The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on February 28, 1978 · 6
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · 6

Atlanta, Georgia
Issue Date:
Tuesday, February 28, 1978
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X 6.4 THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Tues., Feb. 28, 1978 Frank Continued from Page 1-A "What matter if he charged four bits apiece for pieces of mince pie?" mused a reporter. "There was not a purchaser who kicked. It was worth half a dollar to retain one's seat and be well fed at the same time." Solicitor General Hugh Dor-sey, then 42 and already a hero because of his investigation of the case, and his assistant, Frank A. Hooper Sr., came and went with smiles of approval from the crowd. Frank's lawyers took some abuse. Cries of, "How much the Jews paying you, Rosser?" went up when Luther Z. Rosser Sr., 54, the colorful chief defense counsel, appeared on the street. The Defenders Rosser was a stout fellow who never wore a tie and plodded through the crowd with his bowler hat set firmly on his head and a knobby cane in his hand. He was called by his opponent, Solicitor Dorsey, "the rider of the wind, the stirrer of the storm." Reuben Arnold, 10 years younger and also a famous defense lawyer, was, according to Dorsey, "the mildest-mannered man who ever cut a throat or scuttled a ship." Associated with them was the Jewish law firm of Herbert and Leonard Haas. Jury selection, which in present-day trials can consume weeks, was brushed off in half a day in the Leo Frank case. Later, Frank's lawyers were to charge that two of the jurors were prejudiced against the defendant, offering affidavits from witnesses that they had expressed themselves as being convinced of Frank's guilt before the trial. One of them allegedly said that he was glad the grand jury indicted "that goddamned Jew," adding: "They ought to take him out and lynch him, and if I get on that jury I'll hang that Jew sure." But at the beginning, the defense attorneys accepted him and his fellows all white, all male, all Gentile and the trial got under way. A total of 270 witnesses testified in the ensuing four weeks while Frank, his wife, Lucile, and his mother, Rhea Frank of Brooklyn, sat together and listened with mounting fear and horror. Picture Of Pervert Starting with his trump card, Jim Conley, the black sweeper at the pencil factory, Solicitor Dorsey set about constructing a picture of Frank as the scion of a wealthy Brooklyn Jewish family who exploited young girls in the plant with his perverted sexual appetites and killed Mary Phagan because she repulsed him. Rosser countered with a parade of character witnesses who testified that the young superintendent of the pencil factory was a good churchman, a good husband and a good citizen, serving at that time as president of B'nai B'rith lodge. Even with these witnesses, Dorsey didn't let the jury forget his version of Frank as a pervert and child molester. . He invariably asked if the witness happened to know of Frank's "reputation for lascivious behavior." On cross-examination, Dor sey asked one witness if he had heard of Frank's "taking a little girl to Druid Hills park, setting her on his lap and playing with her." That was more than the defendant's mother could take. Leaping to her feet, Rhea Frank cried, "No, nor you either, you dog!" New York newspaper accounts vary as to whether she said "Christian dbg" or "Gentile dog," but Atlanta papers of that time went with dog. Judge Roan recessed court and warned Mrs. Frank that she would be barred from the courtroom if she gave vent to another outburst. Later, Mrs. Frank would take the stand in a defense effort to demolish the notion that her son came from a northern capitalist family. She said she and his father, an invalid too ill to come to the trial, lived in a $6,000 house in Brooklyn that had a $3,000 mortgage. She said they lived off an investment of $20,000 which they had accumulated by hard work and careful sav-tag. Powerful Capitalists But Rosser and his associates erred when they thought that was a picture of moderate means to Georgians, many of whom were so poor in 1913 that a $10 bill looked like wealth. A $6,000 house and a $20,000 investment merely reinforced the picture of the Franks as powerful capitalists. Jim Conley, the prosecution's star witness, was a black man with a petty police, record and a reputation for convenient lying. But Rosser, the celebrated cross-exato-iner, could not shake him in 1 ARRIVES AT COURT Mrs. Rhea Frank his story of the events of Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, leading up to the discovery the next morning of little Mary Phagan's body in the basement of the pencil factory. For 16 hours on three consecutive days, Conley told and retold his story of locking the front door and "watching" for Frank on Saturdays when young women went to the superintendent's office. "To chat," he said Frank called it, but some of the testimony was considered so obscene that Judge Roan barred women and children from the courtroom. The day Mary Phagan went to collect her pay, Conley testified, Frank instructed him to "watch," and a few minutes after the little girl entered the office he heard her scream. He dozed off, he said, awakening when he heard Frank stamping his foot a signal that he had finished his "chat." Frank, said Conley, was nervous and trembling when Conley unlocked the door and joined his boss upstairs. Frank told Conley, the witness said, that he wanted "to be with her" but that the little girl had refused him and he had struck her. She fell and hit her head, Conley quoted Frank as saying. "You know, I ain't built like other men,'" the witness said Frank told him. Conley's Story Conley said Frank directed him to bring the child's body out of the metal room, and together they took her to the basement where they left her. Back in the office, Frank gave him $200 and instructed him to burn the body with some trash that was in the basement, Conley said, but he refused and Frank took the money back. He said Frank dictated and he wrote the notes which would be interpreted as Mary's own accusation of a "long, sleam" black man. When he left, Conley testified, Frank gave him some cigarettes and $2.50. , Fanny Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan, had been highly articulate in her farewells to her slain daughter at the funeral, and she was an articulate witness at the trial. "She was taken away when the spring was coming the spring that was so like her," sobbed Mrs. Coleman at the funeral. And as the coffin was lowered into the grave, she took the preacher's pocket handkerchief and waved, calling, "Goodbye, Mary, goodbye! It's too big a hole to put you in, though. It's so big big and you were so little, my own little Mary." Calmer at the trial, she told of Mary's departure from their house at Bellwood about 11:30 a.m. after eating bread and cabbage. Mary would have been 14 years old the first day of June, her mother said, and then she carefully described Mary as "fair complected, heavy set and extra large for her age." "Was she pretty or ugly?" asked Solicitor Dorsey. "She was pretty, mighty pretty," said the mother. "Did she have a dimple?" "She had a dimple in either cheek." Mother Sobbed Then Dorsey held up the clothes for her to identify, and Mrs. Coleman broke down, sobbing as she said they were what Mary had worn when she saw her last. Frank himself was on the stand for four hours, recapitulating his actions of that chilly April Saturday, most of which had already been ac counted for by other witnesses. He had intended going to a baseball game in the afternoon, to see the Atlanta Crackers play the Birmingham Barons, but because of the weather and the need to finish a financial report, he called the friend he planned to go with and cancelled, he said. He lunched at home with his wife and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, who were hurrying to get off to a matinee performance of the Metropolitan Opera. (Caruso sang here that year.) Afterwards he took a short nap. On his way back to the plant, he met a cousin of his wife's on the streetcar and visited with him a while before getting off and watching the Confederate Memorial Day parade. The only disputed portion of this testimony was about the length of time he spent at lunch at home. The husband of the Seligs' cook, Albert McKnight, testi-. fied that he was sitting in the kitchen and through the mirror on the sideboard in the dining room he watched Frank, who picked at his food and left in 10 or 15 minutes. Mineola McKnight said her husband lied, and that he and the police tried to get her to lie. He was not in the kitchen at all, she said, and if he had been he couldn't have seen into the dining room. Mr. Frank, she affirmed, ate a leisurely lunch with the family. Frank Takes Stand Frank held a written statement in his hands as he spoke, but he referred to it only occasionally, speaking in a calm, earnest tone that apparently carried some weight with spectators. A newspaper story quoted one of them as saying, "Frank's telling the truth." . "Gentlemen," he told the jury, "I know nothing whatever of the death of little Mary Phagan. I had no part in causing her death, nor do I know how she came to her death after she took her money and left my office. I never even saw Conley in the factory or anywhere else on April 26, 1913. . . "The statement of Conley is a tissue of lies from first to last. I know nothing whatever of the cause of the death of Mary Phagan, and Conley's statement as to his coming up and helping me dispose of the body or that I had anything to do with her or to do with him that day is a monstrous lie." He denied the insinuations that he was homosexual or that he had assignations with women or girls. He was, he said, a happily married man. He concluded: "Gentlemen, some newspapermen have called me the 'Silent Man in the Tower,' and I kept my silence and my counsel advisedly, until the proper time and place. The time is now; the place is here, and I have told you the truth, the whole truth." The defense attorneys made the most of every scrap of testimony favoring Frank. In their closing arguments, they emphasized that in the 14 minutes he had unaccounted for on the day of the killing it would have been impossible for him to have committed murder, moved the body and dealt with Conley, as the sweeper alleged. Two Faces? One of the solicitor general's assistants called Frank a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a man who presented one face to his friends and relatives and another to girls in the factory. Defense attorney Arnold countered by saying, "If Frank hadn't been a Jew, there would never have been any prosecution against him." He called it "the greatest frame-up in the history of the state" and likened it to the case of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, the French soldier of Jewish descent who was condemned to Devil's Island through a racial conspiracy. , "The savagery and venom is the same," said Arnold. INSOMNIA? Drift to lep fast en a 0 ' heated waterbed Kingeizes$ 1 QOQ as low 88 I I V 30 Day Frt Trial 0 iaterbe( concepts BUCKHEAD MARIETTA 3230 PmxhtrM Rd. 994 Roswell St. 237-3770 424-6064 Hwtiai.-Tliun. 104, frf . 104; Sal. 104 But it was Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey whose summation to the jury won the praise of newspapers and the plaudits of the crowd. He started talking on Friday and could have finished on Saturday, but Atlanta's three newspapers petitioned Judge Roan not to let the case go to the jury on Saturday because they feared a riot similar to that of 1906. As the Augusta Chronicle put it, "The Saturday night crowd in Atlanta, beer drinking, blind-tiger-frequenting, is not an assembly loving law and order." The solicitor general told the jury: "Gentleman, every act of that defendant proclaims him guilty! Gentlemen, every word of that defendant proclaims him responsible for .the death of this little factory girl! Gentlemen, every circumstance in this case proves him guilty of this crime. A Noble Death "Extraordinary? Yes, but nevertheless true, just as true as Mary Phagan is dead. She died a noble death, not a blot on her name. She died because she wouldn't yield her virtue to the demands of her superintendent. . .There can be but one verdict, and that is: We the jury find the defendant, Leo M. Frank guilty! Guilty! GUILTY!" The jury was out less than four hours. Only a fourth of that time was needed to reach the verdict, a juror later said. The noise of the crowd outside was so loud that Judge Rosser could not hear the jurors' answers when he asked to have them polled. When Solicitor Dorsey stepped outside the courthouse, a laughing, cheering mob swept him up to the shoulders of three strong men "and with his hat raised and tears coursing down his cheeks, the victor in Georgia's most noted criminal battle was tumbled over a shrieking throng that wildly proclaimed its admiration," The Atlanta Constitution reported. A friend finally got through to Fulton Tower, where Leo Frank sat with his wife and Rabbi David Marx awaiting the verdict. "Guilty?" asked the little man, unbelievingly. "Guilty?" echoed his wife, and then fainted. "My God," said Frank, "even the jury was influenced by mob law. I am as innocent as I was a year ago." Wednesday in The Constitution: Life or death lor Leo Frank? 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Braniff will have almost 90 by the end of 1978, in the newest jet fleet among major U.S. airlines. 727's make it possible to schedule a wide choice of departure times. And on all Braniff flights you can select your seat when making your reservation, thru to your final Braniff destination. Flight attendant wardrobes by Halstoii. Leather seats in Coaeh (as shown here) and also in First Class. OKLAHOMA nFNVFP COLORADO CITY uwvk SPRINGS FROM THE ONLY DAILY 5 WEEKDAY BRANIFF ATLANTA NON-STOPS DEPARTURES ALL THE WAY Leave Arrive Arrive Arrive 9:30a 10:35a NON-STOP 11:22a 11:45a 12 : 4 5p NON-STOP l:30p One-stop 2:22p .3:25p 4:25p NON-STOP 5:40p 6:35p NON-STOP 7: lOp One-stop 8:12p &.&) 9:00p 10:00p NON-STOP (Ex. Sal.) 10:45p U:40p NON-STOP (Ex. Sal.) .Schiliili's.iwt olhcncisf qualified are llramff ln liraiiifffimm i lums. For reservations, call yourTravel Agent or Braniff at 577-7700.. .24 hours a day. TAKE ADVANTAGE OFBRANIFF'S LOW FARES. Save money when you travel. 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