Rogers on Stand Describes Visit of Frank to Undertakers
July 31st, 1913
When court convened and before the jury had been brought in Attorney Luther Rosser entered an objection to the drawing of the pencil factory which Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey had rehung upon the wall after removing the descriptive lines. Objection had previously been made to the lines and the solicitor had caused these to be erased.
Attorney Rosser and his colleague Reuben Arnold declared that the dotted lines which shows the state’s theory of how the girl’s body was carried from the second floor to the basement were not part of the building and hence were not admissible.
Mr. Dorsey cited rulings of the supreme court to show that he had a right to leave this line in the picture and Judge L. S. Roan allowed it to remain in later explaining to the jury that the drawing was admitted with the dotted lines under the express agreement that the dotted lines represented merely the state’s theory and were not conclusive unless backed by argument to carry out that theory.
W. W. (“Boots”) Rogers ex-county policeman in whose automobile the police officers were taken to the factory the morning the crime was discovered and who later carried Leo Frank from his home at 69 East Georgia avenue to the undertaking establishment to see Mary Phagan’s body and later to the factory was the first witness called.
After the usual questions as to his connection with the case, Solicitor Dorsey took up the formal examination.
“Where were you on or about April 26, 1913?”
“In the daytime I was riding in my car and at night I was at police station.”
Tells of Going to Factory.
Rogers then told of going to the factory and carrying the officers in his machine and Mr. Dorsey took up the detail of what had happened when they got there.
“Did you hear Detective J. N. Starnes talking over the telephone in the factory?” was the first of these queries.
“Yes, he was talking to someone over the phone. I did not catch the name but he turned and asked me if I would take my car and go to 68 East Georgia avenue and bring Mr. Frank to the factory.”
“Did you go?”
“Yes, and I asked Detective Black to go with me.”
“What happened there?”
Mr. Black went up to the door and I followed. Mrs. Frank, dressed in a heavy bath robe, opened the door. Mr. Black and I stepped in and asked for Mr. Frank. Mrs. Frank called him and he came out from behind a curtain and started toward us.”
“Describe his appearance.”
“He was ready for the street with the exception of his hat, collar and tie and coat. He had on his trousers, shoes and shirt.”
The solicitor was pressing for detail and here the witness through his literalness drew a smile from even the most blasé spectator.
“I don’t know now whether he had on any socks under his shoes, I reckon he did.”
“How long did it take Frank to get out there after his wife called him?”
“He came instantly.”
“Go on,” said the questioner.
Frank Asks Questions.
“Well, Mr. Frank went directly to Mr. Black and asked if anything had happened at the factory. Mr. Black did not reply and he asked me the same question. As Mr. Black had kept silent, I did so. Then Frank asked, ‘Did the night watchman call up and report anything wrong?’” continued Rogers.
The solicitor then made his witness go back and describe again the talking over the telephone he had heard in the office previous to leaving the factory to go to Frank’s home and Rogers declared that Starnes had merely asked Frank if he would come to the factory and told him he would send an automobile after him.
“Had you heard anyone else talk or try to talk over the telephone from the factory?” asked the solicitor.
“Officer Anderson was in the factory office with Newt Lee about 3:45 o’clock that morning and he tried to call someone over the phone. I don’t know who he tried to get.”
The questioning then returned to incidents at Frank’s home and the solicitor asked what else Frank had said and done.
“Frank asked his wife for his collar and tie and he said something to Mr. Black about hearing his phone ringing and not knowing whether it was real or a dream,” continued Rogers, after much pressing for detail. “When Mr. Black asked Mr. Frank to go with us to the factory, Mrs. Frank wanted to know if he couldn’t have breakfast first and Frank asked for a cup of coffee.”
All Whisky Was Gone.
“Mr. Black then told him a drink of whisky would do him more good and Mrs. Frank interrupted with the statement that Mr. Selig had had an attack of indigestion and that they had used up what whisky they had in the house,” the witness stated.
“Did you ever see the kitchen?” asked the solicitor.
“Yes, I went in there to get some water for my car, the radiator was leaking.”
“Were there any evidences or not of breakfast being cooked?”
“Not that I saw – they had a gas range, I believe, and it was not lighted.”
“How about Frank?”
Frank Exceedingly Nervous.
“Mr. Frank seemed exceedingly nervous, he talked in the refined tone of a lady and was rubbing his hands and during his questions he showed excitement and asked them in rapid succession.”
Detective John R. Black, who later took the stand declared that Frank was nervous and in describing his voice stated that he appeared hoarse, but he agreed with Rogers that the word were quick spoken.
“Would there have been time for a man in bed to have dressed himself as much as Frank was dressed when you arrived at his house from the factory?” asked the solicitor.
On Mr. Rosser’s objections this was ruled out and the solicitor put his query in another form.
“How long were you in making the trip?”
“About five or six minutes. I noticed by the speedometer that we were running 42 miles an hour on the way there.”
“Was Frank’s hair combed?”
“Go ahead,” said Mr. Dorsey.
“Well, either Mr. Black or I asked Mr. Frank if he knew a girl named Mary Phagan and Mr. Frank asked, ‘Does she work at the factory?’ I told him I thought she did and he replied, ‘I can’t tell whether I do or not.’ Then we started for the factory and either Mr. Black or I suggested going by Bloomfield’s undertaking establishment to see if Mr. Frank could recognize the body.”
Frank’s Actions at Undertakers.
“When we got there,” Rogers continued, “Mr. Gheesling, one of the men there, went ahead of us to the room where her body lay and made a light for us. I followed Mr. Gheesling, Mr. Frank followed me and Mr. Black brought up the rear. Mr. Gheesling, after making a light, turned the girl’s face toward us. Frank turned and went into another room and I did not see him look at the body. We then went back to the office of the undertaker. I don’t remember Frank’s coming into the room where the body was – he stopped at the hall door.”
“Could Frank have seen the body?” queried the solicitor.
“Could he have seen the face?”
“No, sir, he could have seen the body for just a moment but not the fact. When we asked Mr. Frank if he knew who Mary Phagan was, he said that he could tell by looking at the payroll if she worked at the factory.”
Then Rogers was asked to return to the incidents at the Frank home before they left and he declared that Frank had requested his wife to call up Darley.
“How did Frank appear at the undertakers?” questioned the solicitor.
“He was still apparently nervous.”
“When was he told of the murder?”
“He was not told of the murder until after we had left his house.”
What Frank Said at Factory.
Rogers then told of the trip from the undertaker’s place on South Pryor street to the pencil factory on South Forsyth and said that as they got to the door that Darley and another man were there and that Frank called to Darley who went into the building with them.
“When Mr. Frank went into his office, which he did as soon as he got to the building, he opened the safe and took out the payroll and then said that Mary Phagan worked there and had been paid off Saturday.”
“’My stenographer left here exactly at noon and the office boy then left and Mary Phagan came in right after that and got her money,’” Rogers quoted Frank as saying.
“We then asked how much she received and he said that he had paid her $1.20 and asked if anyone had found the pay envelope.”
Frank Still Nervous.
“What was Frank’s appearance and deportment then?” asked the solictor.
“He was nervous.”
“How did he show it?”
“By his manner of stepping around and by his speech. He stepped quickly about and his words were sharp and quick. After he had finished telling us about the girl’s money, someone suggested going to the basement,” Rogers continued “and Frank put in the elevator switch and when we commented on the switch box not being locked, Mr. Frank explained that the [word illegible] people made him keep it unlocked.
Mr. Frank then [rest of section illegible]
Took Slip Out of Time Clock.
“Did you see anybody take any slips out of the clock?”
“Yes, later. After we had come back from the basement I heard Mr. Frank ask Mr. Darley if he, Mr. Frank, hadn’t better put a new tape in the lock. Mr. Frank then unlocked the right hand side of the clock and took out the slip and said it was punched correctly.”
“Was Frank looking at it when he said that?”
“Where was Newt Lee?”
“He was handcuffed nearby.”
“What did Mr. Frank then do?”
“He laid the slip down in front of the lock and went into his office and I looked at it. Then he came out and put in a new slip and locked the clock. Then he took and wrote the words April 26, 1913 on the slip he had taken out of the clock and carried it into his office.”
“What kind of a pencil did he use?”
“I don’t know, just an ordinary looking one.”
Then on being questioned as to the appearance of the slip, Rogers declared it looked to him as though it had been correctly punched.”
“What did Frank then do?”
“He asked again for some coffee.”
“Did he ask for breakfast then?”
“No, not there.”
“What did Frank say about the murder and did he talk of it much?”
“The whole trend of the talk was about the murder.”
“Did you notice Frank’s eyes?”
“How long did you and Frank remain in the factory?”
“About an hour.”
“Wha [sic] was under arrest then?”
“Was Frank under arrest?”
“I never considered him under arrest.”
Frank at Police Station.
“Tell what, if anything, occurred at police station.”
“Well, when we got there they took Mr. Frank up to Chief Lanford’s office and I took my sister-in-law home.”
“Did you see Frank do anything in the station house?”
“Did you see Frank with a pencil at the station house?”
“I don’t remember seeing him with one.”
“Was Frank nervous at the station house?”
“Yes, I remember how he jumped quickly out of the auto.”
Rosser Conducts Cross-Examination.
Attorney Rosser then took up the cross-examination of the state’s witness.
“Did Newt Lee meet you at the factory door?” Rosser asked referring to the first trip to the factory.
“No, we had to rattle the door.”
“How long before he came?”
“A minute or two.”
“Did you know when you first got there whether it was a white girl or black who was dead?”
“How did you find out?”
“Dobbs or Anderson pulled down her stocking.”
“No blood on her neck?”
“Did the cord cut into her neck?”
“It left an impression.”
“What time was Frank at the undertakers?”
“About 7 o’clock.”
“After Starnes telephoned you went out to Georgia avenue?”
“Yes, but had to wait a while for Mr. Frank at his house.”
“How long were you on the trip to Frank’s house?”
“About 2 minutes.”
“I’m undertaking to test your memory, that’s all,” said Mr. Rosser.
Could Not Recall Exact Words.
“You won’t undertake to give your exact words at the inquest?”
“It would be foolish to undertake it.”
“Didn’t Black say, “A drink would do us all good?” asked Mr. Rosser.
“He said so after Mrs. Frank had made some remark about it,” replied Rogers. “She called upstairs and was told that Mr. Selig had had an attack of acute indigestion and had drunk up all the liquor in the house.”
“Did you say that on the way to town Frank asserted that he didn’t know Mary Phagan?”
“When you looked at the body could you look at Frank too?”
“I turned around.”
“Do you know that Frank wasn’t looking at the body at the time you were looking at it? Do you know where Frank went?”
“He stepped out of my view.”
“From the time you saw Frank, what did he say?”
“He asked if her name was Mary Phagan and said that if she worked at the factory he could tell by the pay roll, he took some books from the safe and said he had paid her off Saturday.”
“Frank started the elevator and it hummed and he called Darley and when Darley started it Frank took it,” queried Rosser.
“Was there blood on the sawdust?”
“I didn’t see any.”
Blood on Clothes.
“There was a spot on her under clothes.”
“Did anybody touch the body?”
Sergeant Dobbs and Officer Brown worked her arms and fingers.”
“When you started to the station house, why did Frank go?”
“I don’t know whether he was asked to go or not.”
“He went alertly?”
“Seemed glad to go?”
Dorsey Questions Witness.
Mr. Rosser ended his questions then, and Mr. Dorsey took up the examination and asked Rogers if he could tell whether the girl’s hair was that of a white girl or a negro and he declared that he could tell it to be a white girl’s.”
“Could Frank see the girl’s face or not when the undertaker uncovered it?” Mr. Dorsey asked.
Frank’s attorneys protested against this question and Judge Roan ruled that the state’s attorney could only ask what opportunity Frank could have had to see the face.
“What, if anything, prevented Frank from seeing the girl’s face?” the solicitor then queried.
“The body was lying in a position so he could not see it,” was Rogers’ reply.
“Didn’t you tell me that—“ Mr. Rosser interrupted but he was broken into by the solicitor who continued his questioning.
“What position was the body in?” asked Mr. Dorsey.
“The face was turned to the wall.”
“Where was Frank?” his attorney then asked.
“He had stepped beyond my vision,” replied the witness.
Rogers was then allowed to leave the stand.