The Leo Frank case

Murder in Georgia - 1913


wpe180.jpg (7960 bytes) Leo Franks drugged 13 yr. old Mary Phagan and then brutally raped and murdered her.

Franks gave the janitor $ 200 to burn the body in the factory furnace. He was convicted to hang .. the sentence was commuted.

A mob , organized by Marietta finest families , broke into jail and drove him 170 miles back home and hung him.

Today the Jewish community hails Leo Franks as a innocent martyr - a victim of anti-Semitism



The Victim
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Mary Phagan, a 12 yr. old employee of the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta, was murdered .


The murderer

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Leo Frank

Frank was a Cornell-educated Jew raised in New York City, living in Atlanta. President of his local B'nai Brith, active in civic affairs, he was supervisor at the National Pencil Factory, where Phagan worked.

Frank was well known as a sexual deviate that forced employees to have sex.


The murder

12 years old

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April 26th, 1913 -  Conley said Frank had asked him to "watch out" for him while he "chatted" with Mary Phagan.   He then supposedly told Conley that Phagan had refused him and he had struck her and left her in the machine room.

On the day of the murder, Conley went on, he came into the office and found Leo crouching over the unconscious girl. Leo told him that Mary had resisted his advances, and when he grabbed her had fallen and struck her head. When he had finished with her he decided to kill her. So he strangled her to death with the cord.

Frank tried to get Conley to burn the body in the factory's basement furnace.

Conley said Frank told him to wrap up the body and put it in the basement. Conley tried to do so, but said he could not lift the body.

So Frank had helped him get it on the elevator, which they then took to the basement, where Conley dragged the body into a corner. They then returned to Frank's office, where Frank indicated there would be money waiting for Conley if he "kept his mouth shut.

" Here  Frank uttered the ominous phrase "Why should I hang?"

Frank then had Conley write the notes found near the body, apparently in an attempt to incriminate Newt Lee.

Newt Lee discovers the body and calls the police. The police found the body black from cinders and dirt.  One eye had been blackened by a blow. Over both eyes was a slight abrasion. The left side of the head bore a two-inch wound, and there was a cut below the left knee. Drawn tightly about her neck was a cord buried in the flesh.

The girl had been beaten and strangled; and she had been raped.



Newt Lee

The night watchman who discovered Mary Phagan's body  and telephoned police.
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He testified for over two hours, telling the same story he had told police, that he noticed the body when he went into the basement to the restroom. He also told of Leo Frank being nervous.

That night, Frank called Lee to ask if everything was alright, an unusual practice for him.



Jewish involvement
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ADL formed

Soon thereafter the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith was founded in New York; its founding was based largely on the Leo Frank case and its aftermath. Ironically, Leo Frank had been president of the Atlanta chapter of B'nai B'rith.

Banai Brith employs senator

June 24, 1913 - Georgia senator Hoke Smith denied rumors he had been approached about and was considering aiding in Leo Frank's defense. The rumors spread after defense attorney Luther Rosser and National Pencil Company president Ike Haas stopped in Washington, D.C. en route to New York.



                                     Body exumed

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May 5, 1913 - Lemmie Quinn, foreman of Mary Phagan's work area at the National Pencil Factory, testified he saw Leo Frank the Saturday of the murder and he appeared to be on drugs.   So the decision was made to exhume Phagan's body and search her stomach for signs of drugs.




wpe181.jpg (9439 bytes) Alibi broken

May 9, 1913 - Fourteen year old Monteen Stover said she had arrived at the National Pencil Factory around 12:05 PM (roughly the same time as Mary Phagan had arrived) and that Leo Frank was not in his office. This contradicted Frank's testimony that he had been in his office the entire time in which it was thought Phagan had been murdered.

Another woman reported that she was walking outside the factory around 4:30 PM when she heard three piercing screams come from the basement of the building.




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The prosecutor

May 21, 1913 -

Solicitor Hugh Dorsey announced that he would go before the grand jury on May 23rd and ask for indictment on Leo Frank and that the evidence presented would concentrate on Frank.


wpe187.jpg (2997 bytes) Jewish lawyers accussed of bribing detectives

May 22  a new controversy arose in the Mary Phagan murder investigation. Phagan's step father signed an affidavit accusing Thomas Felder, the attorney responsible for bringing the Burns Detective Agency into the case, of approaching him about allowing Felder to prosecute the case.

Detectives presented transcripts of dictograph recordings in which Felder had offered them $1000 for access to the case evidence.


May 23 - The  grand jury took only ten minutes to hand down a murder indictment against Leo FrankOn May 24, 1913, the grand jury indicted Leo for the murder of Mary Phagan, largely on the testimony of Conley, and held the Negro as an accessory. There were five Hebrews on this grand jury.


Various witnesses to Leo Frank's sexual deviencies

Tom Watson seized avidly this added fagot for the pyre he was building about the young Hebrew, and tales of indescribable orgies in Leo's office were confirmed. Several girls told of such affairs,all of them confirmed that Leo had tried to become familiar with them.
Several women and girls   -- come forward to say Frank had made improper advances to them in the past.
George Epps, a fifteen year old friend of Mary Phagan, testified that Phagan was afraid of Frank because he had flirted and made advances toward her
wpe18D.jpg (3489 bytes) Hugh Dorsey then called several female ex-employees of the National Pencil Factory to the stand. They all testified that they had a bad opinion of Leo Frank's characterand gave concrete examples of immoral behavior on his par
wpe197.jpg (2041 bytes) Conley had often sat outside Leo's office as a sort of watchdog while Leo staged his perversions behind the locked door. When anybody would approach, Conley would whistle or cough to warn his employer.
wpe1A4.jpg (1918 bytes) C.B. Dalton ( railroad carpenter)   testified that he had seen numerous women come to the factory to visit Frank
wpe195.jpg (1198 bytes) May 10, 1913 - Robert House, an ex-policeman, had said he once caught Leo Frank and a young girl in the woods at Druid Hills park engaging in immoral acts. According to House, Frank had pleaded with him not to report the incident.


Body exhumed 2nd time

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May 25, 1913 - A second exhumation of Mary Phagan's body took place, this time to look for fingerprints; a fingerprint expert had been called in to help with the case.

The undertaker who embalmed Phagan's body said there was evidence of sexual assault and the county physician said there was evidence of a sexual assault.



Family cook testifies about Frank's confession and attempted bribery
Minola McKnight

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June 3 - Minola McKnight, the Frank family cook  signed a statement saying Leo frank was very nervous and drinking heavily the night after the murder of Mary Phagan. She said she overheard Frank's wife say he made her sleep on the rug and kept asking for his pistol so he could shoot himself.

Frank had told her -- "It is mighty bad, Minola. I might have to go to jail about this girl, and I don't know anything about it."

Finally she said her wages had been raised as a " tip to keep quiet."



Trial begins

July 28, 1913

A jury was quickly selected and seated. The first witness called was Mrs. J.W. Coleman,  mother of Mary Phagan. She managed to stay collected during most of her testimony, but finally broke down in tears when asked to identify the clothes her daughter had worn on the day she was murdered.

Next on the stand was George Epps, a thirteen year old boy who also worked at the National Pencil Factory. He had ridden the streetcar with Phagan the morning of April 26th, and the two had agreed to meet for an ice cream and to watch the Confederate Memorial Day Parade at 1:00 that afternoon.


Leo Frank's various alibi's

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A Jewess lies      Lucille Frank

June 2, 1913 - At first she corroborated Frank's story concerning the times he arrived home for lunch and then returned to the factory the day of the murder. She was agitated, believing her estranged husband had been telling lies to the police to get her in trouble. She said both she and Frank were innocent.

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Jewish assistant      Herbert Schiff

August 9, 1913 - the twelfth day in the Leo Frank trial. Herbert Schiff, Jewish assistant to Leo Frank, said he worked most Saturdays and had never seen any women in Frank's office except his wife. He added that he had never seen C.B. Dalton either.

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Witnesses tampering revealed

May 7, 1913 -  The wife of one of the mechanics who had testified on April 30 said she visited her husband at the factory that day and saw a "strange Negro" boarding the elevator as she left around 1:00 PM. Detectives on the case said someone was planting false evidence and trying to block the investigation.

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Murderer hires the investigators

Leo Frank of the National Pencil Factory  expressed his unhappiness with the investigation's progress, so he personally brought in a Pinkerton's detective to aid in the investigation.



wpe197.jpg (2041 bytes) Devastating witness

  This was the seventh, and pivotal, day in the trial of Leo Frank. Jim Conley, a sweeper at the factory, was called to testify and presented a gruesome, graphic, and sometimes revolting tale.

In fact his testimony was so lurid that Judge Roan ordered all women and children cleared from the courtroom.

Conley testified he had "watched out" for Frank on several occasions, while he entertained young women in his office.

Trial On the witness stand, Jim Conley was, unfortunately for Frank, devastating. According to Conley, Frank had confessed the murder to him and had tried to get him, (Conley), to burn the body in the factory's basement furnace. Frank's lawyers were unable to shake Conley's story, and Frank himself was hesitant and unconvincing on the stand, and his denial carried little weight.

Some of his descriptions of what he saw intimated that Frank was a sexual deviant. On the morning of April 26th, Conley said Frank had asked him to "watch out" for him while he "chatted" with Mary Phagan. Later, Frank had whistled for Conley to come to his office. Frank was so nervous he had to lean on Conley for support.

He then supposedly told Conley that Phagan had refused him and he had struck her and left her in the machine room. When Conley was sent to get her, he said he found her lying on the floor, dead, with arms outstretched. Conley said Frank told him to wrap up the body and put it in the basement. Conley tried to do so, but said he could not lift the body.

So Frank had helped him get it on the elevator, which they then took to the basement, where Conley dragged the body into a corner. They then returned to Frank's office, where Frank indicated there would be money waiting for Conley if he "kept his mouth shut." Here Conley said Frank uttered the ominous phrase "Why should I hang?" Frank then had Conley write the notes found near the body, apparently in an attempt to incriminate Newt Lee.


John Starnes

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Detective Starnes said he found the body in the basement, face down, with a cord tied tightly around the neck, and a pair of women's underpants tied loosely around the neck.

The back of the head was covered in blood.  He had called Leo Frank to inform him of the murder, and said Frank appeared extremely nervous when he arrived at the factory. .


Harry Scott

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Pinkerton detective in charge of their investigation of the case.

Scott then angered defense attorneys when he asserted one of them had asked him to forward all police evidence to the defense. Also testifying was former factory employee Monteen Stover, who said she had arrived at the factory at 12:05 PM to receive her pay, had waited in Frank's office for him for five minutes, then left. This contradicted Frank's statement that he had been in his office the entire time in which the murder took place.


A few minor witnesses were then called. Dr. J.W. Hurt, county physician who had also examined Mary Phagan's body, said there was some evidence suggesting she may have been "outraged" (sexually assaulted), there was not enough evidence to conclude this. Another factory employee and friend of Mary Phagan, Helen Ferguson, testified she had gone to the factory Friday night to get Mary's pay envelope, but Leo Frank had told her Mary would pick it up herself on Saturday.



Jim Conley

Negro acts as a ' Lookout '

wpe197.jpg (2041 bytes) Summarized, Conley's story was to the effect that he had often sat outside Leo's office as a sort of watchdog while Leo staged his perversions behind the locked door. When anybody would approach, Conley would whistle or cough to warn his employer.
August 5, 1913  When the day ended Conley was still on the stand, while defense attorneys argued that his testimony of having been a lookout for Frank on earlier occasions should be stricken from the record as irrelevant to the case.

August 6, 1913 - this was the ninth day of the trial of Leo Frank. Judge L.S. Roan ruled that testimony that Jim Conley had acted as a lookout for Leo Frank was admissible.

Applause broke out in the courtroom; Frank's attorneys immediately contended that any further such actions would be cause for a mistrial; Judge roan threatened to clear the courtroom if order was not maintained.



Frank's mother

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August 13, 1913 - . Jim Conley had claimed he watched while Frank entertained a woman in his office that day. More character witnesses were called during the afternoon. In cross-examining one of these witnesses, Hugh Dorsey asked if he had ever heard complaints about Frank fondling young girls.

Mrs. Rae Frank, Leo Frank's mother, leapt to her feet and shouted at Dorsey "No, nor you either, you dog."

One of the defense attorneys escorted Mrs. Frank out of the courtroom.



Leo Frank testifies

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August 18, 1913 -  Leo Frank took the witness stand. He spoke for four hours, calmly but firmly laying out his story. Frank said Jim Conley's tale was all lies, and that the detectives tried to distort everything he (Frank) said in order to incriminate him.

. He said Mary came in for her pay soon after 12:00 noon on April 26th, returned a few minutes later to ask if the shipment of metal had arrived (Phagan's job was putting metal tips on pencils), then left his office and he never saw her alive again.

He never saw Jim Conley that day. Frank concluded his statement thus: "Some newspaper man has called me 'the silent man in the Tower.' (for his unwillingness to talk to police or the press) Gentlemen, this is the time and here is the place! I have told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."


Prosecutor's final arguement

August 23, 1913 - the twenty-fourth day in the trial of Leo Frank. Solicitor Hugh Dorsey continued
his eloquent, yet ferocious, final argument, scoring Leo Frank for his abhorrent behavior and contending that he could not careless what opposing attorneys or Frank's family thought of him; his duty was to Mary Phagan and the people of Georgia.

Defense cries ' Anti-Semitism '

August 25, 1913 - The defense then argued that Frank was the latest in a long line of Jews who werepersecuted for their religious beliefs, and again asserted that Jim Conley was the true murderer. Conley, and many other prosecution witnesses, had shady characters, while Leo Frank had been a pillar of the community who had many well respected people, plus many of his employees, testifying on his behalf. If the case came down to Leo Frank's word against Jim Conley's, then it was obvious who should be believed.


The verdict

Jury decides

wpe19C.jpg (16413 bytes) Monday morning the Fifth Regiment, Georgia National Guard, was posted throughout the city, and Judge Roan gave the jurors their instructions.

Both sides have admitted that the charge was impartial and fair.

To avoid a riot, at Roan's suggestion neither Frank nor his lawyers were in court when the jury retired. It remained secluded for forty minutes.

There were two ballots; one, as to Leo's guilt, which was unanimous; and the second, as to recommendation for mercy, which would mean a life sentence. The first vote here was 11 to 1 against leniency, and the solitary juror then joined the others.



Georgia State Militia was called out in case Leo Franks was acquitted

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At 4:55 they returned with their decision; Leo Frank was declared guilty. Neither Frank nor his family or lead attorneys were present in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.

Reportedly Judge Roan feared mob violence should Frank have been acquitted.


Leo Frank sentenced

wpe19F.jpg (4724 bytes) August 26, 1913 - Judge L.S. Roan sentenced Leo Frank to hang for the murder of Mary Phagan.

The execution date was set for October 10, but Frank's attorneys immediately motioned for a new trial.


Governor commutes sentence

Governor flees for his life

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June 20, 1915

In his last day in office, Georgia governor John Slaton commuted the sentence of Leo Frank, from death to life in prison.

Governor Slaton announced the commutation from hanging to life imprisonment --and hell broke loose in Atlanta.

   The militia was called out and thrown around the governor's mansion, seven miles from the heart of the city, and martial law was declared. Hundreds of automobile loads of armed men raced through the streets to the executive home, where the mob trampled the grounds, screamed at the curtained windows, and hurled itself vainly against the militia's bayonets

He was influenced by his law partners, who represented Frank. Either way, Slaton's act was political suicide. He was forced to leave the country in fear for his own life.

The issue was now "Georgia's traitor governor who sold out to sheeny gold." Slaton was hanged in effigy; and the rumor that he and Mrs. Slaton were leaving at once for New York caused the throng to scream imprecations.


wpe198.jpg (2359 bytes) Frank stabbed in prison

June 21, 1915 - Leo Frank, in the middle of the night,  was transferred from the Fulton County Prison to the Georgia State Penitentiary in Milledgeville

July 18, 1915 - Prisoner J. William Creen slashed Leo Frank's throat at the Georgia State Prison Farm in Milledgeville. Only the quick actions of two other prisoners, both doctors, who stopped the flow of blood and stitched the wound, saved Frank's life.


The lynching
Lynch mob of leading citizens gathers

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Lynching mob consisted of leading citizens in the community, men prominent in business and social circles, and even in churches."

August 16, 1915 - A caravan of eight vehicles bearing 25 armed men from the Atlanta area arrived at the Georgia StatePrison at Milledgeville around 10 p.m.

Calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan, they cut the telephone lines,  surprised the guards and entered the barrack of Leo Frank, who two years earlier had been convicted of the murder of 14-year-old Mary Phagan in one of the most infamous trials of the century. The intruders seized Frank and departed into the night.


Leo Frank lynched

wpe190.jpg (14713 bytes) August 17, 1915 -  Whatever the truth may be, Frank was hanged there in Frey;s grove.   When word of the lynching spread, crowds gathered to see the body hanging from a tree. Photographs were taken, one of which later became a souvenir postcard.

The next morning, a farmer driving his team and wagon of produce into Marietta, 170 miles away, saw a man dangling from a tree near the roadway.  He recognized Leo Frank, hanging in his silk nightgown, a hangman's noose beside his tilted jaw. He had been dead for several hours.

The farmer whipped up his horses and a little later a mob of 6,000 men and boys was crowding the highway for a look as the famous prisoner

A few in the crowd threatened, and even began to inflict, violence to Frank's body, before former judge Newt Morris convinced them to stop.

Frank's body was rushed to an undertaker in Atlanta, with a line of vehicles trailing behind. Although the undertaker tried to keep the body concealed, a large crowd soon gathered demanding to see it. After a rock was thrown through a window, officials agreed to let the public view Frank's body.

Under police supervision, thousands ofcurious Atlanta-area residents filed by single file to view Frank's body -- including the city detective whohad arrested Frank. That night Frank's body was quickly embalmed and placed on a train for New York.

August 18, 1915 - Leo Frank's body, accompanied by his wife, departed Atlanta on a train bound for Brooklyn, NY.

August 20, 1915 - Leo Frank was buried in Brooklyn, NY.

* As a footnote to the lynching, no one was ever prosecuted for the murder of Leo Frank.


Mary Phagan's grave

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A website now claims to identify the lynchers of Leo Frank - June 12, 2000

Idenity of lynchers


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