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The Troubling Testimony of Alonzo Mann in the Murder of Little Mary Phagan

With today’s centennial of the death by lynching of Leo Max Frank, public attention has been fixed once again on the remarkable dual murders of Mary Phagan and Leo Frank. As is fairly well-known at this point, 13-year-old Mary Phagan was murdered in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta on April 26, 1913. Leo Frank, her boss and last person to admit seeing her alive, was convicted of the murder.

His appeals went up to the Supreme Court of the United States and his conviction upheld at every level. Frank’s appeals to the administrative agencies of the State of Georgia also brought no change. Only when Governor John Slaton, a law partner of the Frank defense team, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment was Frank’s life apparently spared. But the outrage felt in Georgia over the impropriety of the Governor pardoning a client of his own law firm on his last day in office (and widely suspected of being bribed) resulted in a band of leading Marietta men planning and executing a daring break-in at the State Prison in Milledgeville, abducting Frank and driving over the primitive dirt roads of Georgia all night to hang him in Marietta at sunrise the next day.

The astonishing murder of Leo Frank has tended to soften the public’s view of his guilt in the murder of Mary Phagan.

Was Frank guilty of the murder of Mary Phagan?

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