Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
Atlanta Georgian (Hearst’s Sunday American)
July 27th, 1913
No murder trial in Fulton County ever has approached the spectacular interest which is in prospect in the Frank case from the first, sharp skirmish between the opposing attorneys, through the long, bitter legal battle, and to the final pleas of the prosecution and the defense.
The presence of Luther Z. Rosser and Reuben R. Arnold in the brilliant array of legal talent at once made certain that the trial would be out of the ordinary. Neither has the reputation of making a half-hearted fight when there is anything at stake. This time it is a man’s life that is depending upon their legal ability, their shrewdness and their eloquence.
Both have a disconcerting habit of carrying the fight to their opponents. In ring parlance, they do not give their courtroom rivals a chance to “get set.” This is going to keep the spectators constantly on the edge of expectation, and will furnish a series of exciting incidents that will give the Frank trial a place by itself in the criminal annals of Georgia.
Crisis When Conley Is Grilled.
To describe Rosser’s tactics as aggressive is expressing it euphemistically. If he were only aggressive, his name would not inspire the trepidation that now is felt by persons who have to face him in the witness box or by young lawyers who have to pit their strength against him.
Rosser and Arnold are at their best when they are cross-examining the witnesses called by the other side. This fact is expected to bring about the most thrilling situation of the entire trial in the witness box grilling of the negro Jim Conley. Not satisfied with seeking to prove the entire innocence of their client, the two lawyers propose to show that Conley is himself is the man who attacked Mary Phagan in the National Pencil Factory and flung her dead body upon the trash heap in the basement.
From whom are they to get testimony of this startling nature?
Certainty from no one else than the negro, and from him they intend to get it. It is a bold plan, but one characteristic of the two-handed fighting methods of Rosser. Anyone who has seen a witness made the object of Rosser’s attack knows that Jim Conley is in for a bad day when he is called to the stand to testify that Leo Frank had him assist in the disposal of Mary Phagan’s body.
Chance Seen for Confession.
Only a Rosser would have the courage of his convictions to expect to break down the negro after he repeatedly had told the remarkable story of finding the girl’s dead body on the second floor of the pencil factory and carrying her, at Frank’s direction and with Frank’s assistance, down the elevator into the basement.
Rosser’s plan opens up the dramatic possibility of a courtroom confession from Conley. In the opinion of those who are convinced of Frank’s innocence and the negro’s guilt, it would not be a matter of great surprise if Conley, under the fire of questions directed at him by Rosser and Arnold, should collapse and confess he alone was concerned in the crime.
The cross-examination of Conley is certain to be one of the spectacular features of the trial. His vivid tale, under the lead of questions by Solicitor Dorsey and Attorney Frank A. Hooper, will be repeated to the courtroom full of spectators. It will lose none of its dramatic elements, in that its essential features already are well known to the public. They are waiting to hear it first hand from the negro’s lips.
Raked Up His Past Life.
Then Conley will be turned over to the scarcely tender mercies of counsel for Frank. He probably will be on the rack for hours. Whether he will be able to stand the ordeal is problematical. No point in his history that could have any possible bearing on the case will be overlooked. The defense is in possession of a mass of information relating to Conley’s conduct for years. He will be asked in regard to every one of these circumstances.
Before the events of the day of the tragedy are reached the negro will have undergone a searching examination of significant incidents in his past life. Then his story of his part in the crime will be attacked. The discrepancies will be brought out in the glare of the cross-examination. The falsehoods that he told for days after he was arrested will be resurrected. All of his affidavits will be ridiculed. The two attorneys will join in an effort to break down and utterly discredit the story to which he now sticks. Whether or not they are successful, their attempt will be a dramatic feature of the trial.
A fight, scarcely less spectacular will develop over the story of William H. Mincey. This time the attorneys for the prosecution will be in the role of scoffers. Mincey has declared that he heard Conley boasting of killing a girl.
Mincey, a quiet—almost diffident—type of the country pedagogue, will be made the target for the Solicitor’s and Attorney Hooper’s fire of questions. They will seek to show that Mincey never saw Conley the afternoon of April 26, when Mincey asserted he had the conversation with the negro.
Climax When Frank Is Called.
A hot fight also will be precipitated by the demand of the defense that the State make known the identity, at the beginning of the trial, of all the witnesses against Frank. Solicitor Dorsey has said that he will fight any demand of this sort.
The subpenas duces tecum issued by the defense will form another casus belli that is expected to provide a spirited skirmish between the attorneys at the beginning of the trial. The defense insists on having in court, for the purpose of comparison, all of the affidavits taken from Jim Conley, Newt Lee, Monteen Stover, W. M. Matthews and others. Dorsey declares this is a flimsy trick to discredit the State’s witnesses, and proposes to resist to the extent of his ability any move to compel him to comply with the demand.
Leo Frank probably will take the stand in his own defense. It is regarded as not at all unlikely that Attorney Rosser will turn him over to the prosecution and give them the permission to question him as far as they like. If this be done, the trial, already invested with a host of dramatic possibilities, will reach its climax in interest.