The Coroner’s Inquest
Presided over by the Fulton County Coroner Paul V. Donehoo were a half-petite jury of prominent men from the community, who opened the coroner’s inquest investigation on Wednesday morning, April 30, 1913.
The coroner’s inquest began shortly after nine o’clock after the jury was sworn under oath. The empaneled tribunal in total consisted of seven men (1 + 6), the coroner and six inquest jurymen: (1.) H. Ashford, foreman, (2.) Glenn Dewberry, (3.) J. Hood, (4.) C. Langford, (5.) John Miller, (6.) C. Sheats, (7.) Judge of the Inquest Jury, The Fulton County Coroner, Paul Donehoo.
A controversial new development occurred concerning Leo M. Frank’s murder timeline alibi about him never leaving his office on April 26, 1913, between noon and 12:45 p.m. Leo Frank said he had forgotten for the first week of the murder investigation to bring forward Lemmie A. Quinn, foreman of the metal room, a key witness at the coroner’s inquest and later at the Frank trial. He was criminally impeached during the appeals after the revelation that he was offering bribes to witnesses to change their stories. At the coroner’s inquest, Lemmie Quinn came forward to provide testimony that sounded contrived and did not pass the common sense test.
Quinn told the coroner’s inquest jury, he had went back to the pencil factory and specifically into Leo M. Frank’s office at 12:20 to 12:25 to talk about a baseball bet with Mr. Herbert George Schiff, but Schiff was not supposed to be at the factory at all that day because it was a state holiday and everyone was given the day off.
Herbert G. Schiff later prided himself at the Leo Frank trial for never missing a day of work in five years (BOE, Herbert Schiff, 1913) except once unintentionally during a disastrous flood. Leo Frank gave the false impression that Schiff missed work that day to support the Quinn appearance.
Several employees close to Leo Frank would later provide a cacophony of contradictory information about Schiff.
The coroner’s inquest jury saw right through it, and ostensibly the falsified testimony of Quinn was meant to shrink the plausible time Leo M. Frank would have to bludgeon, rape, and strangle Mary Phagan by fifteen minutes from formerly 12:02 p.m. to 12:35 p.m., to 12:02 p.m. to 12:19 p.m. However, the importance of Lemmie A. Quinn’s manufactured testimony was it added eyewitness testimony strength to Leo Frank’s alibi that he never left his office from at least noon to 12:35 p.m.
Lemmie Quinn’s perjury shrunk Leo M. Frank’s unaccounted time on that fateful Saturday, but it still left the time frame Mary Phagan arrived at Frank’s office wide open and unaccounted for.
Three Separate and Distinct Mary Phagan Arrival Times Would Later Become Four
According to Leo Frank:
1. Mary Phagan arrived in his second-floor business office at 12:03 p.m. on April 26, 1913–this information was given to detectives on Sunday, April 27, 1913, in Leo Frank’s office.
2. Mary Phagan arrived in his second-floor business office at “12:05 pm and 12:10 p.m., maybe 12:07 p.m.” according to Leo Frank in State’s Exhibit B, given to the police on Monday, April 28, 1913.
3. Mary Phagan arrived in his second-floor business office at 12:10 p.m. on April 26, 1913–Frank gave this information at the coroner’s inquest.
At the time of the coroner’s inquest, Leo Frank had provided three different times that Mary Phagan had arrived in his office.
Conclusion of the Coroner’s Inquest and Jury
Coroner Paul Donehoo and his inquest jury of six men empaneled, questioned over one hundred factory employees and dozens of other various associated people.
The coroner’s inquest combed through the factory to examine the layout and permutations of the murder.
The weeklong inquest and testimony provided under oath left strong suspicion directed upon Leo M. Frank when Thursday, May 8, 1913, the Mary Phagan Inquest drew to a close.
At 6:30 p.m., the jury went into executive session to hear the testimony of Dr. J. W. Hurt, county physician, on the what had happened to Mary Phagan shortly before her death and what was the likely cause. The doctor addressed the jury for twenty minutes.
Donehoo convened to hear the jury findings:
“We, the coroner’s jury, empaneled and sworn by Paul Donehoo, coroner of Fulton County, to inquire into the death of Mary Phagan, whose dead body now lies before us, after having heard the evidence of sworn witnesses, and the statement of Dr. J. W. Hurt, County Physician, find that the deceased came to her death from strangulation. We recommend that Leo M. Frank and Newt Lee be
held under charges of murder for further investigation by the Fulton County grand jury.
Homer C. Ashford, Foreman
Dr. J. W. Hurt, County Physician”
Coroner and Inquest Jury Verdict: The Coroner Approved the Unanimous Finding of the Inquest Jury
The coroner and his inquest jury of six men together voted unanimously 7 to 0 recommending Leo M. Frank be bound over for murder and investigated further by a grand jury of twenty-three men, which ironically included four Jews.
Coroner Paul Donehoo ordered that Leo Frank be bound over for murder and Newt Lee was to be held as a material witness.
Still yet to be uncovered was who wrote the murder notes that appeared to be written by a Negro in Ebonics.
Police Delivered the News to Leo Frank and Newt Lee
Deputy Plennie Minor delivered the unanimous verdict of the coroner’s inquest jury to Leo M. Frank, who was being held in the infamous Atlanta Police Tower. Frank was sitting perusing a local daily newspaper, Atlanta Constitution, May 8, 1913, at the time at the time of the message. When Deputy Plennie Minor approached Leo M. Frank and told him about the unanimous verdict of the inquest jury, which had ordered that Frank be held for murder and for a more thorough investigation by the grand jury.
Newt Lee slumped his head dejectedly when the bad news was delivered to him. However, Leo Frank insolently replied that it was no more than he had expected and continued crackling away and folding the big sheets of his newspaper.
In total, more than two hundred witnesses, factory workers, and affiliates had been subpoenaed providing sworn testimony at the Inquest.
What stood out the most from all the inquest testimony was that Leo Frank specified he never went to the bathroom that day, and he held onto that position for 3.5 months until he made a startling revelation during his trial on August 18, 1913.
The ace up Dorsey’s sleeve for the grand jury investigation, Monteen Stover.
NEXT: Leo Frank Grand Jury Indictment on Saturday, May 24, 1913.
Atlanta Georgian Newspaper Coverage of the Mary Phagan Murder Investigation, Coroner’s Inquest Testimony of Leo Frank, May, 5, 8, 1913: https://www.leofrank.org/library/atlanta-georgian/.
The Frank Case (1913). The Inside Story of Georgia’s Greatest Murder Mystery. Atlanta Publishing Company, Atlanta, GA. The first book ever published on the Leo Frank case. https://www.leofrank.org/library/frank-case.pdf.
May 1, 1913, Mary Phagan and Leo Frank Coroner’s Inquest, Atlanta Constitution: https://www.leofrank.org/library/atlanta-journal-constitution/frank-tried-to-flirt-with-murdered-girl-says-her-boy-chum-may-1-1913.pdf.
Atlanta Constitution, The Second Coroner’s Inquest Session,