THIS WEEK in our audio book series we present part 2, the final part, of the powerful, skillful closing arguments of Luther Z. Rosser for the defense of Leo Frank (pictured) in his trial for the murder of Mary Phagan, read by Vanessa Neubauer. Rosser, possibly the most feared lawyer in Atlanta in his day, was a mouthpiece and “fixer” for the rich and powerful.
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 concluding arguments of Luther Z. Rosser for the defense.
Mr. Rosser denies in his speech that the pro-Frank forces planted false evidence to implicate the Black night watchman, Newt Lee, in the murder:
Look at this. I do not believe my friend who preceded me intended to do this. I refer to the incident about the time slip. I have to use harsh words here, but I don’t want to. This seems to me the most unkindest exit of all. They say that that time slip was planted. They say the shirt was planted. Gentlemen, is there any evidence of this? Let’s see about this statement. Black and somebody else, I believe, went out to Newt’s house on Tuesday morning and found the shirt in the bottom of a barrel. They brought the shirt back to the police station and Newt said the shirt was his — or it looked like his shirt. Newt Lee had been hired at the factory but three weeks, yet they want you to believe that they found a shirt like the old man had and went out to his house and put it in a barrel.
Mr. Rosser also insists that the murder was the crime of a Black man:
I was raised with niggers and know something about them. I do not know them as well as the police, perhaps, for they know them like no one else. But I know something about them. There must have been a nigger in the crime who knew about it before Newt or anyone else.
…The thing that arises in this case to fatigue my indignation is that men born of such parents should believe the statement of Conley against the statement of Frank. Who is Conley? Who was Conley as he used to be and as you have seen him? He was a dirty, filthy, black, drunken, lying nigger. Black knows that. Starnes knows that. Chief Beavers knows it.
Who was it that made this dirty nigger come up here looking so slick? Why didn’t they let you see him as he was? They shaved him, washed him and dressed him up.
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.