Attitude of Defense Secret
The Atlanta Georgian
Tuesday, July 8, 1913
Attorneys for Accused Man Can Keep Him From Facing Accuser if They Wish.
That Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil Factory, and James Conley, Frank’s accuser in the Mary Phagan murder mystery, would be brought face to face Tuesday was the strong possibility presented by the contemplated application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of Newt Lee, negro night watchman at the factory.
The plan of bringing Conley and Frank together may meet an insurmountable obstacle when it comes to getting the permission of Frank’s attorneys. The law allows an indicted man to testify or to refuse to testify. Frank has been willing to appear as a witness at any time, but he has placed himself under the instructions of his lawyers and the matter is entirely in their hands.
Arnold is Non-commital.
Attorney Rosser is out of town, but Reuben Arnold, associated with Mr. Rosser in the defense, said Tuesday that no thought has been taken of the possibility that Frank would be asked to appear in the habeas corpus hearing that, therefore, he could not say what the attitude of the defense would be.
Lee’s attorney said he would ask that both Conley and Frank be called as witnesses to show that neither of them could testify that Lee has anything to do with the crimt [sic]. Frank already has said he dd [sic] not believe Lee had anything to do with the murder, although he was at loss to explain the skips in the punching of the time clock between 11 and 12 o’clock the night that the body was found in the basement.
Lee’s Name Not Mentioned.
Conley has mentioned Lee’s name in none of his stories, and if the State’s theory of the murder is correct Lee was not about the building at the time the girl was strangled. The State, however, regards Lee’s testimony as important and is expected to put up a stubborn fight to prevent his liberation. Lee is depended on to tell of the conditions at the factory when he arrived there at 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon, April 26, and of Frank’s actions.
The sentiment of the new Grand Jury, which is said to favor an investigation into the Phagan mystery with a view of indicting Conley, also opens a most interesting possibility in that the defense will be called upon to make known for the first time the evidence which it has against Conley.
Rosser Guards His Evidence.
Luther Z. Rosser, chief of counsel for the accused man, has stated publicly that he believes the negro, and not Frank, guilty of the terrible crime. He has narrated a number of suspicious circumstances that point to the guilt of Conley, but he has carefully guarded the contents of the scores of affidavits in his possession which are said to weave the strongest sort of a net about the negro.
If an effort is made by the Grand Jury to indict Conley, Attorney Rosser, as well as members of the detective department, probably will be asked to lay their evidence before the jurors for an impartial determination of whether it is sufficient to warrant the action.
This will be the first time the defense will have been led into any show of its real strength. Every attorney working in the interests of Frank has closed his lips tightly when questioned as to the really vital pieces of evidence in the hands of the defense.
It is regarded as likely, however, that they will welcome this opportunity to assist in the indictment of the negro, particularly as their evidence will be given behind closed doors and in the presence of men sworn to secrecy.