|Born||Leo Max Frank
April 17, 1884
|Died||August 17, 1915
|Cause of death||Lynching|
|Resting place||New Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale, Queens, New York
|Monuments||ADL monument 90th anniversary of founding, October 20, 2003, Mount Carmel Cemetery; Georgia historical marker, near lynching site, 1200 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA 30060|
|Education||Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (1906), pencil manufacturing apprenticeship (1908)|
|Alma mater||Cornell University|
|Employer||National Pencil Company in Atlanta|
|Criminal charge||Convicted on August 25, 1913, for the murder of Mary Phagan.|
|Criminal penalty||Sentenced on August 26, 1913, to hang. Commuted to life in prison on June 21, 1915.|
|Parent(s)||Rudolph Frank and Rachel ("Rae") Jacobs|
|Relatives||Marian J. Stern (sister), Moses Frank (uncle)|
Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was a Jewish-American factory superintendent who was convicted of the murder of one of his factory employees, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. His legal case and lynching in Georgia brought attention to the topic of antisemitism in the United States.
An engineer and director of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Frank was convicted on August 25, 1913 for the murder of Phagan. She had been strangled on April 26 of that year and was found dead in the factory cellar the next morning. The basis for Frank's conviction largely centered around the testimony of another suspect, James "Jim" Conley, an admitted accomplice after the fact, who worked as a sweeper in the factory. Conley changed his testimony several times in various affidavits and admitted to fabricating certain parts of his story. After Frank's conviction, he and his lawyers made a series of unsuccessful appeals, losing their final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1915. Following this decision and after deliberation, Governor John M. Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. A crowd of 1,200 marched on the governor's mansion in protest. Two months later, Frank was kidnapped from prison by a group of 25 armed men and driven 170 miles (270 km) to Marietta, Georgia where he was lynched.
His criminal case became the focus of powerful class, regional, and political interests. Although born in Texas, the Northern-educated Frank was seen as a carpetbagging representative of Yankee capitalism who exploited child laborers like Phagan and many working-class adult Southerners of the time, as the agrarian South was undergoing the throes of industrialization. During trial proceedings, Frank and his lawyers resorted to racial stereotypes in their defense, accusing Conley – who was African-American – of being especially disposed to lying and murdering because of his ethnicity. There was jubilation in the streets when Frank was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
Frank was posthumously pardoned in 1986 by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which said that it was done "[w]ithout attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence”. The consensus of researchers on the subject is that Frank was wrongly convicted.
- 1 Background
- 2 Murder of Mary Phagan
- 3 Indictment, trial, and sentencing
- 4 Appeals and commutation
- 5 Abduction and lynching
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Notes and references
Frank was born in Cuero, Texas on April 17, 1884 to Rudolph Frank and Rachel "Rae" Jacobs. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1884 when Frank was three months old. He attended New York City public schools and graduated from Pratt Institute in 1902. He then attended Cornell University, where he studied mechanical engineering. After graduation in 1906, Frank worked briefly as a draftsman and as a testing engineer.
At the invitation of his uncle Moses Frank, Leo traveled to Atlanta for two weeks in late October 1907 to meet a delegation of investors for a position with the National Pencil Company, a manufacturing plant in which Moses was a major shareholder. Frank accepted the position, and traveled to Germany to study pencil manufacturing at Eberhard Faber in Bavaria. After a nine-month apprenticeship, Frank returned to the United States and began working at the National Pencil Company in August 1908. Leo Frank became superintendent of the factory in September 1908.
Frank was introduced to Lucille Selig shortly after he arrived in Atlanta. She came from a prominent and upper middle class Jewish family of industrialists who, two generations earlier, had founded the first synagogue in Atlanta. Though she was very different from Frank, and laughed at the idea of speaking Yiddish, they were married in November 1910, at the Selig residence in Atlanta. Frank described his married life as happy.
Frank was elected president of the Atlanta chapter of the B'nai B'rith, a Jewish fraternal organization, in 1912. The Jewish community in Atlanta was the largest in the South, and the Franks moved in a cultured and philanthropic milieu whose leisure pursuits included opera and bridge. Although the American South was not known for its antisemitism, Frank's northern culture and Jewish faith added to the sense that he was different.
Mary Phagan (June 1, 1899 – April 26, 1913)[n 1] was born in Florence, Alabama, four months after her father William Joshua Phagan died of measles. She was born into a family of tenant farmers who had farmed in Alabama and Georgia for generations. After her father died, Phagan's mother moved the family to East Point, Georgia in southwest Atlanta, where she opened a boarding house. The children took jobs in the local mills. Phagan left school at age 10 to work part-time in a textile mill. In 1911, a paper manufacturing plant owned by Sigmund Montag, treasurer of the National Pencil Company, hired her. In 1912, her mother, Frances Phagan, married John William Coleman, and she and the children moved into the city. Phagan took a job with the National Pencil Company in the spring of 1912, where she ran a knurling machine that inserted rubber erasers into pencils' metal bands. Mary Phagan earned $4.05 per week, working 55 hours and earning 7 and 4/11 cents per hour. In comparison, Leo Frank earned $180 per month, plus a portion of the factory's profits.
Murder of Mary Phagan
Phagan worked in the metal room on the second floor of the factory in a section called the tipping department, across the hallway from Frank's office. She had been laid off on April 21 due to a shortage of brass sheet metal. About noon on April 26, she went to the factory to claim her pay of $1.20. At about 3:15 a.m. on April 27, the factory's nightwatchman, Newt Lee, went to the factory basement to use the "Negro" toilet. Lee said he discovered the body of a dead girl, tried to call Leo Frank and failing to reach him, called the police, meeting them at the front door and leading them to the body.
Mary Phagan's body was found dumped in the rear of the basement near an incinerator. Her dress was hiked up around her waist and a strip from her petticoat had been torn off and wrapped around her neck. Her face was blackened and scratched. Her head was bruised and battered. A 7-foot (2.1 m) strip of 1⁄4-inch (6.4 mm) wrapping cord tied into a loop was around her neck buried 1⁄4 in (6.4 mm) deep. There was the appearance of rape. Her underwear was still around her hips, but torn open across the vagina and stained with blood. Based on the ashes and dirt from the floor that were stuck to her skin, it initially appeared that she and her assailant had struggled in the basement.
A service ramp at the rear of the basement led to a sliding door that opened into the alley; the police found it had been tampered with so it could be opened without unlocking it. Later examination found bloody fingerprints on the door, as well as a metal pipe that had been used as a crowbar. Some evidence at the crime scene was improperly handled by the police investigators. A trail in the dirt (from the elevator shaft) along which police believed Phagan had been dragged was trampled and no footprints were ever identified.
Two notes were found in a pile of rubbish by Phagan's head, and became known as the "murder notes". One said: "he said he wood love me land down play like the night witch did it but that long tall black negro did boy his slef." The other said, "mam that negro hire down here did this i went to make water and he push me down that hole a long tall negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall negro i write while play with me." The effect of the discovery was to cast suspicion on Newt Lee. The phrase "night witch" was interpreted to mean "night watch[man]"; when the notes were initially read aloud, night watchman Newt Lee said, "Boss, it looks like they are trying to lay it on me" (or words to that effect).
The Atlanta Constitution broke the story of the murder and was soon in frenzied competition with The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Georgian for readers. The latter was a formerly sedate local paper bought by the William Randolph Hearst syndicate in 1912 and revamped using his standard formula of yellow journalism. As many as 40 extra editions came out the day Phagan's murder was reported. The Atlanta Georgian published a doctored morgue photo of Phagan, in which her head was shown spliced onto the body of another girl. Some evidence went missing when it was 'borrowed' from the police by reporters. The papers offered a total of $1,800 in reward money for information leading to the apprehension of the murderer. Populist politician and publisher Tom Watson also weighed in, when he later printed sensationalistic coverage of the trial in his smaller, but influential, publication The Jeffersonian. Coverage of the case, in the local press, continued nearly unabated, throughout the investigation, trial, and subsequent appeal process. During the legal appeals, the previously local issue gained national attention when it drew the interest of Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times, and others, who gave the story broad distribution. Over an 18-month period, The New York Times published dozens of editorials demanding a new trial for Frank and news articles slanted in his favor.
Suspicion falls on Frank
Suspicion originally centered on Newt Lee. On April 27, when first interviewed by the police, Frank said that Lee's time card was complete, having been punched as required every half hour during the watchman's security rounds. On April 28, Frank reexamined the time cards, and said Lee had not punched the card at three or four intervals, which suggested that Lee may have had time to have committed the crime. The police arrested both Lee and a friend of Phagan's for the crime. Gradually they became convinced that they were not the culprits. A detective went to Lee's residence looking for evidence and found a blood-smeared shirt at the bottom of a burn barrel. The blood was smeared high up on the armpits and the shirt smelled unused. The prosecution later claimed that the shirt had been planted by the Pinkerton detectives hired by Frank in order to incriminate Lee.
Newt Lee claimed he tried to call Leo Frank for eight minutes after the discovery of Phagan's body. The police later noted that Frank had not answered the phone when they called his house at 4 a.m., and that he seemed nervous when they took him to the undertaker at P. J. Bloomfield's Mortuary and to the factory. They considered his detailed answers on minor points as suspect and noted his trembling. Frank pointed out at the trial that the police had refused to tell him the nature of their investigation. Phagan's friend, 13-year-old pencil factory worker George Epps, came forward to say that Frank had sexually harassed Phagan and had frightened her.
The police appeared to intimidate and influence witnesses, such as the Seligs' cook Magnolia "Minola" McKnight, and Nina Formby, the madam of a bordello. They both recanted statements made to the police, Formby indicating the police had "plied her with whisky". Frank hired two Pinkerton detectives, along with agents from the Burns detective agency, to help him prove his innocence, although all later "publicly expressed their confidence that Frank was guilty beyond any question." Though Frank produced alibis for the entire time during which the crime could have been committed, stating that he had never left his office between 12:00 noon and 12:45 p.m, suspicion was aroused by his waiting a week to bring forward one crucial alibi witness, Lemmie Quinn who stated he went to Frank's office at 12:20 p.m. and stayed for a few minutes. One eyewitness, Monteen Stover, stated Frank was not in his office when she came to collect her paycheck at 12:05 p.m. Mrs. White, wife of an employee working on the fourth floor, said she saw Frank opening his safe at 12:35 p.m. Meanwhile, the Constitution continued to criticize the police for their lack of progress.
James "Jim" Conley
Jim Conley, the factory's janitor, is believed by nearly all historians to be the murderer. On May 1, the police arrested Conley after he was seen by the plant's day watchman, E. F. Holloway, washing a dirty blue work shirt. Conley tried to hide the shirt, then said the stains were rust from the overhead pipe on which he had hung it. Detectives examined it for blood, found none, and returned it. Conley was still in police custody two weeks later when he gave his first formal statement. He said that, on the day of the murder, he had been visiting saloons, shooting dice, and drinking. He offered some details, such as 40 cents spent on a bottle of rye, 90 cents won at dice, and 15 cents for beer, twice. His story was called into question when a witness told detectives that "a black negro . . . dressed in dark blue clothing and hat" had been seen in the lobby of the factory on the day of the murder. Further investigation also determined that Conley could read and write, something he had initially denied.
After initially sticking to his claim that he could not write, he was threatened with perjury charges. He was asked to write portions of the murder notes, and although the police found similarities in the spelling, he continued to deny having written them. The interview ended and Conley was placed in a basement isolation cell. A week later, on May 24, he called for a detective and admitted he had written the notes. In a sworn statement, he said Frank had called him to his office the day before the murder; he claimed Frank said he had some wealthy people in Brooklyn, and asked: "Why should I hang?"
[H]e asked me could I write and I told him yes I could write a little bit, and he gave me a scratch pad and ... told me to put on there "dear mother, a long, tall, black negro did this by himself," and he told me to write it two or three times on there. I wrote it on a white scratch pad, single ruled. He went to his desk and pulled out another scratch pad, a brownish looking scratch pad, and looked at my writing and wrote on that himself.
After testing Conley again on his spelling—he spelled "night watchman" as "night witch"—the police were convinced he had written the notes. They were skeptical about the rest of his story, not only because it implied premeditation by Frank, but also because it suggested that Frank had confessed to Conley and involved him.
In a new affidavit (his second affidavit and third statement), Conley admitted he had lied about his Friday meeting with Frank. He said he had met Frank on the street on Saturday, and was told to follow him to the factory. Frank told him to hide in a wardrobe to avoid being seen by two women who were visiting Frank in his office. He said Frank dictated the murder notes for him to write, gave him cigarettes, and told him to leave the factory. Afterward, Conley said he went out drinking and saw a movie. He said he did not learn of the murder until he went to work on Monday.
The police were satisfied with the new story, and both The Atlanta Journal and the Georgian gave the story front-page coverage. Three officials of the pencil company were not convinced and said so to the Journal. They contended Conley had followed another employee into the building intending to rob her, but instead found Phagan was a more ready target. The police placed little credence in the employees' theory, but had no explanation for the failure to locate the purse (that other witnesses had testified she carried that day), and were concerned that Conley had made no mention that he was aware that a crime had been committed when he wrote the notes. To resolve their doubts, the police attempted on May 28 to arrange a confrontation between Frank and Conley. Frank exercised his right not to meet without his attorney, who was out of town. The police announced this refusal was an indication of Frank's guilt, and the meeting never took place.
On May 29, Conley was interviewed for four hours. His new affidavit said that Frank told him, "he had picked up a girl back there and let her fall and that her head hit against something." Conley said he and Frank took the body to the basement via the elevator, then returned to Frank's office where the murder notes were dictated. Conley then hid in the wardrobe after the two had returned to the office. He said Frank gave him two hundred dollars, but took it back, saying, “Let me have that and I will make it all right with you Monday if I live and nothing happens." Conley's affidavit concluded, "The reason I have not told this before is I thought Mr. Frank would get out and help me out and I decided to tell the whole truth about this matter." At trial, Conley changed his story concerning the $200. He said the money was withheld until Conley had burned Phagan's body in the basement furnace.
The Georgian hired William Manning Smith to represent Conley for $40. Smith was known for specializing in representing black clients, and had successfully defended a black man against an accusation of rape by a white woman. He had also taken an elderly black woman's civil case as far as the Georgia Supreme Court. Although Smith believed Conley had told the truth in his final affidavit, he became concerned that Conley was giving long jailhouse interviews with crowds of reporters. Smith was also concerned about reporters from the Hearst papers, who had taken Frank's side. He arranged for Conley to be moved to a different jail, and severed his own relationship with the Georgian.
On February 24, 1914, Conley was sentenced to a year in jail for being an accomplice after the fact to the murder of Mary Phagan.
Indictment, trial, and sentencing
Shortly after Leo Frank's April 29 arrest, his family approached Thomas E. Watson with the offer of a substantial fee of $5,000 in return for taking on Frank's legal defense. Watson, who opposed the death penalty, "enjoyed a formidable reputation" as a defense attorney in capital cases. Well known as a populist party politician, and advocate for the poor, Watson declined the offer. On May 24, 1913, a murder indictment with a unanimous vote was returned against Frank by a grand jury. The grand jury included five Jews. As historian Albert Lindemann suggests, "they were persuaded by the concrete evidence that [prosecutor] Dorsey presented." Lindemann notes that none of Conley's testimony was presented to the grand jury, and that later, during the trial, Dorsey "explicitly denounced racial anti-Semitism" and "indulged in ... philo-Semitic rhetoric."
The trial began on July 28 at the Fulton County Superior Court (old city hall building). The courtroom was on the first floor and the windows were left open because of the heat. In addition to the hundreds of spectators inside, a large crowd gathered outside to watch the trial through the windows. Afterward the defense cited the crowds as factors in intimidation of the witnesses and jury in their legal appeals. The State's prosecution team was made up of the Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey, Assistant Solicitor General Frank Arthur Hooper and E. A. Stevens. Frank was represented by eight lawyers (some of them jury selection specialists), led by Luther Z. Rosser and Reuben R. Arnold. The defense used peremptory challenges to eliminate the only two black jurors. The prosecution case was that Conley's last affidavit was true, Frank murdered Phagan in the machine room (colloquially known as the metalroom), and the murder notes had been dictated by Frank in an effort to pin the crime on Lee. The defense case was that Conley was the murderer, he wrote the notes alone, assaulted Phagan in the lobby of the factory and his evidence was a fabrication. The defense brought numerous witnesses who attested to Frank's alibi, which did not leave him enough time to have committed the crime.
Conley reiterated his testimony from his final affidavit. He added to it by describing Frank as regularly having sex with women in his upstairs office on Saturdays while Conley kept a lookout on the ground floor lobby, and also claimed that he had seen Frank performing cunnilingus on female employees. C. Brutus Dalton, another witness who, like Conley, had a criminal record, corroborated Conley. Although Conley admitted that he had changed his story and lied repeatedly, this did not damage the prosecution's case as much as might have been expected, as he admitted to being an accessory.
Many white observers did not believe that a black man could have been intelligent enough to make up such a complicated final story. The Georgian wrote on 29 May, "Many people are arguing to themselves that the Negro, no matter how hard he tried or how generously he was coached, still never could have framed up a story like the one he told unless there was some foundation in fact." Defense witnesses testified that there were too many people in the factory on Saturdays for Frank to have had trysts there. They pointed out that the windows of Frank's second-floor office lacked curtains. Though numerous girls testified to Frank having a bad character for lasciviousness, a significantly larger number of female factory workers testified for the defense of Frank's good character when it came to women.
Frank spoke on his own behalf, making an unsworn statement as allowed by Georgia law; it did not permit any cross-examination without his consent, and none occurred. Most of his four-hour speech consisted of a detailed analysis of the accounting work he had done the day of the murder. He ended with a description of how he viewed the crime, along with an explanation of his nervousness: "Gentlemen, I was nervous. I was completely unstrung. Imagine yourself called from sound slumber in the early hours of the morning ... To see that little girl on the dawn of womanhood so cruelly murdered—it was a scene that would have melted stone."
In its closing statements, the defense attempted to divert suspicion from Frank to Conley. Lead defense attorney Luther Rosser, said to the jury: "Who is Conley? He is a dirty, filthy, black, drunken, lying, nigger." Frank had issued a widely publicized statement questioning how the "perjured vaporizings of a black brute" could be accepted in testimony against him.
The prosecutor compared Frank to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He said that Frank had killed Phagan to keep her from talking. With the sensational coverage, public sentiment in Atlanta turned strongly against Frank. The defense requested a mistrial because it felt the jurors had been intimidated by laughing and clapping from the audience, but the motion was denied. In case of an acquittal or conviction, the judge feared for the safety of Frank and his lawyers, so he brokered a deal in which they would not be present when the verdict was read. Preparations were made to bring in the National Guard, if needed.
Conviction and sentencing
On August 25, Frank was convicted of murder. The Constitution described the scene as Dorsey emerged from the steps of city hall: "The solicitor reached no farther than the sidewalk. While mounted men rode like Cossacks through the human swarm, three muscular men slung Mr. Dorsey on their shoulders and passed him over the heads of the crowd across the street." Lindemann suggests "the powerless experienced a moment of exhilaration in seeing the defeat and humiliation of a normally powerful and inaccessible oppressor". Frank was sentenced to death for the murder of Mary Phagan.
Appeals and commutation
Shortly after Frank's conviction, a nationwide campaign to exonerate the condemned man was inaugurated by Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, and A.D. Lasker, an "advertising genius", through a "journalistic crusade" in the Times, and a series of public relations "stunts" by Lasker. Both Ochs and Lasker were motivated by their conviction that anti-Semitism had poisoned Frank's trial. They failed, however, to comprehend the role that class and regional tensions played in the Frank case, and how their involvement, and the perception of northern interference, would only make matters worse. According to author Steve Oney, "They and their supporters in New York and other urban areas did not take into account how their efforts would come across in the South or in working-class heartland neighborhoods." On October 12, 1913, an article which ran on page six of the New York newspaper The Sun carried the headline "Jews Fight to Save Leo Frank". The article argued that “prejudice did finally develop against Frank and…the Jews,” but that “Frank’s friends” were responsible. "The anti-Semitic feeling was the natural result of the belief that the Jews had banded to free Frank, innocent or guilty. The supposed solidarity of the Jews for Frank…caused a Gentile solidarity against him." One year after Frank's conviction, "the agrarian rebel", and future U.S. Senator, Thomas E. Watson laid into Ochs and Lasker with a populist response. Watson, described as "a Georgia lawyer and polemicist of... superior rhetorical gifts and inexhaustible vitriol" argued through his weekly publication The Jeffersonian that, quoting Oney, "self-appointed elites representing money and privilege had decreed that a child laborer's life was not equal in value to that of a Jewish industrialist." The Frank case was about more than racism and anti-Semitism. "It was also about the conflicting perceptions of the nation's haves and have-nots, the chasm between the people who appear to run things and those who feel they lack a say."
Over a period of nearly two years, Frank's defense team appealed his conviction, beginning with the Georgia Supreme Court, which failed in November. The US Supreme Court denied a writ of habeas corpus sought by Frank's lawyers. US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "I very seriously doubt if the petitioner ... has had due process of law ... because of the trial taking place in the presence of a hostile demonstration and seemingly dangerous crowd, thought by the presiding Judge to be ready for violence unless a verdict of guilty was rendered." In October 1914, William Smith, Jim Conley's own lawyer, announced that he believed Conley had murdered Phagan. A writ of error was issued allowing Frank to again appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard the appeal in April 1915. On April 19, in the case of Frank v. Mangum, the appeal was denied on a 7–2 vote. Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes dissented, with Holmes writing, "It is our duty ... to declare lynch law as little valid when practiced by a regularly drawn jury as when administered by one elected by a mob intent on death."
Commutation of sentence
On May 31, 1915, Frank pleaded to the Georgia State Prison Commission that his sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. On June 9, the Commission submitted a divided report, two against and one in support, to the departing Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton.
Slaton reviewed more than 10,000 pages of documents, visited the pencil factory, and examined new evidence, including studies comparing Conley's speech patterns to the language of the murder notes. The discovery of the undisturbed excrement in the elevator shaft directly contradicted Conley's claim that Conley and Frank had transported Phagan's body to the basement by the elevator. Conley admitted defecating at that spot before the alleged transport of the body, but the excrement was not smashed until the police later used the elevator themselves. Slaton told reporters: "some of the most powerful evidence in Frank's behalf was not presented to the jury which found him guilty." During the hearing, former Governor Brown warned Slaton, "In all frankness, if Your Excellency wishes to invoke lynch law in Georgia and destroy trial by jury, the way to do it is by retrying this case and reversing all the courts."
On June 21, five days before Slaton's term as governor ended and one day before Frank was scheduled to hang, Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life in prison. "I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation," Slaton said, "but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience which would remind me that I, as governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.... Feeling as I do about this case I would be a murderer if I allowed this man to hang. It may mean that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field for the rest of my life than to feel that I had that blood on my hands."
Slaton wrote concerning the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of Frank's appeal that there was "no error of law" in Frank's trial and that "there was sufficient evidence to sustain the [guilty] verdict." On this latter point, he said the Court had ruled "correctly in my judgement" and that he was "sustaining the jury, the judge, and the appellate tribunals." His reason for commuting Frank's sentence to life imprisonment was that the Frank verdict fell in that "territory 'beyond a reasonable doubt and absolute certainty,' for which the law provides in allowing life imprisonment instead of execution. This case has been marked by doubt. The trial judge doubted. Two Judges of the Supreme Court of Georgia doubted. Two Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States doubted. One of the three Prison Commissioners doubted." On the matter of bias against Frank as a Jew, Slaton wrote, "The charge against the State of Georgia of racial prejudice is unfair."
Regarding the timing of the commutation, author Steve Oney has said: "I think Slaton made a decision of conscience ... That said, there was a clear and troubling appearance of a conflict of interest". Governor Slaton was a law partner of Rosser, Frank's lead defense counsel. The incoming governor, Nathaniel Harris, was a close ally of Tom Watson, who supported Frank's conviction and execution.
The public was outraged. A mob threatened to attack the governor at his home. A detachment of the Georgia National Guard, along with county policemen and a group of Slaton's friends who were sworn in as deputies, dispersed the mob. Slaton had been a popular governor, but he and his wife left Georgia immediately thereafter.
For Frank's protection, he was taken to the Milledgeville State Penitentiary in the middle of the night before the commutation was announced. Also protecting Frank was the fact that the penitentiary was "strongly garrisoned and newly bristing with arms" and he was separated from Marietta by 150 miles (240 km) of mostly unpaved road. However, on July 17, fellow inmate William Creen tried to kill him, slashing his throat with a 7-inch (18 cm) butcher knife and severing his jugular vein, according to The New York Times. The attacker told the authorities he "wanted to keep the other inmates safe from mob violence, Frank's presence was a disgrace to the prison, and he was sure he would be pardoned if he killed Frank".
Abduction and lynching
Knights of Mary Phagan
The June 21, 1915 commutation provoked Tom Watson into advocating for Frank's lynching. He wrote in the pages of The Jeffersonian and Watson's Magazine: "This country has nothing to fear from its rural communities. Lynch law is a good sign; it shows that a sense of justice lives among the people." A group of prominent men organized themselves into the "Knights of Mary Phagan", openly planning to kidnap Frank from prison. They recruited men with the necessary skills for a total of 28, including themselves; an electrician was to cut the prison wires, car mechanics were to keep the cars running, and there was a locksmith, a telephone man, a medic, a hangman, and a lay preacher. The ringleaders were well known locally, but were not named publicly until June 2000, when a local librarian posted a list on the Web, based on information compiled by Mary Phagan's great-niece Mary Phagan Kean (b. 1953). The list included a total of 28 men, including Joseph Mackey Brown, former governor of Georgia, Eugene Herbert Clay, former mayor of Marietta and later president of the Georgia Senate, E. P. Dobbs, mayor of Marietta at the time, Moultrie McKinney Sessions, lawyer and banker, part of the Marietta delegation at Governor Slaton's clemency hearing, several current and former Cobb County sheriffs, and other individuals of various professions.
On the afternoon of August 16, the eight cars of the lynch mob left Marietta separately for Milledgeville. They arrived at the prison at around 10:00 pm, and the electrician cut the telephone wires, members of the group emptied the gas from the prison's automobiles, handcuffed the warden, seized Frank, and drove away. The 175-mile (282 km) trip took about seven hours at a top speed of 18 miles per hour (29 km/h) through small towns on back roads. Lookouts in the towns telephoned ahead to the next town as soon as they saw the line of open cars pass by. A site at Frey's Gin, two miles (3 km) east of Marietta, had been prepared, complete with a rope and table supplied by former Sheriff William Frey.
The New York Times reported Frank was wearing a nightshirt and undershirt, and the lynchers had tied a piece of brown canvas around his waist like a skirt. He was handcuffed, and his legs were tied at the ankles. They placed a new 3/4-in manila rope over his head, tied in a hangman's knot so it would force his head backwards and break his neck, and threw it over a branch of a tree. He was turned to face the direction of the house where Phagan had lived, and was hanged at around 7:00 am. The Atlanta Journal wrote that the wound on his throat, caused when it was slashed in jail by another inmate, had reopened. A crowd of men, women, and children arrived on foot, in cars, and on horses, and souvenir hunters cut away parts of his shirt sleeves to take away. According to The New York Times, one of the onlookers, Robert E. Lee Howell — related to Clark Howell, editor of The Atlanta Constitution — wanted to have the body cut into pieces and burned, and began to run around, screaming, whipping up the mob. Judge Newt Morris tried to restore order, and asked for a vote on whether the body should be returned to the parents intact; only Howell disagreed. When the body was cut down, Howell started stamping on Frank's face and chest; Morris quickly placed the body in a basket, and he and his driver John Stephens Wood drove it out of Marietta.
In Atlanta, thousands besieged the undertaker's parlor, demanding to see the body; after they began throwing bricks, they were allowed to file past the corpse. Frank's body was transported by rail on Southern Railway's train #36 from Atlanta to New York and was buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, New York on August 20, 1915. The New York Times wrote that the vast majority of Cobb County believed he had received his "just deserts", and that the lynch party had simply stepped in to uphold the law after Governor Slaton arbitrarily set it aside. A Cobb County grand jury was convened to indict the lynchers; although they were well known locally, none were identified. Nat Harris, the newly elected governor who succeeded Slaton, promised to punish the mob and issued a $1,500 state reward for information. Despite this, Charles Willis Thompson of The New York Times said that the citizens of Marietta "would die rather than reveal their knowledge or even their suspicion" of the identities of the lynchers, and the local Macon Telegraph quipped, "Doubtless they can be apprehended – doubtful they will."
Several photographs were taken of the lynching, which were published and sold as postcards in local stores for 25 cents each, a common practice after lynchings, along with pieces of the rope, Frank's nightshirt, and branches from the tree. According to Elaine Marie Alphin, they were selling so fast, the police announced that sellers required a city license. Members of the lynch party or crowd can be seen in the postcards posing in front of the body, one of them holding a portable camera. Historian Amy Louise Wood writes that the local newspapers did not publish the photographs: it would have been too controversial, given that the lynch party can be seen clearly and that the lynching was being condemned around the country. The Columbia State, which opposed lynching, wrote: "The heroic Marietta lynchers are too modest to give their photographs to the newspapers." Wood also writes that a news film of the lynching was released, which included the photographs, though it focused on the crowds without showing Frank's body; its showing was prevented by censorship boards around the U.S., though according to Wood there is no evidence that it was stopped in Atlanta.
After Frank's lynching, around half of Georgia's 3,000 Jews left the state. According to author Steve Oney, “What it did to Southern Jews can’t be discounted.... It drove them into a state of denial about their Judaism. They became even more assimilated, anti-Israel, Episcopalian. The Temple did away with chupahs at weddings – anything that would draw attention.”
Many American Jews saw Frank as an American Alfred Dreyfus because both were perceived as being victims of antisemitic persecution. In part because Frank was the president of the B'nai B'rith chapter in Atlanta, Georgia, Adolph Kraus, president of B'nai B'rith, invited 15 prominent members in Chicago to attend the formation of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in October 1913, two months after Frank's conviction.
Two weeks after the lynching, in the September 2, 1915 issue of The Jeffersonian, Watson wrote, "the voice of the people is the voice of God", capitalizing on his sensational coverage of the controversial trial. In 1914, when Watson began reporting his anti-Frank message, The Jeffersonian's circulation had been 25,000; by September 2, 1915, its circulation was 87,000.
On November 25, 1915, months after Frank was lynched, a group led by William Joseph Simmons burned a cross on top of Stone Mountain, inaugurating a revival of the Ku Klux Klan. The event was attended by 15 charter members and a few aging survivors of the original Klan.
Frank's widow, Lucille, did not remarry. She worked at the glove counter of the J.P. Allen store, and died April 23, 1957, of heart disease. In her 1954 will, she had requested to be cremated. Before her death, Lucille requested to family members that her ashes be spread in a local Atlanta park, but a local ordinance forbade it. Atlanta magazine reported in 2003 that her ashes were stored for seven years in a local funeral home, until her family buried them secretly in a shoebox between the headstones of her parents in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery, apparently worried that a funeral would stir up antisemitic action from the local Ku Klux Klan.
Alonzo Mann's affidavit, first application for pardon
In 1982, Alonzo Mann, who had been Frank's office boy for three weeks at the time of Phagan's murder, told a journalist for the Tennessean newspaper, nearly 69 years after the trial ended, that he had seen Jim Conley alone shortly after noon in the factory carrying Phagan's body through the lobby toward the ladder descending to the basement. This contradicted Conley's testimony that he moved Phagan's dead body to the basement by the elevator. Mann swore in an affidavit in the 1980s that Conley had threatened to kill him if he reported what he had seen. At the time of the events Mann was aged 14. After telling his family what he had seen, his parents made him swear not to tell anyone else. Mann explained that his statement was made in an effort to die in peace. He passed a lie detector test, and died three years later in March 1985, at the age of 86.
Mann's deposition was the basis of an attempt to obtain a posthumous pardon for Frank from the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The effort was led by Charles Wittenstein, southern counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, and Dale Schwartz, an Atlanta lawyer, though Mann's testimony was not sufficient to settle the issue. The board also reviewed the files from Slaton's commutation decision. It denied the pardon in 1983, hindered in its investigation by the lack of available records. The state's files on the case were lost and with them the opportunity to apply modern forensic techniques. It concluded that, "After exhaustive review and many hours of deliberation, it is impossible to decide conclusively the guilt or innocence of Leo M. Frank. For the board to grant a pardon, the innocence of the subject must be shown conclusively." At the time, the lead editorial in the Atlanta Constitution began, 'Leo Frank has been lynched a second time'.
Second application for pardon
Frank supporters submitted a second application for pardon in 1986, asking the state only to recognize its culpability over his death. The board granted the pardon on March 11, 1986. It said:
Without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the State's failure to protect the person of Leo M. Frank and thereby preserve his opportunity for continued legal appeal of his conviction, and in recognition of the State's failure to bring his killers to justice, and as an effort to heal old wounds, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, in compliance with its Constitutional and statutory authority, hereby grants to Leo M. Frank a Pardon.
An editorial by Fred Grimm, in the Miami Herald declared, "A salve for one of the South's most hateful, festering memories, was finally applied."
Criticism of the trial and the verdict
The consensus of researchers on the subject is that Frank was wrongly convicted. Jeffrey Melnick wrote, "There is near unanimity around the idea that Frank was most certainly innocent of the crime of murdering Mary Phagan". Other historians and journalists have written that the trial was "a miscarriage of justice", "a gross injustice", "a mockery of justice", that "there can be no doubt, of course, that...[Frank was] innocent", that "Leo Frank ... was unjustly and wrongly convicted of murder", that he "was falsely convicted", and that "the evidence against Frank was shaky, to say the least". C. Vann Woodward, like many other authors, believed that Conley was the actual murderer and was "implicated by evidence overwhelmingly more incriminating than any produced against Frank."
Critics cite a number of problems with the conviction. Local newspaper coverage, even before Frank was officially charged, was deemed to be inaccurate and prejudicial. Physical evidence was unexamined, mishandled, or lost in the police investigation. Some claimed that the prosecutor Hugh Dorsey was under pressure for a quick conviction because of recent unsolved murders and made a premature decision that Frank was guilty, a decision that his personal ambition would not allow him to reconsider. Later analysis of evidence, primarily by Governor Slaton and Conley's attorney William Smith, seemed to exculpate Frank while implicating Conley.
Memorials and historical markers
In 2008, a state historical marker was erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and Temple Kol Emeth, near the building at 1200 Roswell Road, Marietta. The marker reads:
Near this location on August 17, 1915, Leo M. Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, was lynched for the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, a factory employee. A highly controversial trial fueled by societal tensions and anti-Semitism resulted in a guilty verdict in 1913. After Governor John M. Slaton commuted his sentence from death to life in prison, Frank was kidnapped from the state prison in Milledgeville and taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta where he was hanged before a local crowd. Without addressing guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the state's failure to either protect Frank or bring his killers to justice, he was granted a posthumous pardon in 1986.
In 2003, on the 90th anniversary of the Anti-Defamation League's founding, a monument dedicated by the ADL was placed near the inside entrance of the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens, NY. It reads:
Leo Frank: The trial of Leo Frank in 1913 was motivated by the rampant antisemitism of the time. The founding of the Anti-Defamation League that same year was motivated by a passion to eradicate such injustice and bigotry. Despite his innocence, Frank was abducted from jail in 1915 and lynched. ADL remembers the victim Leo Frank and rededicates itself to ensuring there will be no more victims of injustice and intolerance.
On June 17, 2015, the Georgia Historical Society, the Atlanta History Center and the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation dedicated a Georgia Historical Society marker honoring Governor John M. Slaton at the Atlanta History Center.
During the trial, an Atlanta musician and millworker named Fiddlin' John Carson wrote and began performing a murder ballad entitled "Little Mary Phagan". During the mill strikes of 1914, Carson sang "Little Mary Phagan" to crowds from the Fulton County courthouse steps. An unrecorded Carson song, "Dear Old Oak in Georgia", sentimentalizes the tree from which Leo Frank was hanged.
The Frank case has been the subject of several film adaptations. African-American director Oscar Micheaux directed a silent race film titled The Gunsaulus Mystery in 1921, followed by Murder in Harlem in 1935. In 1937, They Won't Forget was released, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The film was based on a novel by Ward Greene called Death in The Deep South, which was in turn inspired by the Frank case. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this was the first major film adaptation based on the Frank case.
The 1964 television series Profiles in Courage dramatized Governor John M. Slaton's decision to commute Frank's sentence. The episode starred Walter Matthau as Governor Slaton and Michael Constantine as Tom Watson. A 1988 American TV miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan was broadcast on NBC, starring Jack Lemmon as Gov. John Slaton and also including Kevin Spacey.
Notes and references
- Although Phagan's gravestone lists her year of birth as 1900, modern secondary sources agree with her mother's assertion that she was in fact born in 1899.
- Frey p. 19.
- Oney 2003, p. 10.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 5.
- Frey p. 20.
- Oney 2003, p. 80.
- The Selig Company Building – Pioneer Neon Company. Marietta Street ARTery Association; Levi Cohen from her maternal lineage had participated in founding the first Synagogue in Atlanta.
- Oney 2003, p. 84.
- Oney 2003, p. 11.
- Lawson pp. 211, 250.
- Phagan p. 111.
- Alphin 2010, p. 21ff, 25ff.
- "Mary Phagan (1899–1913) – Find A Grave Memorial". August 8, 2000. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
- Phagan p. 11.
- Phagan p. 12.
- Oney 2003, p. 5.
- Phagan p. 14.
- John Milton Gantt, former NPCo paymaster, testifying at the Coroner's Inquest, Atlanta Constitution, May 1913.
- Lindemann 1991, p. 251.
- Frey p. 5.
- Oney 2003, pp. 8–9.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 1.
- Oney 2003, pp. 18–19.
- Oney 2003, pp. 20–22.
- Oney 2003, pp. 30–31.
- Golden pp. 19, 102.
- Oney 2003, pp. 20–21, 379.
- Oney 2003, p. 6.
- Oney 2003, pp. 36, 60.
- Steve Oney (24 September 2013). "The People v. Leo Frank". Atlanta Magazine. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- Steve Oney (30 October 2009). "The Leo Frank case isn't dead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
- Oney 2003, p. 31.
- Oney 2003, pp. 49–50.
- Oney 2003, pp. 61–62.
- Oney 2003, p. 65.
- "Frank Tried to Flirt with Murdered Girl Says Her Boy Chum", The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, GA), May 1, 1913: Front page
- The New York Times, February 26, 1914.
- Lindemann 1991, p. 249.
- Oney 2003, pp. 96–97.
- For example:
- Lindemann 1992, p. 254: "The best evidence now available indicates that the real murderer of Mary Phagan was Jim Conley, perhaps because she, encountering him after she left Frank's office, refused to give him her pay envelope, and he, in a drunken stupor, killed her to get it.
- Woodward 1963, p. 435: "The city police, publicly committed to the theory of Frank's guilt, and hounded by the demand for a conviction, resorted to the basest methods in collecting evidence. A Negro suspect [Conley], later implicated by evidence overwhelmingly more incriminating than any produced against Frank, was thrust aside by the cry for the blood of the 'Jew Pervert.'"
- Oney 2003, pp. 118–119.
- Oney 2003, pp. 128–129.
- Oney 2003, pp. 129–132.
- Oney 2003, p. 131.
- Oney 2003, pp. 133–134.
- Oney 2003, pp. 134–136.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 114–115: "The new development which stirred Atlanta and those working to save Frank was the announcement, made on October 2, 1914, by William M. Smith, lawyer for Jim Conley, the state's key witness at the trial, that his own client had murdered Mary Phagan."
- Oney 2003, p. 3.
- Oney 2003, pp. 137–138.
- Oney 2003, p. 138.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 24.
- Oney 2003, pp. 139–140.
- Oney 2003, p. 242.
- Oney 2003, pp. 147–148.
- Frey, p. 132.
- Lindemann 1991, pp. 260–264.
- Frank Case, Georgia's Greatest Murder Mystery, Atlanta Publishing Company, 1913, page 44; The Murder of Mary Phagan by Mary Kean, 1989; Atlanta Journal, May 25, 1913
- Knight 1996, p. 189.
- Golden pp. 118–139.
- Phagan p. 105.
- Golden p. 122.
- For basic details of the murder, see Steinberg-Brent, pp. 95–100, 106; see p. 99 for the flirting allegation.
- Ziedenberg, Gerald (2012). Epic Trials in Jewish History. AuthorHouse. p. 60.
- Oney 2003, pp. 308–311.
- Oney 2003, p. 297.
- Oney 2003, pp. 300–303.
- Oney 2003, p. 303.
- Levy 2000.
- Oney 2003, p. 339.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 60–61.
- The New York Times, December 14, 1914.
- Woodward 1963, p. 439.
- "The People v. Leo Frank – Teacher's Guide" (PDF). Anti-Defamation League. p. 18. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- "October 12, 1913 – The Sun from New York, New York · Page 6". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- Freedman, Eric M. (May 31, 2003). Habeas Corpus: Rethinking the Great Writ of Liberty (Reissue ed.). New York University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0814727188. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 114–115.
- US Supreme Court decision
- Time, January 24, 1955.
- Also see Frank v. Mangum, 237 U. S. 309 (1915)', U.S. Supreme Court Center.
- "Slaton Here; Glad He Saved Frank", The New York Times, June 30, 1915.
- Oney 2003, p. 489. Oney wrote, "Where in the past, Frank's lawyers had caught Conley in little lies, ones he blithely admitted, here, for the first time in an official forum [the clemency hearing], they had apparently caught him in a big lie, one that cast doubt on his entire testimony."
- "Slaton Here; Glad He Saved Frank", The New York Times, June 30, 1915.
- "Begin Last Frank Appeal to Governor", The New York Times, June 13, 1915.
- Phagan p. 168.
- "A Political Suicide", Time magazine, January 24, 1955.
- The Leo Frank Trial: Clemency Decision of Governor John M. Slaton (June 21, 1915)
- Dinnerstein, Leonard (1998). The Leo Frank Case. University of Georgia Press. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-0-8203-2145-5.
- Associated Press. "Rabbi seeks NFL censure for remarks about 1915 lynching." September 8, 2000.
- John M. Slaton (1866–1955), The New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- Oney 2003, pp. 513–514.
- For stories about the attack, see:
- "Leo Frank's Throat Cut by Convict", The New York Times, July 17, 1915.
- "Frank Survives Assassin's Knife", The New York Times, July 19, 1915.
- "Frank's Assailant Before Governor", The New York Times, July 25, 1915.
- "Frank's Head in Braces; Excessive Heat Delaying Recovery from Wound in Throat", The New York Times, August 2, 1915.
- Woodward 1963, p. 432.
- About two dozen people were lynched each year in Georgia; in 1915 the number was 22; see Oney 2003, p. 122.
- Phagan p. 223.
- Emory University, Leo Frank Collection, Mary Phagan Kean's list of vigilance committee's members, Folder 16
- Sawyer, June 20, 2000 For the list of alleged lynchers, see Donald E. Wilkes, Jr. (May 5, 2004). "Steve Oney's List of the Leo Frank Lynchers".
- The lynching of Leo Frank at the Wayback Machine (archived August 15, 2000), leofranklynchers.com. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
- The New York Times wrote at the time that, after the lynching, it was Morris who got the crowd under control; see The New York Times, August 19, 1915. Years later, he was identified as one of the ringleaders; see Alphin 2009, p. 117.
- Wood 2009, p. 77, and figure 3.3.
- "Parties Unknown.", Boston Evening Transcript, August 24, 1915.
- The New York Times, August 18, 1915.
- The Atlanta Journal, August 17, 1915.
- For Slaton's role, see Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 123–134.
- Also see Time, January 24, 1955.
- For details of the lynching, see Coleman 1991, p. 292.
- Also see Associated Press, August 17, 1915.
- For the souvenirs and violence, see Alphin 2010, p. 122.
- Oney 2003, pp. 573–576.
- Alphin 2010, p. 123.
- Oney 2003, pp. 582–583.
- Alphin 2010, p. 122.
- Wood 2009, pp. 77, 106, 148. Wood writes that Kenneth Rogers, the head of photography at the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution between 1924 and 1972, had access to at least one of the photographs, leaving it in the Kenneth Rogers Papers at the Atlanta History Center. She assumes he got it from the newspapers' archives, though the newspapers did not publish it; they accompanied their stories instead with images of the woods near the hanging, and of the crowds who viewed Frank's body later in the funeral parlor; see Wood, pp. 106, 288, footnote 59. See Alphin 2010, p. 122 for details of the souvenir sales.
- Theoharis and Cox 1988, p. 45.
- The Jewish Daily Forward, May 13, 2009.
- Oney 2003, p. 578.
- Blakeslee 2000, p. 81.
- Woodward 1963, p. 446.
- Woodward 1963, p. 442.
- "The Various Shady Lives of the Ku Klux Klan". Time. April 9, 1965.
An itinerant Methodist preacher named William Joseph Simmons started up the Klan again in Atlanta in 1915. Simmons, an ascetic-looking man, was a fetishist on fraternal organizations. He was already a "colonel" in the Woodmen of the World, but he decided to build an organization all his own. He was an effective speaker, with an affinity for alliteration; he had preached on "Women, Weddings and Wives," "Red Heads, Dead Heads and No Heads," and the "Kinship of Kourtship and Kissing." On Thanksgiving Eve 1915, Simmons took 15 friends to the top of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, built an altar on which he placed an American flag, a Bible and an unsheathed sword, set fire to a crude wooden cross, muttered a few incantations about a "practical fraternity among men," and declared himself Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Oney 2003, p. 628.
- Freeman, October 2003, p. 98ff.
- The Tennessean special news section, p. 15, in Dinnerstein, 1987.
- Oney 2003, p. 684.
- In 1947, shortly before his death, prosecutor Hugh Dorsey said he had the records in his possession. Seventeen years later, Dorsey's son James wrote in a private communication, "During the years since my father's death I am afraid that any old papers which he might have preserved have been lost or destroyed." Oney 2003, p. 647.
- Journalist Pierre van Paassen states in his 1964 memoirs that he saw courthouse records in 1922 containing evidence relating to teeth marks on Mary Phagan's body. "But the X-ray photos of the teeth marks on her body did not correspond with Leo Frank's set of teeth of which several photos were included." Van Paassen, Pierre (1964). To Number Our Days. New York, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 237–238.
- Oney 2003, pp. 647–648.
- Dinnerstein, Leonard (October 1996). "The Fate Of Leo Frank", American Heritage (magazine), Vol. 47, Issue 6. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
- Oney 2003, pp. 647–648.
- Dinnerstein 2009.
- Fred Grimm, "Lynch Mob Victim Is Pardoned," Miami Herald, 3/12/86.
- Wilkes, Donald E Jr., Flagpole Magazine, "POLITICS, PREJUDICE, AND PERJURY" p. 9 (March 1, 2000). "The modern historical consensus, as exemplified in the Dinnerstein book, is that ... Leo Frank was an innocent man convicted at an unfair trial."
- Ravitz, Jessica (November 2, 2009). "Murder case, Leo Frank lynching live on". CNN. Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
The consensus of historians is that the Frank case was a miscarriage of justice.
- Melnick 2000, p. 7.
- Dinnerstein 2003.
- Woodward 1963, p. 346. Woodward wrote, "Outside the state the conviction was general that Frank was the victim of a gross injustice, if not completely innocent. He presented his own case so eloquently and so ingenuously, and the circumstance of the trial were such a glaring indication of a miscarriage of justice, that thousands of people enlisted in his cause."
- Eakin, p. 96. He wrote, "ignoring all other evidence, especially that associated with a black janitor named Jim Conley, and focusing exclusively on Frank, prosecutors brought Leo Frank to trial in what can only be termed a mockery of justice"
- Watson 1994 – In reviewing Lindemann's book he wrote, " "Turning to his main theme, Lindemann provides a succinct and very scholarly account of the three cases he compares, Dreyfus, Beilis (in which a Jew was tried in Kiev in 1913), and Frank (in which a Jew was convicted of rape and murder in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1915). There can be no doubt, of course, that all three were innocent."
- Sorin, Gerald. Book ReviewAJS Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1995), pp. 441-447
- Scholnick, Myron L., The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 61, No. 4 (Nov., 1995), pp. 860-861 "That case, in which a Jewish manufacturer in Atlanta was falsely convicted of murdering a thirteen-year-old girl who worked for him, then lynched in 1915, reeked of anti-Semitism and was devastating to southern Jewry."
- Friedman p.1254
- Carter 2005 – In a review of Oney's work, Carter places his work within the context of previous works, "On the central issue he agrees with earlier researchers: Leo Frank did not murder Mary Phagan, and the evidence strongly suggests that Jim Conley did so."
- Lindemann 1992, p. 254 – "The best evidence now available indicates that the real murderer of Mary Phagan was Jim Conley, perhaps because she, encountering him after she left Frank's office, refused to give him her pay envelope, and he, in a drunken stupor, killed her to get it."
- Dershowitz, Alan M. – “America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles That Transformed Our Nation” p. vii: “It seems certain, however, that the actual killer was James Conley ...”
- Arneson, Eric – "A Deadly Case of Southern Injustice": "Conley was the likely solo killer".
- Henig 1979, p.167 – "Many people, then and later,were of the opinion that Conley not only lied at the trial but that he himself was probably the murderer."
- Moseley p. 44 – "The much more concrete evidence against Conley was thrust aside as the public cried for the blood of the 'Jew pervert'."
- Woodward 1963, p. 435
- Moseley pp. 43–44. Early newspaper charges included a charge by a madam, Nina Fornsby, that Frank wanted her assistance in keeping a young girl on the night of the murder.
- Oney pp. 114–15. A private detective claimed to have seen Frank rendezvousing with a young girl in a wooded area in 1912.
- Lindemann pp. 242–43. Early reports of blood and hair samples in the office next to Frank's turned out to be suspect.
- Oney pp. 30-31, 90. Footprints were trampled, the crime scene was exposed to spectators, bloody fingerprints were not secured
- Lindemann pp. 249-250, 25-253. It is alleged that Dorsey "suppressed evidence" favorable to Frank, intimidated and bribed witnesses, "drilled Conley in false testimony", "may have lacked the moral strength to back down" as contradictory evidence was uncovered, and feared that if he reversed himself he would have "ruined his career" and be accused of "having sold out to the Jews."
- Dinnerstein pp. 151, 154-155. On p. 19 he writes, "He had recently prosecuted two importantant accused murderers and had failed each time to convict them." A local newspaper said another failure would be "the end of Mr. Dorsey as solicitor."
- Oney p. 94-95. "Among reporters, the consensus was that the Phagan prosecution represented nothing less than a last chance for him."
- Oney pp. 427-455, 498-. Physical evidence suggested the murder occurred in the basement rather than upstairs (as claimed by Conley). Smith's analysis of the murder notes convinced him Conley composed them independently and were planted by Phagan's body as if she wrote them. Oney wrote, "Slaton offered a legal rationale for commuting Frank's sentence to life imprisonment, asserting that contrary to the claims of those who opposed the action, there was sufficient new evidence not introduced at the trial ... .
- Leo Frank Lynching: Georgia Historical Society, The Georgia Historical Society. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
- "Leo Frank (1884–1915) – Find A Grave Photos". August 16, 2007. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- "Historical Marker Dedication: Gov. John M. Slaton (1866-1955)". Georgia Historical Society. June 17, 2015. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Melnick p. 18.
- "Leo Frank Film". Ben Loeterman Productions, Inc. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- Alphin, Elaine Marie. An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank. Carolrhoda Books, 2010. Google Books abridged version. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- Blakeslee, Spencer. The Death of American Antisemitism. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.
- Dinnerstein, Leonard. The Leo Frank Case. University of Georgia Press, 1987.
- Frey, Robert Seitz; Thompson-Frey, Nancy (2002). The Silent and the Damned: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank. New York, New York: Cooper Square Press (of Rowman & Littlefield). p. 132. ISBN 978-0815411888. Retrieved June 17, 2015. (First published in Lanham, Maryland in 1988)
- Friedman, Lawrence M. St. Louis University Law Journal; Summer 2011, Vol. 55, Issue 4, p. 1243-1284.
- Golden, Harry. A Little Girl is Dead. Account of Leo Frank case, 1965. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- Knight, Alfred H. The Life of the Law. Oxford University Press, 1996.
- Lawson, John Davison (ed.). American State Trials Volume X (1918), contains the abridged trial testimony and closing arguments starting on p. 182. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
- Levy, Eugene. "Is the Jew a White Man?" in Maurianne Adams and John H. Bracey, Strangers & Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks & Jews in the United States. University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
- Lindemann, Albert S. The Jew Accused: Three Anti-Semitic Affairs (Dreyfus, Beilis, Frank), 1894–1915. Cambridge University Press, 1991. Google Books, abridged version. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
- Melnick, Jeffrey Paul. Black-Jewish Relations on Trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South. University Press of Mississippi, 2000. ISBN 978-1604735956
- Moseley, Clement Charlton. "The Case of Leo M. Frank, 1913-1915". The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 1 (March, 1967), pp. 42–62.
- Oney, Steve. And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank. Pantheon Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0679764236
- Phagan Kean, Mary. The Murder of Little Mary Phagan. Horizon Press, 1987.
- Ravitz, Jessica. "Murder case, Leo Frank lynching live on", CNN, November 2, 2009.
- Theoharis, Athan, and John Stuart Cox. The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition. Temple University Press, 1988.
- Wood, Amy Louise. Lynching and Spectacle. The University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
- Woodward, Comer Vann. 1963. Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel. New York: Oxford University Press.
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