THIS WEEK we present the fifth and next-to-last audio book installment of prosecutor Hugh Dorsey’s closing arguments in the 1913 trial of Leo M. Frank (pictured) for the strangling and sex murder of his 13-year-old sweatshop employee Mary Phagan. Even more than 100 years later, we are still feeling the repercussions of this case — which led to the founding of the prominent Jewish pressure group, the ADL, and which profoundly influenced the course of Jewish-Gentile relations in the United States.
This new audio book series encompasses the American Mercury’s extensive coverage of the 1913 Frank trial. 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 fifth section (of six) of Hugh Dorsey’s final statement.
Click on the “play” button to listen to the audio book, read by Vanessa Neubauer.
Mr. Dorsey argues that the proposition of the defense (after they gave up on framing night watchman Newt Lee) that Jim Conley was the real murderer was a preposterous one, and one tainted with the fake “bloody club” that someone among the pro-Frank forces had planted — weeks after the murder — near the place where Conley was keeping watch for Frank on the fatal day:
The defense is uncertain and indistinct on another proposition, they flutter and flurry but never light when it comes to showing you what hole Jim Conley pushed his victim down. Did he shoot her back of that staircase back there? No. Why? Because the dust was thick over it. Because unimpeached witnesses have shown you it was nailed down; because if he had shot her down that hole, the boxes piled up there to the ceiling would have as effectively concealed her body as if she had been buried in the grave, for some days or weeks. Did he shoot her down this other hole in the Clark Woodenware Company’s place of business? Where even if what Schiff says is true, that they kept the shellac there, it would nevertheless have concealed her body a longer time than to put it down there by the dust bin where the fireman and people were coming in through the back door. Did this negro, who they say robbed this girl, even if he had taken the time to write the notes, which, of course, he didn’t —even after he had knocked her in the head with that bludgeon, which they tell you had blood on it, and robbed her, even if he had been such a fool and so unlike the other members of his race, by whom brutal murders have been committed, should have taken time to have tied a cord around her neck, a cord seldom found down there in the basement, according to your own statement, except when it’s swept down in the trash, but a cord that hangs right up there on the office floor, both back there in the varnish room and up there in the front. If he had done all that,—a thing you know that he didn’t do, after he had shot her down in that hole in the Clark Woodenware Company, down there in that wing of the place where they keep this shellac, if they do keep it, why would that negro have gone down there and moved her body, when she was more securely fixed down there ? And why was it, will you tell me, if he shot her down that scuttle hole, that he wrote the notes and fixed the cord, and will you tell me how it happens that, when after this man Holloway, on May 1st, had grabbed old Jim Conley, when he saw him washing his shirt and said “he’s my nigger,”— fifteen days afterwards, when squad number two of the Pinkerton people had been searching through that factory a whole day and right down in that area, the elevator being run, the detectives, both the Pinkertons and the city force had looked around there immediately after the crime, will you tell me how it happened that, if he shot her down that hole, that there was so much blood not found until the 15th of May, and more blood than that poor girl is ever shown to have lost?
Mr. Dorsey also discusses the relative weight of the contradictory testimony from the medical men on the time of Mary Phagan’s last meal, and suggests that the general practitioners brought in by the defense 1) had no specialized knowledge of digestion, on which hinged the timing issue; and 2) were likely brought in with the hope of swaying jurors for whom they may have been family physicians:
It wouldn’t surprise me if these able, astute gentlemen, vigilant as they have shown themselves to be, didn’t go out and get some doctors who have been the family physicians and who are well known to some of the members of this jury, for the effect that it might have upon you.
I can’t see any other reason in God’s world for going out and getting these practitioners, who have never had any special training on stomach analysis, and who have not had any training with the analysis of tissues, like a pathologist has had, except upon that theory. And I am saying to you, gentlemen of the jury, that the number of doctors that these men put up here belie the statement of Mr. Rosser that he doesn’t attach any importance to this cabbage proposition, because they knew, as you know, that it is a powerful factor in sustaining the State’s case and breaking down the alibi of this defendant. It fastens and fixes and nails down with the accuracy only which a scientific fact can do, that this little girl met her death between the time she entered the office of the superintendent and the time Mrs. White came up the stairs at 12 :35, to see her husband and found this defendant at the safe and saw him jump.
You tell me that this Doctor Childs, this general practitioner, who don’t know anything about the action of the gastric juices on foods in the stomach, this man of the short experience of seven years, this gentleman, splendid gentleman though he is, from Michigan, can put his opinion against the eminent Secretary of the Georgia Board of Health, Doctor Roy Harris ? I tell you no.
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.