Leo Frank

& the Murder of 13 year old Mary Phagan

Leo Frank Case

Leo Frank, a Jewish-American manager of The National Pencil Company in Atlanta, GA, was convicted of the murder of 13 year old Mary Phagan, who was found murdered in the basement of the building. Frank was recorded to be the last person to see Phagan alive. His legal and unorganized case became the focus of the regional social, political, and racial concerns, particularly anti-semitism which became extremely influential in the case. The state's main witness, Jim Conley, a black janitor who was arrested when he was seen washing blood from a shirt, gave at least four contradictory written statements which were used as evidence in court explaining how he had helped Frank dispose of the body. In reality, Mary was sexually assaulted then brutally murder by Jim Conley. People didn't think a black man would be a able to commit a murder so complicated, which made Leo Frank a bigger target because of his religion.

With inputs from influential people such as Thomas E. Watson, a populist who wrote newspaper articles, and Hugh Dorsey, Georgia's solicitor general, many Gerogians' perspectives over the case was easily effected. Watson's article over the Leo Frank Case included accusations against Frank and Jews, which swayed many opinions including the governor's. Hugh Dorsey portrayed Leo Frank as a pedophile and successfully swayed the jury's verdict. Hate came easily for Frank in Georgia. When all court appeals had been exhausted, Frank's attorneys requested for commutation, or a reduction of a severe sentence, from Georgia's governor, John M. Slaton. Slaton reviewed the case and changed Frank's sentence to life imprisonment, thinking that his innocence would eventually be proven and he'd be set free, However, Slaton's decision angered many, leading to the kidnapping of Frank by people from Phagan's hometown and lynching.

Timeline

  • April 26, 1913: Mary Phagan, employee of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta Georgia, enters the factory to receive her pay.

  • April 27, 1913: Phagan was found and identified in the basement of the factory by Fulton County police after a report was listed.

  • April 29, 1913: Leo Frank is arrested and charged with the murder of Mary Phagan.

  • August 1913: Over the course of a three-week trial, Leo Frank is not only convicted of the murder of Mary Phagan, but is also sentenced to be hanged.

  • April 19, 1915: Following a series of appeals, the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote rejects Leo Frank’s final murder conviction appeal.

  • August 16, 1915: Residents of Mary Phagan’s hometown kidnap Leo Frank from the state prison and lynch him.

Additional Information/Evidence

These notes were written by Jim Conley, the African American janitor who worked at the company and was a key witness in the case. They were found near Mary Phagan's body.