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The Leo Frank Trial: Week One | The American Mercury

Published by Editor on August 5, 2013

100 years ago today the trial of the 20th century ended its first week, shedding brilliant light on the greatest murder mystery of all time: the murder of Mary Phagan. And you are there.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE MOST IMPORTANT testimony in the first week of the trial of National Pencil Company superintendent Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan was that of the night watchman, Newt Lee (pictured, right, in custody), who had discovered 13-year-old Marys body in the basement of the pencil factory during his nightly rounds in the early morning darkness of April 27, 1913. Here at the Mercury we are following the events of this history-making trial as they unfolded exactly 100 years ago. We are fortunate indeed that Lees entire testimony has survived as part of the Leo Frank Trial Brief of Evidence, certified as accurate by both the defense and the prosecution during the appeal process.

Almost all of the information published today about the Frank trial has two characteristics in common: 1) it is stridently pro-Frank with little pretense of objectivity, and 2) it is derivative meaning that it consists of little more than cherry-picked paraphrases and interpretations of what witnesses said, and reporters and investigators discovered, during those fateful days. To say that much crucial information is left out or glossed over by the partisan writers of today is a vast understatement. We aim to correct come of these intentional omissions in this exclusive series.

The courtroom scene

Well begin with the entire testimony taken during direct and cross examination of Newt Lee. There had been attempt to frame Lee through the medium of a planted bloody shirt before the trial began, an act almost certainly committed by pro-Frank forces. But subsequent events proved that Lee was entirely innocent, and by the time of the trial he was not under any suspicion whatever, and therefore had no known motive to lie. Here are his exact words (emphasis ours, some paragraph breaks added for increased readability):

NEWT LEE (colored), sworn for the State.

On the 26th day of April, 1913, I was night watchman at the National Pencil Factory. I had been night watchman there for about three weeks. When I began working there, Mr. Frank carried me around and showed me everything that I would have to do. I would have to get there at six oclock on week days, and on Saturday evenings I have to come at five oclock.

On Friday, the 25th of April, he [Leo Frank] told me Tomorrow is a holiday and I want you to come back at four oclock. I want to get off a little earlier than I have been getting off.

See the article here:
The Leo Frank Trial: Week One | The American Mercury

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