THIS WEEK our audio book of the American Mercury’s coverage of the 1913 trial and conviction of Jewish sex killer Leo Frank takes a particularly exciting turn. You can follow along with us by reading the original piece on which the new audio book is based. (ILLUSTRATION: Diagram of Leo Frank’s outer and inner office: How likely is it that Monteen Stover could have missed Frank had he really been in the office as he claimed?)
As William Bradford Huie of the Mercury stated:
As the defense began its parade of witnesses, few suspected that the defendant himself, Leo Frank, would soon take the stand and make an admission so astonishing that it strained belief.
Strained belief indeed! — for Leo Frank’s testimony was so bizarre and so damning as to be shocking, even to those who suspected Frank’s guilt.
Leo Max Frank spent some three hours of his four-hour unsworn testimony painstakingly detailing his accounting work, something that was barely relevant to the charges against him. (Evidently he sought to show that he simply didn’t have time to have a tryst with, or rape, or kill Mary Phagan. But common sense tells everyone that some people can do accounting work faster than others, so that was a rather unconvincing argument.)
Then Frank proceeded to break his own alibi. In what amounted almost to a confession of murder, he stated that he might have “unconsciously gone to the bathroom” — right next to where blood was found and where Jim Conley had testified he found the freshly-killed corpse of Mary Phagan — at exactly the same time that the child was killed.
Frank’s exact words were: “to the best of my recollection I didn’t stir out of the office, but it’s possible that, in order to answer a call of nature, I may have gone to the toilet, these are things that a man does unconsciously and can’t tell how many times nor when he does it.”
Leo Frank also testified that the reason 5’2″ tall Monteen Stover couldn’t see him [Leo Frank] in his inner office was that the door on his four-foot tall safe was opened and thus blocked off the view to in the inner office. When Leo Frank stated the four-foot tall safe door was “open all day,” why would Monteen Stover be the only person to not see Leo Frank or go into his inner office? — especially in light of the fact that she was there for her pay envelope.
Why didn’t the four-foot safe door block 4’11” Mary Phagan or all the other people that morning who came to see Mr. Leo Frank? We are supposed to believe the safe door only blocked Monteen Stover, a girl who was eager to collect her wages, one who specifically waited for Leo Frank in his office from 12:05 p.m. to 12:10 p.m. on April 26, 1913? That safe door stopped absolutely no one from finding Frank when coming to collect their pay that day.
Both the “unconscious” bathroom visit and safe door explanations were newfangled revelations on August 18, 1913, when Frank gave his unsworn testimony, uttered undoubtedly for the purpose of countering Monteen Stover’s testimony that broke Frank’s alibi. But Frank’s “countering” ended up breaking his alibi even more forcefully than Stover’s testimony — and, instead of countering it, confirmed and greatly strengthened what Stover had said!
Both of Leo Frank’s counter defenses, “the safe door” and the “unconsciously” going to the bathroom in the metal room were shocking revelations because one put him at the scene of the crime and the other was a complete fabrication. Monteen Stover was motivated and wanted her pay, and the defense or prosecution never disputed this. Thus Stover checked both of Leo Frank’s inner and outer offices, watching the time on the clock in Leo Frank’s empty inner office from 12:05 p.m. to 12:10 p.m., on April 26, 1913.
Monteen Stover even said that she looked down the hallway and saw the door to the metal room shut. How could the jury draw any other reasonable conclusion but that Frank was on the other side of that shut door, finishing off Mary Phagan?
Click on the “play” button to listen to the audio book, read by Vanessa Neubauer.
Here is a description of the full series which will be posted as audio in future weeks; once all segments have been released, the Mercury will be offering for sale a complete, downloadable audio book of the full series.
2. WEEK 1
3. WEEK 2
4. WEEK 3
5. Leo Frank mounts the witness stand by Ann Hendon
6. Week 4
7. Closing arguments of Rosser, Arnold and Hooper
8. Closing arguments of Hugh Dorsey
Be sure to look for next week’s installment here at The American Mercury as we continue to follow the trial that changed the South — changed America — and changed the world.