TODAY WE present the closing arguments of Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (pictured), which were the very last arguments heard by the jury, in the 1913 murder trial of Leo Max Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan. These powerful, successful, and historic arguments span some six hours, and they will be presented here over the next six weeks beginning today. They give the lie to the common media narrative — often the only one presented to students today — that the state had a “weak case” against Frank.
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 are presenting the extensive arguments, both for the defense and the prosecution, in order and in full — a monumental, book-length project. Today’s presentation is the first section of Hugh Dorsey’s final statement.
Mr. Dorsey states that prejudice against Jews had nothing to do with the prosecution of Frank:
I say that the race this man comes from is as good as ours; his forefathers were civilized and living in cities and following laws when ours were roaming at large in the forest and eating human flesh. I say his race is just as good as ours, but no better. I honor the race that produced Disraeli, the greatest of British statesmen; that produced Judah P. Benjamin, as great a lawyer as England or America ever saw; I honor the Strauss brothers; I roomed with one of his race at college; one of my partners is is of his race. I served on the board of trustees of Grady hospital with Mr. Hirsch, and I know others, too many to count, but when Lieutenant Becker wished to make away with his enemies, he sought men of this man’s race.
Then, you will recall Abe Hummell, the rascally lawyer, and Reuff, another scoundrel, and Schwartz, who killed a little girl in New York, and scores of others, and you will find that this great race is as amenable to the same laws as any others of the white race or as the black race is. They rise to heights sublime, but they also sink to the lowest depths of degradation!
Mr. Dorsey also draws attention to the testimony of witnesses — most of them young girls who had worked in Frank’s sweatshop — that Frank had a bad reputation for lasciviousness:
Now, what business did this man [Frank] have going in up there, peering in on those little girls — the head of the factory, the man that wanted flirting forbidden! What business did he have going up into those dressing rooms? To tell me to go up there to the girls’ dressing room, shove open the door and walk in is a part of his duty, when he has foreladies to stop it? No, indeed. And old Jim Conley may not have been so far wrong as you may think. He says that somebody went up there that worked on the fourth floor, he didn’t know who. This man, according to the evidence of people that I submit you will believe, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Reuben B. Arnold said it was a lie and called them hare-brained fanatics — according to the testimony even of a lady who works there now and yet is brave enough and courageous enough to come down here and tell you that that man had been in a room with a lady that works on the fourth floor; and it may have been that he was then, when he went in there on this little Jackson girl and the Mayfield girl and Miss Kitchens, looking out to see if the way was clear to take her in again — and Miss Jackson, their witness, says she heard about his going in there three or four times more than she ever saw it, and they complained to the foreladies — it may have been right then and there he went to see some woman on the fourth floor that old Jim Conley says he saw go up there to meet him Saturday evening, when all these good people were out on Washington Street and Montags, and the pencil factory employees, even, didn’t know of the occurrence of these things..
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.