Dorsey’s Grill Fails to Make Conley Admit Hand in Killing

by Archivist on October 3, 2016

dorseys-grill

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June, 1st, 1913

Does Not Deviate In Least From Detailed Story Despite Traps to Snare Him

FRANK APPEARS PLEASED

Prisoner Tells His Friends That Sweeper’s Affidavit Is Good News to Him

A gruelling cross-examination of Jim Conley, confessed accessory in the murder of Mary Phagan, in an effort to break down his charges against Leo M. Frank as the actual slayer of the little girl, was made by Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey late Saturday afternoon.

Before the rapid-fire questioning, in which every imaginable snare was set to entrap him, the negro did not deviate one iota from the detailed account which he made Friday to the police. Every effort to make him confess that he was the slayer failed.

In amazing contrast to the attitude of the negro is that of the pencil factory superintendent.

To friends who visited the Tower where he is confined, Frank declared Saturday that Conley’s statement was good news to him. Frank had just read the negro’s affidavit in full in The Georgian. That the negro was beginning to talk meant that the mystery soon would be cleared, Frank told his friends. He had said previously that the murderer should be hanged.

Did Not Accuse Conley.

Frank did not declare outwardly that he thought Conley guilty of the murder when he spoke with his visitors Saturday. He stated, however, that he was glad that the negro had begun to talk, and predicted an early solution of the mystery.

Luther Z. Rosser, the noted Atlanta lawyer and counsel for Frank, also expressed to friends of his client his opinion of Conley’s statement Saturday as a most satisfactory turn in the case.

Friends of the accused man declare that Frank was not in the factory at the time given by Conley. They stated Saturday that Frank would offer five witnesses to prove an alibi to this effect.

Police Seek Meeting of Two.

The police will make another attempt this week to confront Frank with his accuser in an effort to break the deadlock. They look for a possible solution of the diverging statements, should the two prisoners meet face to face.

It developed Saturday that should Conley be declared an accessory after the fact, as he will be adjudged should his present statement prove to be true, his sentence, under the Georgia Code, will be not under one year imprisonment nor more than three years.

It was reported late Saturday night that an effort will be made to prove Conley an accessory to the fact. Should this be established, and the negro is proved to have been an actual participant in the murder, he will be liable to the death penalty.

Solicitor General Dorsey tried in vain to wring a confession from Conley that he was alone in the crime.

Time and again during the interview the Solicitor cautioned the negro:

“If you are guilty say so now, it would be found out later and it[‘s] possible it would go much harder with you. You must tell the truth for the truth will be known.”

Swears He Is Telling Truth.

And the negro’s answer was always the same:

“Before God, I am telling the truth.”

Trying the trap [with] him, the Solicitor often would completely turn the conversation and discuss with Chief Beavers some case entirely foreign to the Phagan murder: the new police automobile, the Stevens murder and a score of other topics. But when the negro’s mind was apparently distracted he would come back at him with a trip-hammer volley of questions covering time and again the ground that had been covered in the last affidavit of the negro.

Time Stressed by Solicitor.

On one point, particularly, the Solicitor placed considerable emphasis—the time Assistant Superintendent Darley walked to the factory entrance door with the woman who was crying. Darley placed the time as between 9:30 and 10 o’clock. The negro told the Solicitor that he was positive it was as late as 10:30 when this incident occurred and probably later. He said he would take a positive oath that it was not earlier than 10:30, and that Mr. Darley must have been mistaken.

The time he left the factory he placed as very nearly 1:40. He said he left by the front door and crossed the street to a near beer saloon where he got two drinks. He casually noticed the clock, he said, and his recollection was that it was about 1:40.

He was equally as ignorant on the subject of the condition of the body when he found it.

When the negro was taken from the Solicitor’s office he was taken to the police station instead of to the jail and lodged by himself in a private cell. No one was allowed to see him except those directly interested in the case. He asked the detective chief to please allow him a short respite from the third degree and there was every indication the negro would not be again called before the detectives of the Solicitor until Monday.

Following the examination of Conley, the Solicitor intimated for the first time the line of his prosecution.

He explained, however, that later developments might make it necessary to change this plan. He would not comment on how much credence he placed in Conley’s story.

Frank, indicted by the Grand Jury, he intimated, would be tried alone as the principal.

Conley, whom he expects to have the Grand Jury indict as an accessory after the fact, he will use first as a material witness against Frank. He may be tried later.

Newt Lee, held for the Grand Jury on a blank bill of indictment charging murder, he expects to see exonerated by a “no bill” when the jury meets again. Lee will be held in jail as a material witness.

Negro’s Theory of Crime.

Conley gave for the first time Saturday is theory of how Mary Phagan met her death. Eliminating his dialect and rearranging the sequence of events it is:

Mary Phagan went to the pencil factory superintendent’s office to draw her pay. She and the superintendent were alone and conversed rather freely. In the course of the conversation she asked Mr. Frank something about the metal. She decided to go to the metal department for some reason. Before going she placed her purse and pay envelope on the superintendent’s desk. She was followed to the rear of the building where she met her death. (He would not express any opinion as to how) Several minutes elapsed before he was called, probably twenty or thirty minutes. In this time Frank had had time to dispose of the purse and pay envelope and decide to call him to help conceal the body.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, June 1st, 1913, “Dorsey’s Grill Fails to Make Conley Admit Hand in Killing,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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