Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
July 30th, 1913
Tuesday Afternoon’s Session Hears of Beginning of Police Investigation Into Mystery of Mary Phagan’s Murder
Following in the sequence which it began with the introduction of the first witness, the prosecution of the murder charge against Leo M. Frank progressed Tuesday afternoon to the point at which the city detectives began their investigation of t[h]e murder mystery.
Beginning with Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan, who saw her leave home about noon of April 26, the state established in succession her arrival at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth streets, and departure thence for the factory two blocks away—this by the newsboy, George Eppes; the ing of her dead body fifteen hours hour, in the pencil factory basement—this by the night watchman, Newt Lee; the arrival of the police and their official survey of the surroundings—this by Sergeant L. S. Dobbs; the beginning of the detectives’ investigation and the arrival of Leo M. Frank in physical person upon the scene—this by Detective J. N. Starnes, who appears formally as the prosecutor of the charge against Frank.
Thus, therefore, the state has established the very necessary foundation of fact that Mary Phagan was murdered in the pencil factory.
The session Tuesday afternoon was punctuated by objections by the state or the defense to questions put by the opposing side to witnesses on the stand, and by arguments between state and defense over these points.
Sergeant Dobbs and the other officers examined the basement and failed to find any notes or pads except the two notes and the pad found beside the body he said. They failed too to discover any pads on the first floor of the factory. There was no blood on the ground or in the sawdust where the body was found.
Attorney Rosser asked him if he went carefully into the trash pile in his search. No, he didn’t dig it all up, said the witness.
Picking up the hasp which had been found drawn from the back door, Mr. Rosser handed it to the witness and secured his admission that it was slightly bent to one side. Sergeant Dobbs said he could not say how the hasp was removed, but that it must have been drawn straight out from the inside of the basement; that the door apparently had been opened from the inside.
Mr. Rosser read the sergeant’s testimony at the coroner’s inquest with reference to the dragging trail leading from the elevator to the dust bin, and also with reference to the size of the trap door in the first floor.
Apparently the attorney sought to bring out that the trail did not lead all the way from the front of the elevator, but from somewhere near the corner of it close to the ladder. He also sought to establish the fact from the witness that the trap door hole was not so small that two persons could not pass through it. Witness protested that he got through himself with great difficulty; that the hole is small.
City Detective J. N. Starnes, who is known in the case as the prosecutor of Leo M. Frank, was next called to the stand.
Detective Starnes testified that he went to the pencil factory about 5 o’clock on Sunday, April 27, and made a minute examination of the basement. He testified at length as to the position of the hasp and lock on the basement door. The substance of this testimony was that the staple could not possibly have been drawn from the outside. He declared that there was a small piece of pipe on the inside, which evidently had been used to pull the staple, as directly beneath, the hasp’s position on the woodwork was an indentation which this pipe fitted.
There was another larger piece of pipe, he said, which had been placed against the door to prevent it being opened from the outside, and this pipe was in place when he made his examination.
Detective Starnes said that he took Newt Lee back to the pencil factory that Sunday morning following a conference between Chief of Detectives Lanford and Detective Black and himself. Wetective [sic] Black went with them, he said.
The first thing he did on arriving at the factory was to call Frank’s house on the telephone. He got a response shortly and got Frank on the telephone and told him to come down to the pencil factory right away.
PHONED TO FRANK.
Frank replied that he had had no breakfast and that he didn’t want to come until he had eaten something. Starnes said he impressed on him the urgency of coming and offered to send an automobile after him, and that Frank then agreed to come.
The automobile went out and got him. Starnes said that he did not tell Frank why he wanted him to come to the factory. There was no way for Frank to find out that there had been a murder at the factory until he reached there thirty minutes or less after the telephone conversation.
“What was the attitude of the negro Lee?” asked the solicitor.
Attorney Rosser objected. There was an argument for about five minutes, all four of the attorneys participating.
“We don’t care what the witnesses looked like,” said Attorney Arnold. “A detective thinks everybody looks guilty.”
NEWT LEE WAS CALM.
Starnes replied that the negro seemed composed when they took him up to the pencil factory that morning.
Mr. Dorsey asked Detective Starnes about the appearance of Frank. Starnes said that the first time he saw Frank was when Frank, with several other men walked into the factory office where he, the witness, had Lee. Among the other men was General Manager Darley, of the pencil factory. The first thing Starnes heard Frank say was a remark addressed to Mr. aDrley[sic]: “You see, I’ve got another suit.”
Attorney Hooper, for the state, declared that inasmuch as Attorney Rosser had been allowed to make an attack on Lee during his cross-examination of the negro, he believed this to be admissible in rebuttal.
Judge Roan said he would allow the question if Solicitor Dorsey insisted.
“I insist, your honor,” said Mr. Dorsey. He was allowed to repeat his question.
SAYS FRANK WAS NERVOUS.
Starnes admitted that when he was talking with Frank over the telephone he told him who it was that was talking to him.
Solicitor Dorsey wanted to know if Frank had said anything in addition to what he said to Darley about another suit: whether he mentioned breakfast or coffee or anything like that. Starnes said he did not hear anything like that. Frank appeared to be very nervous, said the witness. When pressed to particularize as to why Frank appeared nervous, Starnes said he showed himself nervous in contrast with other men there. Upon objection by Attorney Rosser, Judge Roan ruled out that portion of Starnes’ testimony relative to the contrast with other men’s appearance. Frank’s manner was nervous, said Starnes. He was rather “trembly,” not composed. Frank said Darley went upstairs somewhere. While telephoning to Frank, said Starnes, he did not tell Frank what had happened at the factory, nor did he do so when Frank came to the factory. He didn’t know Frank and didn’t speak to him.
About the t[i]me clock punch slips, Detective Starnes said that about a week after the murder, possibly Friday night, he read something in the paper which caused him to get out of bed and go to the factory. There he induced the night watchman to show him how the punch clock was operated. The watchman, said he, made a complete record of the dial in five minutes; and this record covered the half-hour punching periods from 6 to 6 o’clock, or twelve hours. Starnes said he was not present when Frank referred to Newt Lee’s punch slip record. Starnes identified the cord taken from Mary Phagan’s neck. He identified other similar cords which he himself had taken from the finishing room adjoining the metal department on the second floor of the factory. Each of these cords had a slip knot on it, just like the knot on the cord found around the girl’s neck. Starnes indicated on the diagram the room in which he found the cords.
FINDS BLOOD SPOTS.
Starnes continued that he had found a number of cords similar to that found around the neck of Mary Phagan’s body, in the factory, especially in the basement. He didn’t remember finding any more on the second floor. On Monday he was called to the factory and found on the floor about two and a half feet from the dressing room in the rear of the second floor some splotches which looked like blood. He described them as covering a spot about the size of his hand, with smaller drops spattered around. Over these blood spots had been smeared some whate [sic] substance.
He described in detail the rear of the building on the second floor, including the toilet and the door which leads to the steps going up to the third floor at the backs. He identified a picture on the diagram as being a reproduction of the fastenings on that door.
The witness said that on a nail about fifty feet from the partition on the second floor, about a third of the way from the double doors toward the elevator, he found a nail on the head of which there was some blood and he pulled it from the floor, and he took it to police headquarters. There was a little blood—just a little—about on the floor near the nail.
The distance between the double doors and the spot where he found the large blood stain in front of the dressing room, said he, is about thirteen feet.
Solicitor Dorsey concluded the direct examination by asking the detectives how long it takes a person to walk from Marietta street along Forsyth to the National Pencil factory?
“About three minutes,” answered the detective.
Attorney Rosser took up the cross-examination of Detective Starnes. The detective admitted that he had guessed at the length of time required by the walk from Marietta street to the pencil factory. The witness said he thought it should not take more than five minutes to get off a car on Marietta street, walk along Forsyth to the pencil factory and up the steps to Frank’s office.
STAPLE SLIGHTLY BENT.
Attorney Rosser secured an admission from Starnes that the staple pulled from the rear door was bent slightly. Attorney Rosser asked him about the finding of Mary Phagan’s hat on the trash pile. Starnes said that he picked it up from the trash pile about 6 o’clock on Sunday morning, but that he does not think he was the original discoverer of it. The shoe had been removed by another officer, he said. He said further that he found a gas pipe near the door, and that in his opinion it was used as a fulcrum for a lever with which the staple was pulled.
Attorney Rosser asked Starnes if, when he called Frank, “Boots” Rogers was standing near in the same room. Starnes did not remember. Attorney Rosser asked him if he hadn’t heard Boots Rogers’ testimony before the coroner’s jury about Starnes calling Frank on the telephone.
Solicitor Dorsey objected, and the point was argued about 10 minutes. Mr. Rosser contended that inasmuch as Starnes appears as the prosecutor, he immediately should have refuted any misstatement by Rogers.
ASKED TO REPEAT TESTIMONY.
Judge Roan instructed Mr. Rosser as to how he might ask thre [sic] question. Mr. Rosser, announcing that he wanted to test the memory of the witness, picked up the stenographic reports of the coroner’s inquest and requested him to repeat just wwhat he had testified on the two occasions when he appeared as a witness before the coroner.
Solicitor Dorsey objected immediately, declaring that such a question was not a proper one. It was irrelevant except for the purpose of impeaching the witness, he said. Mr. Rosser was endeavoring without calling the witness’ attention to any specific part of his testimony, to show that he couldn’t recall it and thereby discredit his recollection now of the telephone conversation.
Attorney Arnold, for the defense, answered this objection. “Your honor, my friend the solicitor has been complaining about the time wasted here on these controversies, and I dare say more time has been wasted right over this one point than would be required to develop the evidence we are seeking.”
“That’s all right,” shouted the solicitor. “I went to try this case according to law.”
“So do we,” declared Mr. Arnold. He argued that the defense desired to sift the witness in an effort to test his memory. If the witness’ memory about other details three days after the crime was defective, argued Mr. Arnold, still less dependence could be placed in it now several months after the murder. Judge Roan ruled that the defense should not ask the witness to repeat verbatim as he testified to before the coroner’s jury, but that the defense could outline some part of his testimony and ask him to repeat that.
Mr. Rosser propounded practically the same question as before.
Solicitor Dorsey objected vigorously again.
“I thought your honor had ruled on this point,” he declared.
“I have ruled,” said the judge.
“Well, then I want you to enforce the rule,” demanded the solicitor.
“Sit down and I will,” said the court.
DORSEY AGAIN OBJECTS.
Mr. Rosser renewed the argument as to his right to an answer to the question he had asked the witness. He said that he wanted the witness to repeat if he could just what he had told the coroner’s jury.
Solicitor Dorsey promptly entered another objection, insisting that Mr. Rosser should indicate to the witness just what portion of his testimony he desired him to repeat. Mr. Rosser then inquired if the witness could give the very words he used at the inquest. Starnes replied that he would find it difficult, adding that he wouldn’t say now that his version of the telephone conversation was a verbatim account of it, but that he had repeated it to the best of his recollection. Attorney Rosser asked the witness whether Frank had said anything in the telephone conversation which at that time appeared significant to the witness.
Solicitor Dorsey objected, declaring that it was totally irrelevant.
Judge Roan, however, permitted Mr. Rosser to proceed.
Starnes replied that he could not now recall that at the time he noticed anything about Frank’s conversation over the telephone.
Starnes testified that all of the blood spots had not been chipped from the floor of the factory when he was there the last time. Attorney Rosser asked him if the floor of the factory was not the dirtiest he had ever seen. Starnes declared that some aniline had been spilled around. He testified that he had not chipped up any of the blood spots around the nail. Attorney Rosser demanded why he did not testify at the inquest about Frank’s statement to the effect that he had another suit of clothes. The witness presumed no one had asked him about it there.
Mr. Rosser asked “Wasn’t that statement made in a joking manner?”
“Sort of that way,” said Starnes.
“Did you ever find Mary Phagan’s purse or the ribbons and flowers which were around her hat?”
He had not, said the witness. This concluded the cross examination.
On re-direct examination, Solicitor Dorsey asked: “You don’t know, do you, that she had a purse?”
“No, I do not,” answered Starnes.
GUARDED IN CONVERSATION.
After a clash between the attorneys, Judge Roan allowed Dorsey to ask the witness this question:
“Were you guarded in your telephone conversation with Frank?”
“I was,” said the witness.
“What did you mean by ‘casual’ conversation?”
“Just the conversation of two gentlemen over the telephone,” answered Starnes.
Starnes said he called Frank over the telephone soon after he had talked with Lee and Detective John Black.
Solicitor Dorsey put this question:
“Did anybody else about the factory joke on this Sunday morning after Mary Phagan’s murdered body had been found, except this defendant, Leo M. Frank?”
The question caused another wrangle, and finally was admitted by Judge Roan after Solicitor Dorsey argued that Attorney Rosser had brought out the admission that the remark about having another suit was made by Frank jokingly.
Starnes replied that he didn’t remember anybody else joking, unless possibly it was Mr. Darley, with whom Frank had been talking.
Solicitor Dorsey exhibited two chips of wood, removed from the floor of the second story and supposed to contain blood spots. Ctarnes [sic} identified them as the chips, to a reasonable certainty, which he got from the floor, the only difference that he could see ebing [sic] that they were somewhat cleaner than when he saw them last.
“Whom did you give the chips to?”
“To Chief Lanford,” replied Starnes.
He didn’t know what became of them after that, he said.
Solicitor Dorsey asked Starnes about an agreement between Chief Lanford and Frank, whereby the latter was to be placed under guard at police headquarters instead of being locked in a cell. He didn’t know anything of his own knowledge about this, said Starnes. Both sides announced that they were through with Detective Starnes, and he left the witness stand.
The chips identified by Starnes were offered in evidence, along with some other articles, the cord which was found around the girl’s neck; the hat, shoes, dress, underskirt, hair ribbons, stockings and other articles of wearing apparel; the strip torn from the bottom of her underskirt and found around her neck and a bloody handkerchief. All of this was admitted in evidence except the handkerchief. Attorney Rosser objected to that because it had not been identified. Mr. Dorsey recalled Starnes, and show him two more chips of wood similar to the others which he had identified. Starnes recognized these as two that he took from the rear door. They also were supposed to have blood on them. They were admitted in evidence.
At the conclusion of this identification, Attorney Rosser asked Starnes if he knew anything else about the case more than he had stated already. Solicitor oDrsey [sic] objected. Another wrangle followed. Judge Roan allowed Mr. Rosser to put the question. Starnes said he didn’t recall anything of importance at that time, that he had not told.
Solicitor oDrsey asked Judge Roan if he wannted [sic] any more witnesses “this afternoon?”
“Have you got any short ones?” inquired the judge.
The Solicitor replied in the negative.
Solicitor Dorsey sought to offer the large framed diagram in evidence.
JURY ORDERED OUT.
Attorney Rosser said, “Wait a minute till I can take a look at it.” He read the key to the diagram and exclaimed, “Oh, no, this will never go into evidence. If my brother wants to insist on it, why I ask that the jury be excused while we argue it.”
Judge Roan ordered the jury out.
The lawyers argued the admissibility of the diagram. It was taken from the wall and put down on the floor against the witness stand. Frank pulled his chair to a position in front of it and sat there examining it for a few moments, with Attorney Rosser on one side and Attorney Arnold on the other. Mr. Rosser turned to the court.
“Your honor, this thing is not admissible,” said he. “Just let me read you some of the things that are printed on it. ‘Black dotted line indicates course taken by accused.’ Why, your honor, this is a marvel! ‘Red dotted line indicates course taken by accused to toilet.’ Maltese cross indicates where girl was murdered and where her body was found in the basement. I didn’t know that the boys would hand me this kind of a lemon!”
Solicitor Dorsey smilingly said, “Well I thought you agreed to it.”
“I didn’t think you or my friend Hooper would try to put such a thing as this over me—seriously. I didn’t,” said Mr. Rosser.
KNEW IT WASN’T ADMISSIBLE.
“We know, your honor, that is wasn’t admissible as evidence,” said Mr. Dorsey, laughing. “We understood the defense, however, to agree to let it in and we would prefer to have it in like it is.”
“Pictures are the best arguments in the world,” remarked Attorney Arnold. “Illustrated papers are the best means of converging ideas. This thing is nothing more nor less than an argument for the state’s theory, and it should not have been hung here before the jury. I have never examined it closely or I would have objected. It states as clearly as anything can state that the tragedy happened in the metal room, and this is one of the points of issue in this case. This diagram ought not to show anything but the physical facts. It ought never to have been displayed before the jury.”
Solicitor Dorsey addressed the court.
“They object to the key of the diagram,” said he. “We are willing to strike that off. With the key off, it should be admissible.”
Judge Roan ruled that the simple diagram was admissible as evidence, but that anything appearing upon it as argument for the state or for the defense was not admissible. Attorney Arnold insisted that the dotted lines on the diagram were more potent arguments than the key itself. Solicitor Dorsey then announced that the state would withdraw the diagram at this time, indicating that it would be offered again later.
Court then was adjourned at 4:55 until Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock.