REUBEN ARNOLD’S closing arguments (part 2) for the defense of Leo Frank — on the charge of murdering his sweatshop employee Mary Phagan — are our presentation this week in our new audio book series, read by Vanessa Neubauer.
This series encompasses the American Mercury’s coverage of the 1913 trial and conviction of Jewish sex killer Leo Frank — a case which was one of the inspirations for the establishment of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). We will be presenting the extensive arguments, both for the defense and the prosecution, in order and in full — a monumental, book-length project. Today we present the second section of the arguments for the defense, the words of one of the most skilled and formidable Georgia attorneys of his time, Mr. Reuben Arnold.
Mr. Arnold states in his speech:
This case has been made up of just two things — prejudice and perjury. I’ve never seen such malice, such personal hatred in all my life, and I don’t think anyone ever has. The crime itself is dreadful, too horrible to talk about, and God grant that the murderer may be found out, and I think he has. I think we can point to Jim Conley and say there is the man. But, above all, gentlemen, let’s follow the law in this matter. In circumstantial cases you can’t convict a man as long as there’s any other possible theory for the crime of which he is accused, and you can’t find Frank guilty if there’s a chance that Conley is the murderer. The state has nothing on which to base their case but Conley, and we’ve shown Conley a liar. Write your verdict of not guilty and your consciences will give your approval.
Mr. Arnold also makes a case for Frank — had he been guilty — having no need, except pure honesty, for admitting he ever saw Mary Phagan on that fatal day; adding that “hatred against his [Frank’s] race” was the real reason for Frank’s indictment. He also tries his best to convince the jury that Jim Conley was the real murderer, and a “lustful animal” — one of a thousand Black men in Atlanta “who would assault a white woman if they had the chance.”
Well, Mary Phagan entered the factory at approximately 12 minutes after 12, and did you ever stop to think that it was Frank who told them that the girl entered the office when she entered it? If he had killed her he would have just slipped her pay envelope back in the safe and declared that he never saw her that day at all, and then no one could have ever explained how she got into that basement. But Frank couldn’t know that there was hatred enough left in this country against his race to bring such a hideous charge against him.
Well, the little girl entered, and she got her pay and asked about the metal and then she left, but, there was a black spider waiting down there near the elevator shaft, a great passionate, lustful animal, full of mean whiskey and wanting money with which to buy more whiskey. He was as full of vile lust as he was of the passion for more whiskey, and the negro (and there are a thousand of them in Atlanta who would assault a white woman if they had the chance and knew they wouldn’t get caught) robbed her and struck her and threw her body down the shaft, and later he carried it back, and maybe, if she was alive, when he came back, he committed a worse crime, and then he put the cord around her neck and left the body there.
He drives the racial point home powerfully to the all-White, all-male jury:
This crime is the hideous act of a negro who would ravish a ten-year-old girl the same as he would ravish a woman of years. It isn’t a white man’s crime. It’s the crime of a beast—a low, savage beast!
. . . They say that nigger couldn’t lie. Gentlemen, if there is any one thing that nigger can do, it is to lie.
Listening to these closing arguments — from both sides — is perhaps the best education you can get on the Leo Frank case, short of reading the entire Brief of Evidence, which I also recommend. They certainly are far superior to most modern books on the case, which are derivative and mostly very slanted in a pro-Frank direction — slanted to the point of near-absurdity and uselessness.
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.