Trial as Varied as Vaudeville Exhibition

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 7th, 1913

Every Change in Chromatic Scale Rung—All Georgia Types Seen in Court.

By L. F. Woodruff.

Every change in the chromatic scale has been rung in the Frank trial. With the single exception of the skyrocket oratory that will mark the last stage of the trial, everything that has ever been done in the trial of a criminal case has been enacted in the fight to fix on the superintendent of the National Pencil Factory the guilt of the murder of Mary Phagan.

There has been comedy. There has been tragedy. There has been periods as dull as a hookworm victim. There have been occasions as startling as the feat of a circus daredevil. There have been pathos and performances worthy of a clown. The somber has been mixed with the gay until the entire trial seems the work of a futurist artist who has had a hard night with the drinking cups before he started the painting.

Jim Conley was on the stand something like sixteen hours. His story was a ragtime composition, with the weirdest syncopations, and then came Dr. Harris right on his heels and gave evidence full of soundness and learnedness. To the spectators it seemed that they had just heard “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” played and then a Bach fugue for an encore.

One Simple, Other Complex.

Conley’s story was as simple in words as “Old Black Joe,” while Dr. Harris’ was as complex as a Wagnerian overture.

Jim Conley spoke in terms of the street, of the near-beer saloon, of the blind alley crap game. Dr. Harris spoke in the language of the laboratory and the library.

Jim Conley could not enunciate a word of more than one syllable. Dr. Harris was as polysyllabic as the word “heterogeneous.” And the spectators had to gasp after the shift.

Conley’s story, while it was as full of contradictions as a hive is of bees, was as easy to understand as a baby’s “da-da” is to a fond parent. Dr. Harris evidence was as loaded with medical lore as a physician’s library.

And, although it seems impossible, there is more still to come. Before the trial has ended practically every type that Georgia knows will have been paraded in the courtroom.

Types Seen in Court.

Right now, the spectators have seen the scholarly defendant whose court attitude is still an enigma—as unsolvable as the crime with which he is charged. There are his loving mother and his devoted wife.

Here is the massive figure of Luther Rosser, attacking every opponent with a battleax ferocity. Here is the erudite, Arnold, with rapier thrusts to send in the death blow when the enemy is beaten down by the more direct assault of his ally.

Here is the young Solicitor, struggling against tremendous odds, upsetting tradition by fighting Rosser with his own weapons, burning Arnold with his own fire.

Here is his learned associate, quick to grasp a point as a drowning man is a straw.

Here are factory girls and business men. Here are the comical figure of Newt Lee and the sinister figure of Jim Conley. Here are the learned scientist and the sleuth hound.

It seems that everything has been shown, but still there will be more. It is impossible that Rosser and Arnold will not show something just as novel and bizarre as the State has presented.

Color for a Dickens.

There is Mincey to come with his startling story—Mincey, as typical of the red clay soil of the Cracker country as peanuts and watermelons; Mincey, so typically the country school teacher that he will have to carry a rod of hickory and a blueback speller to the stand to feel at home while he is giving his evidence.

And there will be a lot more.

Tragic as is the trial, it has been Atlanta’s greatest vaudeville show. Dickens could have spent one week in Judge Roan’s courtroom and written four novels around the types he saw listening to and playing parts in the drama that hovers around the life and death of a little girl of the factory.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 7th 1913, “Trial as Varied as Vaudeville Exhibition,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)