Leo Frank went on trial for his life on this day in 1913.
Frank, a New York Jew, was manager of the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta, accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee named Mary Phagan. He was the last person to acknowledge having seen Phagan alive, and police arrested him despite strong evidence against Jim Conley, a black employee.
Frank’s trial at the Fulton County Courthouse was highly publicized and sensationalized. Despite Conley’s contradicting himself repeatedly in affidavits explaining how he’d helped Frank dispose of Phagan’s body, Frank’s lawyers could not shake his testimony in court. After 25 days, the jury convicted Frank, despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime.
Crowds in the courtroom and the street cheered the verdict and victorious prosecutor Hugh Dorsey. Critics in the national press charged anti-Semitism. Frank would spend the next two years seeking a new trial, before a mob lynched him in Marietta.
One of Georgia’s most notorious trials began on July 28, 1913, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.