You Be the Judge The Leo Frank Court Case Part 3

About the Leo Frank case of murder, history of the trial. Read the facts and decide for yourself.


The Leo Frank Case (1913)

Your Verdict: In summing up for the defense, Rosser denounced the climate of hysteria and bigotry surrounding the trial and accused the prosecution of misrepresenting the evidence. The defense likened the Frank case in Georgia to the Dreyfus case in France, in which, due to anti-Semitism, a Jewish army officer was condemned to Devil's Island as the result of a forged document. The defense's opinion was widely shared by many eminent Americans as the trial drew nationwide attention. The prosecution, in rebuttal, rejected any comparisons between Frank and Dreyfus and emphasized the failure of the defense to shake Conley's testimony. Dorsey ended his summing-up with the intonation: "Guilty, guilty, guilty!" Judge Roan then delivered his charge to the jury, and the jurors retired to decide their verdict. Leo Frank: Guilty or Not Guilty? Now it is up to you, the reader, playing jury, to make up your own mind as to whether or not the defendant killed Mary Phagan. What is your verdict? Does it agree with the real-life verdict below?

The Real-Life Verdict: After deliberating for less than four hours, the jury returned. The foreman rose to his feet and, being asked by the judge for the verdict, replied: "Guilty!" Roan polled the jurors individually. Each answered as had the foreman: "Guilty!" The following day Roan sentenced Frank to be executed for murder. The defendant's lawyers, stigmatizing the proceedings as "a farce," appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Every appeal failed, but Georgia's Gov. John M. Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. The governor acted primarily because he learned that the lawyer for Jim Conley (who served a year on a Georgia chain gang as an accessory after the fact in the Phagan murder) considered Conley guilty. Frank was sent to the prison farm at Milledgeville, Ga., where he wrote letters to his partisans proclaiming his faith that one day he would be vindicated and released. That day never came. On Aug. 16, 1915, a lynch mob broke into the prison farm, overpowered the warden and his staff, and kidnapped Leo Frank. They drove him into the Georgia woods, produced a rope, and called on him to confess his guilt. Instead, he maintained his innocence so strenuously that two members of the lynch mob wanted him to be returned to the prison farm. The rest refused. They summarily hanged their captive from the branch of an oak tree, a crime for which no one was ever punished.

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