1. Describe the broader societal issues that played a role in the Leo Frank case.
The dramatic changes that the New South era brought to Georgia upset many southerners. Mary Phagan, a 13 year old factory worker, became a symbol of child labor and the issues it posed. Leo Frank, a Jew and the manager of the factory, represented a northern capitalist who was viewed as exploiting young children.
2. If the trial of Leo Frank were held today, what changes would there be in the way the murder was investigated and in the trial itself.
There are many new uses of forensic science in criminal investigations today. DNA would be one of the main tools investigators would have used to identify the real killer. Witnesses would certainly be questioned, but the use of polygraph tests – while not admissible in court – might be considered in deciding the identity of the killer. Also, racial and religious bias would be less rampant – although not entirely absent – during the investigation and trial periods. The use of the press and media would be less invasive to ensure a fair trial. If the death penalty were imposed by the judge and jury, the defendant would have appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. The trial itself would have been conducted in a much more orderly manner, following due process and with less inflammatory rhetoric on the part of both attorneys. Students may find other ways this would have been different due to all the court dramas on TV and actual trials in the news and on TV.
3. What actions on the part of the participants or citizens could have taken place to prevent the hanging of Leo Frank?
Many people knew about the plot to kill Frank. If only one person had reported this to authorities other than those in Cobb County, this might have been prevented. Those in charge in Milledgeville were also responsible. If they had prevented the “break-out” of Frank from prison, perhaps they could have saved his life. The rampant bigotry of the time was as much a part of the hanging as anything else. Preventing this would have taken more than just someone reporting that it existed.