THIS WEEK we present the sixth and 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. In this dramatic conclusion, you hear the words that the jury heard, the words that would lead them, a short time later, to find Leo Frank guilty of murder.
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 sixth and last section of Hugh Dorsey’s final statement.
Click on the “play” button to listen to the audio book, read by Vanessa Neubauer.
Mr. Dorsey powerfully recounts all the evidence in the case that sustains Jim Conley’s version of events (the Frank forces were, by this time, attempting to frame Conley for the crime):
But yet you say Conley is impeached? You went thoroughly into this man Conley ‘s previous life. You found out every person for whom he had worked, and yet this lousy, disreputable negro is unimpeached by any man except somebody that’s got a hand in the till of the National Pencil Company, unimpeached as to general bad character, except by the hirelings of the National Pencil Company. And yet you would have this jury, in order to turn this man loose, over-ride the facts of this case and say that Conley committed this murder, when all you have ever been able to dig up against him is disorderly conduct in the Police Court.
Is Conley sustained? Abundantly. Our proof of general bad character, the existence of such character as can reasonably be supposed to cause one to commit an act like we charge, our proof of general bad character, I say, sustains Jim Conley. Our proof of general bad character as to lasciviousness not even denied by a single witness, sustains Jim Conley. Your failure to cross-examine and develop the source of information of these girls put upon the stand by the State,—these “hare-brained fanatics,” as Mr. Arnold called them, without rhyme or reason, sustains Jim Conley. Your failure to cross-examine our character witnesses with reference to this man’s character for lasciviousness sustains Jim Conley. His relations with Miss Rebecca Carson, the lady on the fourth floor, going into the ladies’ dressing room even in broad daylight and during working hours, as sustained by Miss Kitchens. His relations with Miss Rebecca Carson, who is shown to have gone into the ladies’ dressing room, even in broad daylight and during work hours, by witnesses whose names I can’t call right now, sustains Jim Conley. Your own witness, Miss Jackson, who says that this libertine and rake came, when these girls were in there reclining and lounging after they had finished their piece work, and tells of the sardonic grin that lit his countenance, sustains Jim Conley. Miss Kitchens, the lady from the fourth floor, that, in spite of the repeated assertion made by Mr. Arnold, you didn’t produce, and her account of this man’s conduct when he came in there on these girls, whom he should have protected and when he should have been the last man to go in that room, sustains Jim Conley; and Miss Jackson’s assertion that she heard of three or four other instances and that complaint was made to the foreladies in charge, sustains Jim Conley. Darley and Mattie Smith, as to what they did even on the morning of Saturday, April 26th, even going into the minutest details, sustain Jim Conley. McCrary, the old negro that you praised so highly, the man that keeps his till filled by money paid by the National Pencil Company, as to where he put his stack of hay and the time of day he drew his pay, sustains Jim Conley. Monteen Stover, as to the easy-walking shoes she wore when she went up into this man’s Frank’s room, at the very minute he was back there in the metal department with this poor little unfortunate girl, sustains Jim Conley. Monteen Stover, when she tells you that she found nobody in that office, sustains Jim Conley, when he says that he heard little Mary Phagan go into the office, heard the footsteps of the two as they went to the rear, he heard the scream and he saw the dead body because Monteen says there was nobody in the office, and Jim says she went up immediately after Mary had gone to the rear. Lemmie Quinn, your own dear Lemmie,— as to the time he went up and went down into the streets with the evidence of Mrs. Freeman and Hall, sustains Jim Conley. Frank’s statement that he would consult his attorneys about Quinn’s statement that he had visited him in his office sustains Jim Conley. Dalton, sustained as to his life for the last ten years, here in this community and in DeKalb, when he stated that he had seen Jim watching before on Saturdays and holidays, sustains Jim Conley. Daisy Hopkins’ awful reputation and the statement of Jim, that he had seen her go into that factory with Dalton, and down that scuttle hole to the place where that cot is shown to have been, sustains Jim Conley. The blood on the second floor, testified to by numerous witnesses, sustains Jim Conley. The appearance of the blood, the physical conditions of the floor when the blood was found Monday morning, sustains Jim Conley. The testimony of Holloway, which he gave in the affidavit before he appreciated the importance, coupled with the statement of Boots Rogers that that elevator box was unlocked, sustains Jim Conley. Ivey Jones, the man who says he met him in close proximity to the pencil factory on the day this murder was committed, the time he says he left that place, sustains Jim Conley. Albert McKnight, who testified as to the length of time that this man Frank remained at home, and the fact that he hurried back to the factory, sustains Jim Conley. The repudiated affidavit, made to the police, in the presence of Craven and Pickett, of Minola McKnight, the affidavit which George Gordon, the lawyer, with the knowledge that he could get a habeas corpus and take her within thirty minutes out of the custody of the police, but which he sat there and allowed her to make,. sustains Jim Conley. The use of that cord, found in abundance, to choke this girl to death, sustains Jim Conley. The existence of the notes alone sustains Jim Conley, because no negro ever in the history of the race, after having perpetrated rape or robbery, ever wrote a note to cover up the crime. The note paper on which it is written, paper found in abundance on the office floor and near the office of this man Frank, sustains Jim Conley.
Mr. Dorsey also sums up the case against Frank dramatically:
Gentlemen, every act of that defendant proclaims him guilty. Gentlemen, every word of that defendant proclaims him responsible for the death of this little factory girl. Gentlemen, every circumstances in this case proves him guilty of this crime. Extraordinary? Yes, but nevertheless true, just as true as Mary Phagan is dead.
She died a noble death, not a blot on her name. She died because she wouldn’t yield her virtue to the demands of her Superintendent. I have no purpose and have never had from the beginning in this case that you oughtn’t to have, as an honest, upright citizen of this community. In the language of Daniel Webster, I desire to remind you “that when a jury, through whimsical and unfounded scruples, suffers the guilty to escape, they make themselves answerable for the augmented danger to the innocent.”
Your Honor, I have done my duty. I have no apology to make. Your Honor, so far as the State is concerned, may now charge this jury,—this jury who have sworn that they were impartial and unbiased, this jury who, in this presence, have taken the oath that they would well and truly try the issue formed on this bill of indictment between the State of Georgia and Leo M. Frank, charged with the murder of Mary Phagan; and I predict, may it please Your Honor, that under the law that you give in charge and under the honest opinion of the jury of the evidence produced, there can be but one verdict, and that is: We the jury find the defendant, Leo M. Frank, guilty! guilty! guilty!
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.