April 26, 1913, when I came back to the pencil factory with Mr. Frank I waited for him downstairs like he told me, and when he whistled for me I went upstairs and he asked me if I wanted to make some money right quick, and I told him, yes, sir, and he told me that he had picked up a girl back there and had let her fall and that her head hit against something—he didn’t know what it was—and for me to move her and I hollered and told him the girl was dead.

“And he told me to pick her up and bring her to the elevator, and I told him I didn’t have nothing to pick her up with, and he told me to go and look by the cotton box there and get a piece of cloth and I got a big wide piece of cloth and come back there to the men’s toilet, where she was, and tied her, and I taken her and brought her up there to a little dressing room, carrying her on my right shoulder, and she got too heavy for me and she slipped off my shoulder and fell on the floor right there at the dressing room and I hollered for Mr. Frank to come there and help me; that she was too heavy for me, and Mr. Frank come down there and told me to ‘pick her up, dam fool,’ and he run down there to me and he was excited, and he picked her up by the feet. Her feet and head were sticking out of the cloth, and by him being so nervous he let her feet fall, and then he brought her up to the elevator, Mr. Frank carrying her by the feet and me by the shoulder, and we brought her to the elevator, and then Mr. Frank says, ‘Wait, let me get the key,’ and he went into the office and come back and unlocked the elevator door and started the elevator down.

Frank Ran the Elevator.

“Mr. Frank turned it on himself, and we went on down to the basement and Mr. Frank helped me take it off the elevator and he told me to take it back there to the sawdust pile and I picked it up and put it on my shoulder again, and Mr. Frank he went up the ladder and watched the trapdoor to see if anybody was coming, and I taken her back there and taken the cloth from around her and taken her hat and shoes which I picked up upstairs right where her body was lying and brought them down and untied the cloth and brought them back and throwed them on the trashpile in front of the furnace and Mr. Frank was standing at the trapdoor. Continue Reading →

But One Thing is Proved in Mary Phagan Mystery


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

Atlanta Constitution

Friday, May 30th, 1913

Amid the warp of falsehood and the woof of conjecture, one thing stands out like a scarlet thread in the Mary Phagan murder mystery—for mystery it still is and still will be until a jury of twelve men fixes the guilt on some man or men.

That one thing—startling in its vivid contrast to the murky maze of contradictions—is the fact that James Conley, the negro sweeper employed at the National Pencil factory, wrote the notes which were found beside the mutilated and lifeless body of Mary Phagan early in the morning of April 26.

Why he wrote them, when he wrote them, whether he wrote at the dictation of someone else or whether he himself committed the crime, are matters yet to be determined. He has lied and lied out of a lie. First he said he wrote the notes on Friday; now he comes forward and admits he wrote them on Saturday, the day the murder was committed. He tells various stories about the writing of the notes. He puts improbable words in the mouth of Leo Frank. He has squirmed and twisted and backed and stalled; but once having stated he wrote the notes his handwriting proves the assertion as indubitiably [sic] as if the bits of paper on which the messages were scrawled bare the crimson imprint of his fingers. Continue Reading →

Detectives Seek Corroboration of Conley’s Story

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

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 29th, 1913

They Declare That They Are Anxious to Get at the Truth of the Murder Case, Regardless of Who Is Guilty

Little if any credence is placed by the city detectives in the theory of the officials and employes of the National Pencil factory that Mary Phagan was killed by James Conley, the newro [sic] sweeper, and that his motive was robbery.

The detectives have accepted as true Conley’s second affidavit, in which he swears that he wrote the notes found by Mary Phagan’s body, and that he did so about 1 o’clock on the day of the murder, at the dictation of Superintendent Leo M. [F]rank, who is now under indictment by the grand jury.

However, they are somewhat puzzled by the discrepancies in the time of certain occurrences as sworn by Conley and testified at the coroner’s inquest by other witnesses.

Harry Scott, the Pinkerton detective who is working with the city detectives on the Phagan murder case and who developed the fact that Conley could write, notwithstanding his denials, declared that the shortest route to a complete solution of the mystery is to bring the negro Conley and Superintendent Frank face to face. He says the negro insists that he is anxious and willing to confront Mr. Frank with his story, and that if Mr. Frank and his attorneys agree, they (Conley and Mr. [F]rank) will be brought together to discuss the truth or falsity of the negro’s declarations. Continue Reading →

Conley Says He Helped Frank Carry Body of Mary Phagan to Pencil Factory Cellar


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

Atlanta Constitution

Friday, May 30th, 1913

Helped Frank Dispose of Mary Phagan’s Body Conley Now Confesses

Negro Sweeper Who Swore to Detectives That He Wrote Murder Notes Found Near Dead Girl’s Body Now Admits His Complicity in Case, According to Statements Which Have Stirred Police Headquarters as Nothing Since Murder.


Police and Detective Heads Refuse to Go Into Details of Negro’s Statement Or to Discuss What He Said, But Declare That It Will Prove a Big Factor in the Murder Case—Negro Will Be Subjected to Another Third Degree Today.

Dumbfounding his hearers with the confession that he had helped Leo M. Frank lower the lifeless body of Mary Phagan into the darkness of the pencil factory basement, James Conley, the negro sweeper, is authoritatively said to have made that astounding admission during a strenuous third degree at police headquarters late Thursday afternoon.

He is said to have minutely described the movements of himself and Frank as they packed the mutilated form from the office floor of the building down into the dark cellar, where it was left in the desolate recess in which it was discovered the following morning.

Saying he had found the girl stone dead when he entered the building at 1:15 o’clock with the suspected superintendent, he is declared to have admitted that he and Frank proceeded immediately to remove the corpse, silently and with utmost precaution, to its hiding place in the basement.

Conley Asked No Questions.

Through fear he states he did not ask his employer how the little girl met her death. He is said to have told the police that he asked no questions, carried out Frank’s instructions to the letter, and departed directly after he emerged from the grewsome trip into the basement. Continue Reading →

Ready to Indict Conley as an Accomplice

ready-to-indictAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 29th, 1913

Dorsey Ready to Act if Negro Sticks to Latest Story Accusing Frank.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey announced that if Conley persisted in his story he would take steps to have him indicted as an accessory after the fact and bring him to trial on this charge.

Conley was Friday afternoon removed to the Tower, on an order signed by Judge Roan.

Conley’s startling tale came late Thursday afternoon after he had been under a merciless sweating for nearly three hours. Noting the signs of weakening, Detective Harry Scott and Chief Lanford shot question after question at him in rapid succession.

Conley hesitated and then told the men who surrounded him that he had seen Mary Phagan on the day of the crime, but that she was dead when he saw her. When it became evident that he most important disclosures of the long investigation were to be made, G. C. February, secretary to Chief Lanford, was called in and took the negro’s statement.

Sticks to Note Story.

Conley stuck to his story that Frank had him write the notes that were found by the girl’s body and the detectives believe that there can be no doubt of this now.

He said that after the notes were written Frank took his arm and led him to the body. Frank’s hand was shaking, the negro declared. Together, they raised the limp form from the floor, Conley told the detectives, and took it into the basement.

Offering no explanation of the tragedy which had occurred, Frank ordered Conley to leave the building, according to the statement. Conley explained his long silence by saying that he thought Frank had plenty of money and that he would be able to get both of them free within a short time.

Chief Lanford and Detective Scott both declared after the third degree that they were confident that the negro at last was telling the truth. If he has any further knowledge of the crime, they said they would get it out of Friday when they put him through another grilling. Continue Reading →

Negro Conley’s Affidavit Lays Bare Slaying


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

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 29th, 1913

Swears Frank Told Him Girl Had Hit Her Head Against Something.

The Georgian in it second Extra published exclusively the first REAL confession of James Conley, the negro sweeper at the National Pencil Factory, regarding the part he played in the Mary Phagan mystery.

The Georgian has dealt in no haphazard guesses as to the negro Conley’s testimony to the police and in giving prominence to his statements desires to say that it must not be taken as final until it is examined at the trial of Frank. Continue Reading →

Conley Re-enacts in Plant Part He Says He Took in Slaying


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

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 29th, 1913

With Detectives Looking On, Negro Shows How He Carried Girl’s Body to Basement at Direction, as He Swear, of His Employer, Leo Frank.

As a sensational climax to the confession of his part of the Mary Phagan tragedy, Jim Conley, negro sweeper, was taken to the National [P]encil Factory Friday afternoon, where he enacted by movement every detail of the event that took place in the building of mystery after the death of the little girl.

With the detectives noting every sentence that fell from the ready lips of the negro, Conley started from the exact point at the top of the stairs on the second floor where he says Leo Frank met him, and went through the grim drama with a realism that convinced all who listened and watched that he at last was telling the whole truth.

He reproduced the conversations that passed between him and Frank. He lay down full length at the rear of the metal room to show precisely how the body of the little girl lay when he first saw it. He lay partly on his face, with his right leg slightly drawn up, to portray the position of the dead girl when he first saw her as he was led to the rear of the building, as he says, by Leo Frank.

Show How Body Laid.

Later in the basement he lay down again to show the detectives just how the body was dropped to the ground as though it had been a sack of salt. The negro lay on his face. His right arm was curled up under his body. The left arm was partly under his body, but straight. His feet pointed toward the rear door and his head toward the front of the building.

The announcement that this spectacular reproduction of the crime was to take place was made at the end of another third degree session in the office of Chief Lanford. The negro was put in Chief Beavers’ automobile. All the curtains were drawn and the utmost secrecy was maintained. Only those in authority in the factory were aware that the tragedy was to be re-enacted, step by step.

Conley was handcuffed to Chief Beavers when he stepped from the car. Many of the employees, at leisure during the noon hour, were congregated at the foot of the stairs on the first floor when the strange procession filed up the stairs. The city detectives had come on foot. Chief Lanford and Chief Beavers, with the negro, arrived a few minutes later. Continue Reading →