|Born||Leo Max Frank
April 17, 1884
Cuero, Texas, United States
|Died||August 17, 1915
Marietta, Georgia, United States
|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 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan at the factory he managed. His legal case and lynching in Georgia became the focus of social, regional, political, and racial interests - bringing attention to the topic of antisemitism in the United States. Frank was posthumously pardoned in 1986 by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which said that its action was performed "[w]ithout attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence". The consensus of researchers on the subject is that Frank was wrongly convicted.
Mary Phagan was an employee of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta. She was strangled on April 26, 1913 and was found dead in the factory's cellar the next morning. Frank, an engineer and director of the company, was arrested on April 29. Police based the arrest on Frank's nervousness while being interviewed and their interpretations of his admissions concerning his actions on the day of the murder.
A guilty verdict was announced on August 25, 1913. Frank and his lawyers made a series of unsuccessful appeals, limited by law to arguing procedural and due process issues rather than a reconsideration of the evidence. Their final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed in April 1915. Considering arguments from both sides as well as evidence not available at trial, Governor John M. Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. By this time, the Frank case was a national issue. Outside Georgia, there was a widespread belief expressed by newspapers throughout the country that Frank's conviction was a travesty. Within Georgia, this outside criticism fueled hatred for Frank and antisemitic attacks against him.
Immediately after the commutation, 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. The new governor vowed to bring these people to justice, but even though the lynchers included prominent citizens of Marietta, Mary Phagan's hometown, and their roles in the lynching were generally known locally, nobody was ever charged.
- 1 Background
- 2 Murder of Mary Phagan
- 3 Indictment
- 4 Trial
- 5 Appeals
- 6 Commutation of sentence
- 7 Antisemitism and local and national newspaper coverage
- 8 Abduction and lynching
- 9 Aftermath
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Social and economic conditions
Atlanta, Georgia's capital city, had been going through significant economic and social change in the first years of the 20th century. To serve a growing economy based on manufacturing and commerce, large numbers of people were relocating in Atlanta from a failing rural situation. By 1910, over 50% of Atlanta's workers were involved in these activities. With the relocation to the city came the breakdown of family and community ties. The jobs the newcomers found featured child labor, a 66-hour work week, low wages, and dirty and unsafe work sites unregulated by any level of government. According to Dinnerstein, the migrants often lived in "squalid slums" where they faced "hunger and destitution". "One-third of Atlanta's population lived without water mains or sewers", "more than half of the white school children ... suffered from malnutrition, enlarged glands, and heart disease." Only "twelve [out of 388 cities in US] had a higher death rate."
This time period was also characterized by generational changes affecting the role of women and the relationships between the sexes. In the traditional and paternalistic rural society, women were idealized. Many found the necessity that drove their wives, sisters, and daughters to the city and factories as a sign of degradation. Mixed gender workplaces were seen as places for potential corruption. In the first two decades of the century, the number of women over age 16 in the Atlanta workforce doubled and 70% were under age 19. Child prostitution was a widespread problem for 1910s Atlanta that was attributed to the meager wages and opportunities available to young women.
During this same period, Southern Jews felt ambivalent about their status. Generally they were able to economically thrive while getting along with their neighbors and the Atlanta Jewish elite was unusually assimilated into the political, economic, and social fabric of the city. Despite their success, they nevertheless recognized themselves as a "people apart", leaving them "with a pervasive sense of anxiety". One of their responses was to select rabbis and leaders who could put the best face forward for their people in order to eliminate frictions that would threaten the existing equilibrium. In Atlanta, the leader from 1895 to 1946 was David Marx. In order to "enhance the image of Jews in the dominant society", Marx's Reform temple adopted Americanized appearances. Despite his acceptance by the Gentile community, Marx believed that "in isolated instances there is no prejudice entertained for the individual Jew, but there exists wide-spread and deep seated prejudice against Jews as an entire people."
An example of the type of tension that Rabbi Marx feared occurred in April 1913. At a conference involving the child labor problem, a myriad of proposed solutions were presented that covered the entire political spectrum. Author Steve Oney wrote, "At the radical end of the spectrum could be heard alarming notions inspired by the fact that many of Atlanta's factories ... were Jewish owned." Historian Leonard Dinnerstein offered the following summation of the Atlanta situation in 1913:
The pathological conditions in the city menaced the home, the state, the schools, the churches, and, in the words of a contemporary Southern sociologist, the 'wholesome industrial life.' The institutions of the city were obviously unfit to handle urban problems. Against this background, the murder of a young girl in 1913 triggered a violent reaction of mass aggression, hysteria, and prejudice."
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 the following month.
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. Saturday April 26 was Confederate Memorial Day and the factory was largely shut down. Shortly before 3:00 a.m., the factory's nightwatchman Newt Lee went to the factory basement to use the toilet. After leaving the toilet, Lee discovered the body and called police.
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 vulva 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 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). Lee was arrested that morning based on these notes and his apparent familiarity with the body, in that his initial statements were that the girl was white when the police, because of the filth and darkness in the basement, had thought she was black. It also appeared to the police that the body had been moved by Lee.
In addition to Lee, the police also arrested a friend of Phagan's for the crime. Gradually they became convinced that they were not the culprits. By Monday police had theorized, based on hair found on a lathe and what appeared to be blood on the floor, that the murder occurred on the 2nd floor (the same floor as Frank's office).
The police had unsuccessfully attempted to telephone Frank by phone just after 4 a.m. on Sunday; Newt Lee had also tried to call Frank soon after the discovery of Phagan's body. Later that morning they were successful and Frank agreed to accompany them to the factory. When the police arrived after 7 a.m. without telling the specifics of what happened at the factory, Frank seemed extremely nervous, trembling, pale, his voice was hoarse, he was rubbing his hands and asking questions before the police could answer. Frank said he was not familiar with the name Mary Phagan, but would need to check his payroll book. The detectives took Leo Frank to the morgue to view the body of Mary Phagan and then to the factory. Here Frank viewed the crime scene and walked the police through the entire building. Frank returned home about 10:45 a.m. At this point Frank was not considered a suspect.
On Monday morning the police went to Frank's house and walked him to the police station where they were met by his attorney, Luther Rosser. Frank gave a written deposition that provided a brief time line of his activities on Saturday. He said Phagan was in between 12:05 and 12:10 p.m., that Lee had arrived at 4 p.m. but was asked to return later, and explained a confrontation with an ex-employee James Gantt at 6 p.m. as Frank was leaving and Lee arriving. Frank explained that Lee's time card for Sunday morning had several gaps (Lee was supposed to punch in every half hour) which Frank had missed when he discussed the time card with police on Sunday. At Rosser's insistence, Frank exposed his body to demonstrate that he had no cuts or injuries and the police found no blood on Frank's suit which he said he had worn Saturday. The police followed up at Frank's house and found no blood stains on his laundry.
A detective went to Lee's residence at 11 a.m. on 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, suggesting to the police that the shirt was a plant. The detectives, without any proof but already suspicious of Frank due to his nervous behavior throughout his interviews, believed that Frank had arranged for the plant.
Frank was subsequently arrested around 11:30 at the factory. Steve Oney stated that "no single development had persuaded ... [the police] that Leo Frank had murdered Mary Phagan. Instead, to the cumulative weight of Sunday's suspicions and Monday's misgivings had been added several last factors that tipped the scale against the superintendent." These factors were the dropped charges against two suspects, the rejection of rumors that Phagan had been seen on the streets making Frank the last person to admit seeing Phagan, a late Monday meeting called by Frank in which he tried to implicate Gantt and mentioned an unidentified Negro seen in building around noon on the day of the murder by a Mr. Darley, and a "shifting view of Newt Lee's role in the affair." The police were convinced Lee was involved as Frank's accomplice and ... patsy" and that Frank was trying to implicate him. To bolster their case, the police staged a confrontation between Lee and Frank while both were still in custody; there were conflicting accounts of this meeting but the police interpreted it as further implicating Frank.
A coroner's inquest was held on Wednesday April 30. Frank testified about his activities on Saturday and other witnesses produced corroboration. A young man said that Phagan had complained to him about Frank and several former employees spoke of Frank flirting with other women (one said she was actually propositioned). The detectives admitted that "they so far had obtained no conclusive evidence or clues in the baffling mystery ..." Lee and Frank both ordered to be detained
Jim Conley, the janitor at the factory, was arrested on May 1 and would remain in custody until the trial. The prosecution would base most of their case on his testimony. Later developments would draw attention to apparent discrepancies and contradictions in his testimony. Many researchers consider him the actual murderer.
The grand jury convened on May 23, 1913. The prosecutor, Hugh Dorsey, had decided to present only enough information to obtain an indictment. His witnesses suggested that the murder occurred on the second floor of the building, that Frank was anxious on both the day of the murder and the day of his arrest, and that Mary Phagan had been raped. The rape determination was not made by the medical examiner, J. W. Hurt (who would testify at the later trial that he could not determine if a rape had occurred), but by two non-experts, a police officer and the undertaker. No physical evidence was presented or discussed. The murder notes were not mentioned. Dorsey assured the jury that additional information would be provided during the trial and the next day, after five minutes of deliberation, the jury voted for an indictment. None of Conley's testimony was presented to the grand jury.
In July leaks, some provided by Frank's legal team, began to appear in the local newspapers, providing specifics of new witness testimony suggesting Conley was the actual killer. The team also organized a letter writing campaign to pressure the currently empanelled grand jury to indict Conley. No grand jury in the history of Fulton County had ever considered indicting a suspect without the recommendation of a prosecutor. In this case, however, after Dorsey refused to convene the grand jury, the foreman on his own authority convened the jury on July 21. Dorsey addressed the grand jury and persuaded them not to indict Conley, arguing that these efforts were initiate in order to weaken his case against Frank.
The Atlanta Constitution broke the story of the murder and was soon in competition with The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Georgian. 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. Soon after the murder, Atlanta's mayor criticized the police for their steady release of information to the public. The governor, noting the reaction of the public to press sensationalism soon after Lee's and Frank's arrests, prepared ten militia companies in case they were needed to repulse mob action against the prisoners. Coverage of the case in the local press continued nearly unabated throughout the investigation, trial, and subsequent appeal process.
Newspaper reports throughout the period combined real evidence, unsubstantiated rumors, and journalistic speculation. Dinnerstein wrote, "Characterized by innuendo, misrepresentation, and distortion, the yellow journalism account of Mary Phagan's death aroused an anxious city, and within a few days, a shocked state." Different segments of the population focused on different aspects. Atlanta's working class saw Frank as "a defiler of young girls" while the German-Jewish community recognized him as "an exemplary man and loyal husband." Lindemann spoke of the difficulty that "ordinary people" had in evaluating the often unreliable information and "suspend[ing] judgment over a long period of time" while the case developed. After the arrest of Frank:
"Mary's people" did not need to engage in the intellectually taxing effort of sifting the accumulating mass of increasingly confused and contradictory evidence; they did not have to endure the psychologically difficult process of suspending judgment any longer. The "monster" had been caught, and what a satisfying conclusion! Later, as disturbing new evidence began to appear, it would be psychologically very difficult, humiliating even, for many ordinary people to abandon their loudly expressed and nourishing convictions, to move away from beliefs that had taken on near religious form, especially when most authority figures in Atlanta continued to insist on Frank's guilt, dismissing the new evidence as insubstantial, unreliable, or the result of Jewish money at work.
As the press shaped public opinion, much of the attention was directed at the police and the prosecution. Dorsey had recently lost two high profile murder cases and one state newspaper wrote that "another defeat, and in a case where the feeling was so intense, would have been, in all likelihood, the end of Mr. Dorsey, as solicitor." The police department itself had been the subject of public criticism for its brutality and incompetence well before the Frank case and, despite recent efforts to change, the criticism would continue.
James "Jim" Conley
The prosecution based much of its case on the testimony of Jim Conley, the factory's janitor, who many historians believe to be the actual murderer. By the time of the trial, many of Conley's statements to police had been reported in the press. 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. 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.
Attorneys and their strategy
The trial began on July 28 at the Fulton County Superior Court (old city hall building). 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 judge was Leonard S. Roan, who had been serving as a judge in Georgia since 1900. The prosecution team was led by Hugh M. Dorsey and included William Smith, Conley's attorney and Dorsey's jury consultant. Frank was represented by a team of eight lawyers, including jury selection specialists, led by Luther Rosser, Reuben Arnold and Herbert Haas.
Both sides, in planning their trial strategy, realized the implications of convicting a white man based on the testimony of a black man in front of an early 1900s Georgia jury. Jeffrey Melnick wrote that the defense tried to picture Conley as "a new kind of African American -- anarchic, degraded, and dangerous". Dorsey however pictured Conley as "a familiar type" of "old negro", like a minstrel or plantation worker. Supporting Dorsey's strategy, many white observers did not believe that a black man could have been intelligent enough to make up a complicated story. The prosecution argued that Conley's statement explaining the immediate aftermath of the murder was true, that Frank was the murderer, and that Frank had dictated the murder notes in an effort to pin the crime on Newt Lee, the night watchman. The murder occurred in the machine room on the factory's second floor near Frank's office. The defense argued that Conley was the murderer, and that Newt Lee, the night watchman, helped Conley write the two murder notes. The defense brought numerous witnesses to support Frank's alibi, which if true indicated he did hot have enough time to commit the crime.
The prosecution presented circumstantial evidence to support its theory, and Conley's testimony, that Phagan was killed in the second floor machine room. Toward this end, they called witnesses who testified to the blood stains and strands of hair found on the lathe in this work area. This evidence would be questioned after the trial, but Frank's attorneys failed to effectively cross examine these witnesses.
To support its theory that Conley murdered Phagan in a robbery, the defense focused on Phagan's missing purse. Conley claimed in court that he saw Frank place the purse in his office safe. However, a detective stated that prior to the trial Conley had specifically denied ever seeing the purse. Another witness testified that on the Monday after the murder the safe was open and there was no purse in it. Phagan's torn pay envelope was discovered by an employee after the police had originally failed to find it but its significance was disputed by both sides.
The defense theory denied that the murder occurred on the second floor and both sides contested the significance the physical evidence that suggested the place of the murder. Material found around Phagan's neck was shown to be present throughout the factory. The prosecution interpreted the scene in the basement to support Conley's story that the body was carried there by elevator while the defense suggested that the drag marks on the floor indicated that Conley carried the body down a ladder and then pulled it across the floor.
Analysis of Phagan's body brought conflicting medical testimony. The prosecution's analysis of stomach contents (Phagan had eaten cabbage and biscuits at 11:00 a.m.) placed the time of death at thirty to forty five minutes after the last meal. The defense expert witness contested both the methodology and the conclusions. The prosecution's two medical experts disagreed on whether Phagan had been raped and the defense argued that the inflammation around Phagan's vagina could have been caused by the original post mortem examination. The prosecution said Phagan's black eye could have been caused by a fist and the injury on the back of the head came from falling back against the lathe. Conflicting testimony suggested both injuries could have been caused by falling into the basement.
Leo Frank's character was an important part of the trial. The prosecution alleged that Frank, with Conley's assistance, regularly met with women in his office for sexual relations. Conley said that on the date of the murder, Frank had told him he was expecting a young lady to come by to "chat" with him, a service he had performed before. The procedure was for Frank to stomp his foot after the lady had arrived so that Conley could lock the main door locked and whistle when he wanted it unlocked so that the visitor could depart. On the day of the murder, Conley said he saw Phagan go upstairs, heard a scream, and then saw Monteen Stover, another employee, go upstairs and leave after a while. Conley said he dozed off and when he woke up Frank called him upstairs where Frank showed Conley the body and admitted that he had hurt her. He allegedly admitted to Conley that "I ain't built like other men" and noted that he had seen Frank before in a position with women implying that he was performing oral sex. He repeated information from his affidavits that he and Frank took Phagan's body to the basement via the elevator and returned to the office in the elevator where Frank dictated the murder notes to Conley.
Conley was cross-examined for 16 hours over three days and he used the opportunity to expand on his story concerning the alleged assignations. The defense team felt they could break Conley's story, but failed to do so. The defense subsequently moved to have Conley's entire testimony concerning the alleged rendezvous stricken from the record. Judge Roan recognized that an early objection might have been upheld, but since the jury could not forget what it had heard, he allowed it to stand.
To support Frank's purported expectation of a visit from Phagan, the prosecution produced Helen Ferguson. Ferguson testified that she had tried to get Phagan's pay on Friday directly from Frank, but told her Phagan would have to come in person. Disputing Ferguson's claim, both the person who worked the pay window and the woman behind Ferguson in line testified that Frank, consistent with his normal practice, did not disburse pay that day.
To counter Conley's assertion regarding Frank's statement to him, a doctor who examined Frank's genitalia testified that he was sexually normal. Dorsey on cross examination got the doctor to say that this would not rule out homosexuality. This opened a later line of interrogation in which Dorsey asked male employees whether Frank had made sexual advances toward them, receiving negative responses.
The prosecution called a number of employees, including female factory workers, who testified that they had never seen Frank flirting or touching the girls and that they considered him to be of good character. Dorsey, in cross examination, asked leading questions concerning what Frank might have done, but the answers came back negative. In the government's rebuttal case Dorsey called "a steady parade of former factory workers" to ask them the question, "Do you know Mr. Frank's character for lasciviousness?" The answers were usually "bad."
The prosecution realized early on that issues relating to time would be an essential part of its case. At trial, both sides would present witnesses to support their version of the time line for the hours before and after the murder. The starting point was the time of death and the prosecution, relying on the analysis of stomach contents by its expert witness, argued that Phagan died between 12:00 and 12:15 pm. The prosecution produced a witness, Monteen Stover, who had come into the office to get her paycheck between 12:05 and 12:10. She said that she had looked for Frank in his office and did not find him. This contradicted Frank's initial statement to police that he had not left the office between noon and 12:30.
Conley's testimony was that Phagan arrived before Stover; the prosecution theory was that Stover did not see Frank because he was busy murdering Phagan. However other testimony indicated that Phagan exited the trolley between 12:07 and 12:10. From the stop it was a two to four minute walk. This suggested that Stover arrived first, making Stover's testimony and its implications irrelevant; Frank could not be killing Phagan because she had not yet arrived.
In his third affidavit Conley testified that he had hidden in a wardrobe in Frank's office when two ladies showed up. Conley said this occurred after Phagan's body had been moved to the basement. However these ladies, Emma Clark and Corinthia Hall testified that they had been in the office between 11:35 and 11:45 am, contradicting one of the most vivid parts of Conley's testimony.
Lemmie Quinn, foreman of the metal room, testified that he saw Frank at his desk at 12:20. Frank had not mentioned Lemmie Quinn when the police first interviewed him about his whereabouts concerning the noontime of April 26. Frank had said at the coroner's inquest that Quinn arrived less than ten minutes after Phagan had left his office and during Frank's murder trial said Lemmie arrived hardly five minutes after Phagan left. According to Conley and others, it would have taken at least thirty minutes to murder Phagan, take the body to the basement, return to the office, and write the murder notes. By the defense's calculations, Frank's time was fully accounted for from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm with the exception of eighteen minutes between 12:02 and 12:20. Hattie Hall, a stenographer, stated at trial that Frank had specifically requested that she come in that Saturday and that Frank had been working in his office from 11:00 to nearly noon. As noted above, Quinn placed Frank in his office at 12:20. The prosecution labelled Quinn's testimony as "a fraud" and reminded the jury that early in the police investigation Frank had not mentioned Quinn.
Frank said he had left the factory for lunch by 1:10. Helen Kerns reported seeing Frank, who she recognized from a job interview, at 1:10 waiting for the trolley to take him home. A neighbor, Mrs. Albert Levy stated that she saw him exiting the trolley at 1:20. Franks in-laws also placed him arriving home at 1:20. Conley however, in his third affidavit, had Frank dictating the murder notes to him at 1:00. All of this presented a problem for the prosecution since Frank could not have finished the notes, go upstairs and check on two workers, Arthur White and Harry Denham, escort Mrs. White out of the building, take a ten-minute trolley ride, and still arrive home at 1:20. The prosecution did imply that Kerns, whose father worked for the Montags who owned a controlling interest in the pencil factory, may have had a motive for lying.
Frank's housekeeper, Minola McKnight, signed a statement that Frank arrived for lunch at 1:20 p.m., but now stated that rather than spending a half hour at home Frank left very quickly. The implication was that Frank needed to return to the factory to continue his work with Conley. She also made a number of incriminating statements about Frank while in police custody overnight. At trial she declared that the entire statement had been false: "I signed it to get out of jail, because they said they would not let me out." On cross-examination she said, "The statement that I signed is not the truth."
Frank's attorneys were able to locate witnesses to dispute the alleged early departure from lunch. A neighbor of Frank's, Hennie Wolfsheimer, a relative of Mrs. Frank, and Mrs. M. G. Michael all confirmed that they saw Frank get on the trolley at 2:00. Rebecca Carson, a former employee of the pencil factory testified that she saw Frank near Rich's Department Store at 2:25 and at Jacob's Pharmacy around 2:35.
At 3:00 Frank said he returned to the office. The two workers White and Denham, who Frank had left at the locked up factory, were still there. The time cards indicated that they checked out at 3:15. Frank recollected that Mr. White stopped in his office before he left and received an advance on his pay. Newt Lee, the night watchman, arrived at work at just minutes 4:00 and Frank who was normally calm, came bustling out of his office. Frank told Lee that he had not yet finished his own work and asked Lee to return at 6:00. Newt Lee noticed that Frank was very agitated and asked if he could sleep in the packing room, but Frank was insistent that Lee leave the building and told Lee to go out and have a good time in town, before coming back.
When Lee returned at 6:00, James Gantt also arrived. Lee told police that Gantt, a former employee that had been fired by Frank after $2 was found missing from the cash box, wanted to look for two pairs of shoes he had left at the factory. Frank allowed Gantt in, although Lee indicated Frank appeared to be upset by Gantt's appearance. Frank arrived home at 6:25 and at 7:00 he called Lee to determine if everything had gone all right with Gantt.
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". On August 26, the day after the decision of guilty was reached by the jury, Judge Roan brought counsel into private chambers and sentenced Leo Frank to death by hanging with the date set to October 10. The defense team issued a public protest alleging that "the temper of the public mind" "unconsciously" influenced the jury to the prejudice of Frank. This argument would be carried forward throughout the appeal process.
Reconsideration by the trial judge
Under Georgia law, appeals of death penalty cases had to be based on errors of law, not a reevaluation of the evidence presented at trial. The appeals process began with a reconsideration by the original trial judge. The defense presented a written appeal alleging 115 procedural problems. These included claims of jury prejudice, intimidation of the jury by the crowds outside the courthouse, the admission of Conley's testimony concerning Frank's alleged sexual perversions and activities, and the return of a verdict based on an improper weighting of the evidence. Both sides called witnesses involving the charges of prejudice and intimidation, but while the defense relied on non-involved witness testimony, the prosecutor was able to find support from the testimony of the jurors themselves.
On October 31, 1913, Judge Roan denied the motion, but added, "Gentlemen, I have thought about this case more than any other I have ever tried. With all the thought I have put on this case, I am not thoroughly convinced that Frank is guilty or innocent. But I do not have to be convinced. The jury was convinced. There is no room to doubt that."
Georgia Supreme Court appeal
The next step, a hearing before the Georgia Supreme Court, was held on December 15. In addition to presenting the existing written record, each side was granted two hours of oral arguments. In addition to the old arguments, the defense focused on the reservations expressed by Judge Roan at the reconsideration hearing, citing six cases where new trials had been granted after the trial judge expressed misgivings about the jury verdict. The State countered with arguments that the evidence convicting Frank was substantial and that listing Judge Roan's doubts in the defense's bill of exceptions was not the proper vehicle for "carry[ing] the views of the judge." They further argued that it would be "as dangerous to permit a judge to impeach the integrity of his official finding after the judgment is concluded as it would be to permit the jury, after having been discharged, to impeach its own verdict. On Conley's testimony, Rosser had argued, "The jury may have thought they were writing 'guilty of murder' but your honors, what they wrote in reality was 'guilty of perversion'. Dorsey countered, "Our contention in this case is that Frank was prompted to assail this girl because of his lasciviousness" and quoted from a psychological text on deviancy that said such sex crimes were often the work of "a man of intelligence" like Frank.
On February 17, 1914, in an 142-page decision, the court by a 4-2 vote denied Frank a new trial. The majority dismissed the allegations of bias by the jurors, saying the power of determining this rested strictly with the trial judge except when an "abuse of discretion" was proved. It also ruled that spectator influence could only be the basis of a new trial if ruled so by the trial judge. Conley's testimony was found to be admissible because, even though it suggested Frank had committed other crimes for which he was not charged, it reflected on Conley's veracity and Frank's motivation. On Roan's stated reservations, the court ruled that these did not trump his legal decision to deny a motion for a new trial.
The dissenting justices restricted their opinion to Conley's testimony. In declaring that the testimony should not have been allowed to stand, they wrote, "It is perfectly clear to us that evidence of prior bad acts of lasciviousness committed by the defendant ... did not tend to prove a preexisting design, system, plan, or scheme, directed toward making an assault upon the deceased or killing her to prevent its disclosure." The evidence prejudiced Frank in the jurors eyes and denied him a fair trial.
Extraordinary motion before Georgia Supreme Court
The last hearing exhausted Frank's ordinary state appeal rights. On March 7, 1914, Frank's execution was set for April 17, his birthday. The defense had continued to investigate the case and filed an extraordinary motion before the Georgia Supreme Court. This appeal, which would be held before a single justice, Ben Hill, was restricted to raising facts not available at the original trial. The application for appeal resulted in a stay of execution and the hearing opened on April 23, 1914.
The defense was successful in obtaining a number of affidavits from witnesses repudiating their testimony. A state biologist stated in a newspaper interview that his microscopic examination of the hair shortly after the murder on the lathe did not match Phagan's. At the same time that the various repudiations were leaked to the newspapers, the state was busy seeking repudiations of the new affidavits. The murder notes, which had only been addressed in any detail in the closing arguments, were analyzed to suggest Conley composed them in the basement rather than simply writing what Frank told him to write in the office. Prison letters written by Conley to Annie Maud Carter were discovered and the defense would argue that the letters, along with Carter's testimony, implicated Conley as the actual murderer.
The defense also raised a federal constitutional issue on whether Frank's absence from the court when the verdict was announced "constituted deprivation of the due process of law." Different attorneys were brought in to argue this point since Rosser and Arnold had acquiesced in Frank's exclusion. There was a debate within the Frank camp on whether this should be raised at this point since its significance might be lost with all of the other evidence being presented, but the decision was made that it should be made clear that if the extraordinary motion was rejected they intended to appeal through the federal court system.
The prosecution was prepared for most of the defense's arguments. For almost every issue presented by the defense the state had a response. Most of the repudiations were either retracted or disavowed by the witnesses. The blood and murder note were disputed by the state's own witnesses. The integrity of the defense's investigators were questioned and intimidation and bribery were charged. The significance of the Carter letters was disputed.
The defense, in its rebuttal, tried to shore up the testimony as it related to the murder notes and the Carter letters. These issues would be reexamined later when the governor considered commuting Frank's sentence. During the defense's closing argument, the issue of the repudiations was put to rest by Judge Hill's ruling that the court could only consider the revocation of testimony if the subject were tried and found guilty of perjury. The judge denied Frank a new trial and the full court upheld the decision on November 14, 1914. The full court also said that the due process issue should have been raised earlier in the process, characterizing what it considered a belated effort as "trifling with the court."
United States Supreme Court
The next step for the Frank team was to appeal the issue through the federal system. The original request for a writ of error on the absence of Frank from the jury's announcement of the verdict was first denied by Justice Joseph R. Lamar and then Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Both denied the request because they agreed with the Georgia court that the issue was raised too late. The full Supreme Court then heard arguments but denied the motion without issuing a written decision. Holmes however said "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."
Holmes' statement as well as public indignation over this latest rejection by the courts encouraged Frank's team to attempt a habeas corpus motion, arguing that the threat of crowd violence had forced Frank to absent himself from the verdict hearing constitution a violation of due process. Justice Lamar heard the motion and agreed that the full Supreme Court should hear the appeal. On April 19, 1915, the court denied the appeal by a 7-2 vote in the case Frank v. Mangum. Part of the decision reiterated the message of the last decision that Frank failed "to raise the objection in due season when fully cognizant of the fact." 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 April 22, 1915, Frank submitted his application for a commutation of his death sentence to the state of Georgia. On May 10, a new execution date was set for June 22. On May 31, Frank's representatives presented their arguments to the three-person Prison Commission, whose job was to make a recommendation to the governor. The next day, a contingent from the Marietta area argued against commutation. Dorsey did not attend, indicating he would make the state's case before the governor. On June 9, the commission rejected the appeal by a vote of 2-1. The majority did not issue a written statement; the dissenter wrote a long protest, singling out his belief that it was wrong to execute a man "on the testimony of an accomplice, when the circumstances of the crime tend to fix the guilt upon the accomplice."
The application now passed to Governor John Slaton. Slaton had been elected in 1912 and his term would end four days after Frank's scheduled execution. In 1913, before Phagan's murder, Slaton agreed to merge his law firm with that of Luther Rosser, Frank's future lead attorney. Slaton did not participate in Frank's trial or receive any financial compensation from the trial. Popular Georgia politician Tom Watson had endorsed Slaton's successor, Nathaniel Harris. Watson also offered to support Slaton for the upcoming United States Senate election (Slaton had recently lost the nomination at the Democratic convention despite winning the majority of the votes leading up to the convention) if he allowed Frank to be executed. Instead, after the commutation, Watson would attack Slaton, often focusing on his partnership with Rosser as a conflict of interest.
Hearing and opinion
Slaton opened hearings on Saturday, June 12. In addition to receiving presentations from both sides, Slaton visited the crime scene and reviewed over 10,000 pages of documents. Slaton had also received a letter written by Judge Roan shortly before he died asking him to correct his mistake, a secret letter from a Dorsey associate that said Conley had confessed to his own attorney, William Smith, and a letter from a prison inmate saying he saw Conley struggle with Phagan on the day of the murder. Slaton also received more than 1,000 death threats. During the hearing, former Governor Joseph 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 Saturday, the defense presented its case. New evidence challenged Conley's testimony, particularly the transport of the body to the basement and an analysis of the murder notes. Dorsey presented some new arguments regarding Frank's credibility on Monday, but chose to ignore any mention of Conley's testimony or the defense's presentation regarding Conley. No hearing was held Tuesday and it was finished up on Wednesday, June 16. Slaton started going through the transcripts and evidence that evening. He worked through Saturday afternoon, taking a trip to the crime scene on Friday.
Working late into the night on Saturday, Slaton worked on his written opinion, ultimately producing a "nuanced" 29-page report. The first part of the document criticized outsiders who were unfamiliar with the evidence, especially the press in the North. He defended the trial courts decision which he felt was sufficient for a guilty verdict. He summarized points of the state's case against Frank that "any reasonable person" would accept and said of Conley that "It is hard to conceive that any man's power of fabrication of minute details could reach that which Conley showed, unless it be the truth." After having made these points, Slaton's narrative changed course and asked the rhetorical question, "Did Conley speak the truth?"
Transport of the body
Leonard Dinnerstein wrote, "Slaton based his opinions primarily upon the inconsistencies he had discovered in the narrative of Jim Conley. Two factors particularly stood out: the first had to do with the transporting of the body to the basement, and the second related to the murder notes.
At the very beginning of the investigation, police had noted the existence of undisturbed human excrement in the elevator shaft. Conley had admitted that he made this deposit before the murder. When the elevator was first operated on the Monday after the murder it crushed the material, releasing a noticeable odor. Nobody placed any significance on this fact until it was raised in the commutation hearing. The discovery of the undisturbed excrement in the elevator shaft appeared to directly contradict Conley's claim that Conley and Frank, jointly, had transported Phagan's body to the basement by the elevator. Acknowledging that the body was not transported by the elevator created a giant hole in the entirety of Conley's testimony. The doubts that had already been raised in the trial by the defense concerning Conley, took on a greater weight with the discussion of this new analysis.
During the commutation hearing, Slaton asked Dorsey to address this issue. Dorsey said that the elevator did not always go all the way to the bottom and could be stopped anywhere. Frank's attorney rebutted this by quoting Conley who said that the elevator stops when it hits the bottom. Slaton interviewed others and conducted his own tests on his visit to the factory and concluded that every time the elevator made the trip to the basement it touched the bottom. The governor stated in his opinion, "If the elevator was not used by Conley and Frank in taking the body to the basement, then the explanation of Conley cannot be accepted."
The murder notes had been analyzed before at the extraordinary motion hearing. At the commutation hearings, a new expert reviewed the previous evidence and noted, for the first time, that the notes were written in the third person rather than the first person which would have been more logical since they were intended to be the final statements of a dying Phagan. He argued this was not the type of error that Conley, rather than Frank, would have made.
Conley's former attorney, William Smith, had become convinced that his client had committed the murder. Smith did a detailed analysis of the notes and produced a 100-page analysis for the defense. He analyzed "speech and writing patterns" and "spelling, grammar, repetition of adjectives, favorite verb forms." He concluded, "In this article I show clearly that Conley did not tell the truth about those notes." Slaton, in his opinion, specifically mentioned comparisons between the murder notes and Conley's letters to Annie Maud Carter and his trial testimony. His use of words "like", "play", "lay", "love", "hisself" were similar in his letters, the murder notes, and his trial testimony. Examples of using double adjectives included "long tall negro", "tall, slim build heavy man", and "good long wide piece of cord in his hands."
The governor was also convinced that the murder notes were written in the basement, not in Frank's office. Slaton accepted the defense's argument that the notes were written on dated order pads signed by a former employee that were only kept in the basement, not in Frank's office. Slaton wrote that the employee signed an affidavit that when he left the company in 1912 "he personally packed up all of the duplicate orders ... and sent them down to the basement to be burned. This evidence was never passed upon by the jury and developed since the trial."
Timing and physical evidence
Slaton's narrative touched on other aspects of the evidence and testimony that suggested reasonable doubt. For example, he accepted the defense argument that charges by Conley of perversion were based on someone coaching him that Jews were circumcised. He accepted the defense interpretation of the timeline. Citing the evidence produced at trial (including the possibility that Stover did not see Frank because she did not proceed further than the outer office), he wrote, "Therefore, Monteen Stover must have arrived before Mary Phagan, and while Monteen Stover was in the room it hardly seems possible under the evidence, that Mary Phagan was at that time being murdered." The governor also noted that Phagan's head wound must have bled profusely, yet there was no blood found on the lathe, the floor nearby, in the elevator, or the steps leading downstairs. He also noted that Phagan's nostrils and mouth were filled with dirt and sawdust which could only have come from the basement.
The governor also added these comments on Conley's story that he was watching out for the arrival of a lady for Frank on the day of the murder:
His story necessarily bears the construction that Frank had an engagement with Mary Phagan which no evidence in the case would justify. If Frank had engaged Conley to watch for him, it could only have been for Mary Phagan, since he made no improper suggestion to any other female on that day, and it was undisputed that many did come up prior to 12.00 o’clock, and whom could Frank have been expecting except Mary Phagan under Conley’s story. This view cannot be entertained, as an unjustifiable reflection on the young girl.
Slaton released the order to commute Frank's murder conviction to life imprisonment on Sunday. The legal rationale offered by Slaton was that there was sufficient new evidence not available at the original trial to justify his actions. He wrote:
In the Frank case three matters have developed since the trial which did not come before the jury, to-wit: The Carter notes, the testimony of Becker, indicating the death notes were written in the basement, and the testimony of Dr. Harris, that he was under the impression that the hair on the lathe was not that of Mary Phagan, and thus tending to show that the crime was not committed on the floor of Frank's office. While defense made the subject an extraordinary for a new trial, it is well known that it is almost a practical impossibility to have a verdict set aside by this procedure.
The commutation was headline news that Monday. In the afternoon he invited the press to his home. He told them, "All I ask is that the people of Georgia read my statement and consider calmly the reasons I have given for commuting Leo. M. Frank's sentence. Feeling as I do about this case, I would be a murderer if I allowed that man to hang. I would rather be ploughing in a field than to feel for the rest of my life that I had that man's blood on my hands." He also told reporters that he was certain that Jim Conley was the actual murderer. Slaton privately told friends that he would have issued a full pardon except for his belief that Frank would soon be able to prove his innocence.
Reaction of the public
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 bristling 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".
Antisemitism and local and national newspaper coverage
The sensationalism by the press that started before the trial continued throughout the trial, the appeals process, and through the commutation decision and beyond. At the same time the coverage evolved, local papers were still the dominant source of information, but they were not entirely anti-Frank. The Constitution alone assumed Frank's guilt, while both the Georgian and the Journal would later comment about the public hysteria in Atlanta during the trial and each would suggest the necessity for reexamining the evidence against the defendant. On March 14, 1914, while the extraordinary motion hearing was pending, the Journal called for a new trial, saying that to execute Frank based on the atmosphere both within and outside the courtroom would "amount to judicial murder". Other newspapers in the state followed suit and many ministers spoke from the pulpit supporting a new trial. L. O. Bricker, the pastor of the church attended by Phagan's family, said that based on "the awful tension of public feeling, it was next to impossible for a jury of our fellow human beings to have granted him a fair, fearless and impartial trial."
On October 12, 1913, the New York Sun became the first major northern paper to give a detailed account of the Frank trial. In discussing the charges of antisemitism in the trial, it described Atlanta as more liberal on the subject than any other southern cities. However, it went on to say that antisemitism did arise during the trial as Atlantans reacted to statements attributed to Frank's Jewish supporters who dismissed Phagan as "nothing but a factory girl". The paper said, "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, even if he was guilty, caused a Gentile solidarity against him." On November 8, 1913, right after Judge Roan rejected Frank's reconsideration motion and cognizant of the issues raised by the Sun, the executive committee of the American Jewish Committee, headed by Louis Marshall, addressed the Frank case. Choosing not to take a public stance, they nevertheless resolved as individuals to raise funds and influence public opinion in favor of Frank.
Albert Lasker, a wealthy advertising magnate, responded to these calls to help Frank. Lasker contributed personal funds as well as his talents at advertising. In Atlanta, during the time of the extraordinary motion, Lasker coordinated Frank's meetings with the press and coined the slogan "The Truth Is on the March" to characterize the efforts of Frank's defense team. He persuaded prominent figures such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Jane Addams to make statements supporting Frank. During the commutation hearing, Vice President Thomas R. Marshall weighed in as did a dozen leading magazine and newspaper editors, including Herbert Croly, editor of the New Republic; C.P.J. Mooney, editor of the Chicago Tribune; Mark Sullivan, editor of Collier's; R. E. Stafford, editor of the Daily Oklahoman; and D. D. Moore, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times became involved about the same time as Lasker, conducting a "protracted" campaign advocating for a new trial for Frank. Both Ochs and Lasker attempted to heed Louis Marshall's warnings about antagonizing the "sensitiveness of the southern people and engender the feeling that the north is criticizing the courts and the people of Georgia." Dinnerstein wrote that these efforts at sensitivity failed "because many Georgians interpreted every item favorable to Frank as a hostile act."
Tom Watson, editor of the Jeffersonian, had remained publicly silent during Frank's trial. Among Watson's political enemies was Senator Hoke Smith, former owner of the Atlanta Journal which was still considered to be Smith's political organ. When the Journal called for a reevaluation of the evidence against Frank, Watson, in a March 19, 1913 edition of his magazine, attacked Smith for trying "to bring the courts into disrepute, drag down the judges to the level of criminals, and destroy the confidence of the people in the orderly process of the law." Watson also questioned whether Frank expected "extraordinary favors and immunities because of his race" and questioned the wisdom of Jews to "risk the good name ... of the whole race" in order to save "the decadent offshoot of a great people." Subsequent articles concentrated on the Frank case and became more and more vehement in their attacks. His biographer C. Vann Woodward wrote that Watson "pulled all the stops:Southern chivalry, sectional animus, race prejudice, class consciousness, agrarian resentment, state pride."
In trying to explain the public reaction to Frank, historians inevitably mention his class and ethnicity while avoiding any single variant explanation for what befell him. Historian John Higham wrote that "economic resentment, frustrated progressivism, and race consciousness combined to produce a classic case of lynch law. ... Hatred of organized wealth reaching into Georgia from outside became a hatred of Jewish wealth." Historian Nancy MacLean wrote that some historians have argued that this was "an American Dreyfus case" that could "be explained only in light of the social tensions unleashed by the growth of industry and cities in the turn-of-the-century South. These circumstances made a Jewish employer a more fitting scapegoat for disgruntled whites than the other leading suspect in the case, a black worker." Albert Lindemann noted that Frank on trial found himself "in a position of much latent tension and symbolism." Stating that it is impossible to determine the extent to which antisemitism contributed to his image, he concluded that Frank was seen as "a representative of Yankee capitalism in a southern city, with row upon row of southern women, often the daughters and wives of ruined farmers, 'at his mercy' -- a rich, punctilious, northern Jew lording it over vulnerable and impoverished working women."
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 28 men with various skills, 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 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 p.m., 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 handcuffed, his legs tied at the ankles, and he was hanged from a branch of a tree at around 7:00 a.m., facing the direction of the house where Phagan had lived. The Atlanta Journal wrote that 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. 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 No. 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, nearly 69 years after the trial ended, 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 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 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.
Several websites supporting the view that Frank was guilty of murdering Phagan emerged around the centennial of the Phagan murder in 2013. The Anti-Defamation League issued a press release comdemning what it called "misleading websites" from "anti-Semites...to promote anti-Jewish views".
Memorials and historical markers
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.
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.
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. The marker reads:
Gov. John M. Slaton (1866-1955)
John Marshall Slaton was born in Meriwether County and graduated from the University of Georgia before practicing law in Atlanta. Slaton served in both houses of the Georgia legislature and two terms as governor (1911-12 and 1913-15). While in office, he modernized Georgia’s tax system and roads. Concerned by the sensationalized atmosphere and circumstantial evidence that led to the notorious 1913 conviction of Jewish businessman Leo Frank in the murder of teenager Mary Phagan, Slaton granted Frank clemency in June 1915. Slaton’s commutation of Frank’s death sentence drew national attention but hostile local backlash resulted in Frank’s lynching in August 1915 and the end of Slaton’s political career. Slaton lived on property adjacent to today’s Atlanta History Center and Slaton Drive (named in his honor). He is buried in Oakland Cemetery.Erected by the Georgia Historical Society, Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and 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.
- 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.
- MacLean 1991, p. 921.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 7.
- Oney p. 6. Oney points out that Georgia was the only state that allowed children as young as ten to work eleven hours a day in factories and the legislature in early 1913 had defeated a bill to raise the minimum age to 14.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 7-8.
- MacLean 1991, p. 919.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 10.
- MacLean 1991, p. 931.
- Lindemann 1991, p. 231.
- Dinnerstein 1994, pp. 177-180. A 1900 Jewish newspaper in Atlanta wrote that "no one knows better than publishers of Jewish papers how widespread is this prejudice; but these publishers do not and will not tell what they know of the smooth talking Jew-haters, because it would widen the breech already existent.
- *Dinnerstein 1994, pp. 180-181. Dinnerstein wrote, "Men wore neither skullcaps nor prayer shawls, traditional Jewish holidays that the Orthodox celebrated on two days were observed by Marx and his followers for only one, and religious services were conducted on Sundays rather than on Saturdays." *Lindemann 1991, p. 231. Lindemann notes, "As in the rest of the nation at this time, there were new sources of friction between Jews and Gentiles, and in truth the worries of the German-Jewish elite about the negative impact of the newly arriving eastern European Jews in the city were not without foundation."
- Oney p. 7.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 9.
- Frey p. 19.
- Oney p. 10.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 5.
- Frey p. 20.
- Oney 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 p. 84.
- Oney 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 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 pp. 8–9.
- Oney p. 21.
- Oney pp. 18–19.
- Oney pp. 20–22.
- Oney pp. 30–31.
- Golden pp. 19, 102.
- Oney pp. 20–21, 379.
- Oney pp. 61–62.
- Oney pp. 46-47.
- Oney p. 31.
- Phagan-Kean p. 76
- Oney pp. 27-32.
- Oney pp. 48-51.
- Oney p. 65.
- Oney pp. 65-66.
- Oney pp. 60-65.
- Oney pp. 69-70.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 16-17
- Oney pp. 115-116, 236.
- Oney pp. 178-188.
- Oney pp. 36, 60.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 15.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 14.
- Oney pp. 74, 87-90.
- Lindemann 1991, p. 249.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 19.
- Oney pp. 53-59.
- 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 pp. 118–119.
- Oney pp. 128–129.
- Oney pp. 129–132.
- Oney p. 131.
- Oney pp. 133–134.
- Oney pp. 134–136.
- Oney p. 3.
- Oney pp. 137–138.
- Oney p. 138.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 24.
- Oney pp. 139–140.
- Oney p. 242.
- Oney pp. 147–148.
- Frey p. 132.
- Knight 1996, p. 189.
- Leonard S. Roan, 1913-1914. Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia
- Oney p. 203.
- Melnick 2000 p. 41.
- Melnick 2000 p. 41.
- Ziedenberg, Gerald (2012). Epic Trials in Jewish History. AuthorHouse. p. 60.
- Golden pp. 118–139.
- Phagan p. 105.
- Oney p. 205.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 37, 58.
- Oney p. 233.
- Oney pp. 197, 256, 264, 273.
- Oney pp. 179, 225, 228.
- Oney pp. 208-209, 231-232
- Oney pp. 196-197, 233-236, 261-262.
- Lindemann p. 239. Lindemann indicates there was a developing stereotype of "wanton, young Jewish males who hungered for fair-haired Gentile women." A familiar stereotype in Europe, it reached Atlanta in the 1890s "with the arrival of eastern European Jews." "Fear of Jewish sexuality may have had a special explosiveness in Atlanta at this time because it could easily connect to a central myth, or cultural theme, in the South -- that of the pure, virtuous, yet vulnerable White woman."
- Oney pp. 241-243.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 40-41.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 45-47, 57. Oney pp. 245-247, 252-253, 258-259, 265-266, 279. Later in the trial, C. Brutus Dalton, a white man, corroborated Conley's story about Frank regularly entertaining prostitutes in his office. The defense produced a rebuttal witness as well as a "series of witnesses" who attacked Dalton's character. The prosecution did not cross examine the defense character witnesses but did produce its own witnesses who spoke highly of Dalton.
- Oney pp. 273, 280.
- Oney pp. 275-276, 281, 294.
- Oney pp. 295-296.
- Oney pp. 309-311.
- Oney p. 115.
- Dinnerstein, pp. 37–40.
- Oney pp. 50, 100.
- Dinnerstein, p. 48. Oney pp. 50, 197, 266. Both the motorman, W. M. Matthews, and the conductor, W. T. Hollis, testified that Phagan got off the trolley at 12:10. In addition they both testified that Epps was not on the trolley. Epps said at trial that Phagan got off the trolley at 12:07. From the stop where Phagan exited the Trolley, according to Atlanta police officer John N. Starnes, "It takes not over three minutes to walk from Marietta Street, at the corner of Forsyth, across the viaduct, and through Forsyth Street, down to the factory". Lawson's American State Trials Volume X (1918) Frank stated in his initial police deposition that Phagan "came in between 12:05 and 12:10, maybe 12:07 ...".
- Oney pp. 139, 283. Oney writes, "The women's stories were replete with so many convincing specifics (each recalling seeing Hattie Hall, who went home at noon, at work at the superintendent's desk) that in the space of just a few minutes they had negated one of Conley's most vivid claims, in the process raising doubts as to the credibility of his entire account."
- Oney pp. 87, 285.
- Lawson's American State Trials Volume X (1918) Frank's testimony to the Jury
- Dinnerstein p. 49
- Oney pp. 278, 285.
- Oney p. 329.
- Oney p. 288.
- Oney p. 162.
- Oney pp. 163–165.
- Oney p. 163-165.
- Oney p. 50.
- Lawson's American State Trials Volume X (1918)
- Dinnerstein p. 2
- Mary Phagan Kean. The Murder of Little Mary Phagan, 1987
- Oney p. 47-48.
- Oney p. 50-51.
- The New York Times, December 14, 1914.
- Lawton p. 409.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 77.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 77-78.
- Oney p. 364.
- Linder, "New Evidence and Appeals," The Trial of Leo Frank: An Account.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 79.
- Friedman p. 1477-80 with footnotes 39-52.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 81, 163-165.
- Oney pp. 369-370.
- Oney pp. 368-369.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 81-82.
- Oney p. 377.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 201 (fn 12).
- Oney p. 395.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 84-90, 102-105.
- Oney p. 371-373, 378-380, 385-387, 389-390.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 90-91.
- Oney pp. 403-416.
- Oney pp. 416-417.
- Oney p. 418.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 107-108.
- Oney p. 446.
- 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, p. 109.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 110.
- Time, January 24, 1955
- Oney pp. 470, 473, 480-488.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 123-124.
- Lindemann p. 270.
- Woodward p. 440. "While the hearings of the petition to commute were in progress Watson sent a friend to the governor with the promise that if Slaton allowed Frank to hang, Watson would be his 'friend', which would result in his 'becoming United States senator and the master of Georgia politics for twenty tears to come.'"
- "Begin Last Frank Appeal to Governor", The New York Times, June 13, 1915.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 125.
- Golden p. 262. The Roan letter was addressed to the pardons board but received by Rosser. It said, "I recommend executive clemency in the case of Leo. M. Frank. I wish today to recommend to you and the Governor to commute Frank's sentence to life imprisonment."
- Oney pp. 469-479. Roan further wrote, "After many months of continued deliberation, I am still uncertain of Frank's guilt. The state of uncertainty is largely due to the character of the negro Conley's testimony, by which the verdict was evidently reached ... The execution of any person whose guilt has not been satisfactorily proved to the constituted authorities is too horrible to contemplate." Roan indicated a willingness to meet with the governor and the parole board but dies before he could do so.
- Oney pp. 489-499.
- Oney pp. 499-500.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 127.
- Oney pp. 500, 501.
- See for example:
- Lindemann p. 269. "Thus, Conley's elaborate testimony, which included using the elevator with Frank to take the body to the basement, was put into question."
- Oney p. 489. "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, they had apparently caught him in a big lie, one that cast doubt on his entire testimony."
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 127. "If one accepted the fact that the girl's body did not reach the basement via the elevator, then Conley's whole narrative fell apart, the Governor concluded."
- Oney pp. 495-496, 501.
- Golden pp. 266-267. Quoting from Slaton's statement, "In addition, there was found in the elevator shaft at 3 o'clock Sunday morning, the parasol, which was unhurt, and a ball of cord which had not been mashed."
- Oney p. 482.
- Oney p. 483.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 128.
- Golden pp. 267-269.
- Oney p. 501.
- Golden pp. 268-269.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 127-128.
- Golden p. 348.
- Oney p. 502.
- Golden p. 352.
- Oney p. 503.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 129, 169-171. "Privately, Slaton confided to friends that he believed Frank innocent and would have granted a full pardon if he were not convinced that in a short while the truth would come out and then 'the very men who were clamoring for Frank's life would be demanding a pardon for him.' The Governor knew certain 'facts' about the case, which he did not reveal at the time, corroborating the defense's theory of the way Conley had murdered Mary Phagan."
- John M. Slaton (1866–1955), The New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- "Slaton Here; Glad He Saved Frank", The New York Times, June 30, 1915.
- 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.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 31.
- Oney pp. 381-382.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 33. Bricker wrote in 1943, "My feelings, upon the arrest of the old negro nightwatchman, were to the effect that this one old negro would be poor atonement for the life of this innocent girl. But, when on the next day, the police arrested a Jew, and a Yankee Jew at that, all of the inborn prejudice against Jews rose up in a feeling of satisfaction, that here would be a victim worthy to pay for the crime."
- Oney p. 366.
- Oney pp. 367, 377-378, 388.
- Oney p. 491.
- Dinnerstein 1987, pp. 91-92.
- Oney p. 383.
- Dinnerstein 1987, p. 97.
- Woodward pp. 437-439. Among Watson's comments:
- "Here we have the typical young libertine Jew who is dreaded and detested by the city authorities of the North for the very reason that Jews of this type have an utter contempt for law, and a ravenous appetite for the forbidden fruit -- a lustful eagerness enhanced by the racial novelty of the girl of the uncircumsized."
- Higham 1988, p. 185. Higham places the incidents in Atlanta within the context of a wider national trend. The failure of progressives to solve national and international problems led to nativist displays "of hysteria and violence that had been rare or nonexistent since the 1890s."
- MacLean p. 918.
- Lindemann 1991, pp. 238-239. Lindemann wrote, "Even many Jews in Atlanta long remained doubtful about the importance of Frank's Jewishness in his arrest and conviction. They could hardly ignore the much-heightened tensions between Jew and non-Jew in the city as a result of the trial, as a result particularly of the widespread belief, after Frank's conviction, that the Jews were trying, through devious means, to arrange that a convicted murderer be freed."
- Woodward 1963, p. 439.
- 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".
- "Parties Unknown.", Boston Evening Transcript, August 24, 1915.
- 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.
- 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 pp. 573–576.
- Alphin 2010, p. 123.
- Oney 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 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 p. 628.
- Freeman, October 2003, p. 98ff.
- The Tennessean special news section, p. 15, in Dinnerstein, 1987.
- Oney 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 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 pp. 647–648.
- Dinnerstein, Leonard (October 1996). "The Fate Of Leo Frank", American Heritage, Vol. 47, Issue 6. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
- Oney pp. 647–648.
- Dinnerstein 2009.
- Fred Grimm, "Lynch Mob Victim Is Pardoned," The 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". 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 pp. 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 ... .
- See: The Leo Frank Case Research Library (http://www.leofrank.org), a self-published website, and the History category of The American Mercury (http://theamericanmercury.org/category/history/), an online version of a newspaper originally founded by H. L. Mencken in 1924. Most articles in the History category are on the topic of Leo Frank.
- "ADL: Anti-Semitism Around Leo Frank Case Flourishes on 100th Anniversary". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
- "Leo Frank (1884–1915) – Find A Grave Photos". August 16, 2007. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- Leo Frank Lynching: Georgia Historical Society, The Georgia Historical Society. Retrieved October 28, 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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