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This Day in Georgia History

August 04, 1913

Leo Frank Trial Day 7

This was the seventh, and pivotal, day in the trial of Leo Frank. James Conley, a sweeper at the factory, was called to testify and presented a gruesome, graphic, and sometimes revolting tale. In fact his testimony was so lurid that Judge Roan ordered all women and children cleared from the courtroom. Conley testified he had “watched out” for Frank on several occasions, while he entertained young women in his office. Some of his descriptions of what he saw intimated that Frank was a sexual deviant. On the morning of April 26th, Conley said Frank had asked him to “watch out” for him while he “chatted” with Mary Phagan. Later, Frank had whistled for Conley to come to his office. Frank was so nervous he had to lean on Conley for support. He then supposedly told Conley that Phagan had refused him and he had struck her and left her in the machine room. When Conley was sent to get her, he said he found her lying on the floor, dead, with arms outstretched. Conley said Frank told him to wrap up the body and put it in the basement. Conley tried to do so, but said he could not lift the body. So Frank had helped him get it on the elevator, which they then took to the basement, where Conley dragged the body into a corner. They then returned to Frank’s office, where Frank indicated there would be money waiting for Conley if he “kept his mouth shut.” Here Conley said Frank uttered the ominous phrase “Why should I hang?” Frank then had Conley write the notes found near the body, apparently in an attempt to incriminate Newt Lee. Upon severe cross examination, Conley admitted he had lied to the police about this case previously; he had given several different stories after his May 1 arrest when he was seen washing out a bloody shirt in the factory. Conley also admitted he had been arrested numerous times. The defense was able to confuse Conley on some details of his story, but he held to the main points.