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This Day in Georgia History

August 12, 1913

Leo Frank Trial Day 14, Alonzo Mann

To view an image of Leo Frank at his trial, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

On day fourteen of the trial of Leo Frank, his defense called twenty-two character witnesses to the stand, including Frank’s relatives. They all testified that he was a man of good character and was very busy the day of the murder, showing no nervousness. When prosecutor Hugh Dorsey asked one of the witnesses, a boy who worked for Frank, if Frank had ever made improper advances to him, a bitter argument ensued between the opposing attorneys. Another female employee of the factory, Magnolia Kennedy, contradicted the earlier testimony of Helen Ferguson - who had claimed she tried to pick up Mary Phagan’s pay on Friday (the day before the murder) - saying that Frank had told her Mary would pick it up herself on the next day. Kennedy claimed she was behind Ferguson in the line to receive her pay, and that Ferguson had neither asked about Phagan’s pay or talked to Frank. Other witnesses testified to the shady character of C.B. Dalton, who had claimed to have used the basement of the factory as a meeting place with women and of using Jim Conley as a lookout. Lost among all this controversy was the brief testimony of one of the office boys who worked for Leo Frank. He was obviously nervous and timid the few minutes he was on the stand; saying only that he worked most Saturdays, including the day of the murder, and had never seen strange women in Frank’s office and had never seen Dalton at all. But this inconspicuous boy, Alonzo Mann, carried a terrible secret - one he would hold for the next sixty-nine years. It was not until 1982, when he was on the verge of death, that he finally revealed what he had seen that fateful day - Jim Conley carrying the body of Mary Phagan over his shoulder, near the elevator shaft on the first floor of the factory. According to Mann, Conley had threatened him with death if he ever said anything about what he had seen. Mann had gone home and told his mother, who advised him to keep quiet. So the trial went on, with no one realizing that the nervous youth was too scared to give the testimony that likely would have freed Leo Frank.