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The Leo Frank Trial: A Chronology

A crowd gathers in Marietta, Georgia after the lynching of Leo Frank

This chronology was prepared by Chris Stewart (UMKC Law, 2L)

April 26, 1913 Mary Phagan, a thirteen year old girl who worked at the National Pencil Factory of Atlanta, GA, is murdered after picking up her paycheck
April 27, 1913 Newt Lee, an African American night watchman at the Factory who had discovered Mary’s body, is arrested on suspicion of murder.
April 28, 1913 The superintendent of the National Pencil Factory, Leo Frank, is questioned as a matter of routine for the investigation.  Displeased with the progress of the investigation, Frank personally invites a Pinkerton detective to help with the case.
April 30, 1913 Suspicions of Frank are raised because Mary’s friend, a fifteen year old boy, tells investigators that Mary was afraid of Frank because he had made flirtatious advances toward her.  Also, Newt Lee tells investigators that Frank acted nervous the day of the murder (though two other workers dispute this story).
May 1, 1913 Jim Conley, an African American sweeper at the Factory, is arrested after being found in the basement trying to rinse out a blood-stained shirt.  
May 8, 1913 Newt Lee and Leo Frank are ordered by a coroner’s jury to be held under the charge of murder.
May 13, 1913 Rumors abound that notes that have been discovered near Mary’s body.
May 21, 1913 Solicitor Hugh Dorsey announces that he will ask for indictments from a grand jury against both Newt Lee and Leo Frank, though the evidence will concentrate on Frank.
May 23, 1913 A grand jury hands down a murder indictment against Leo Frank.  No action is requested against Newt Lee.
May 26, 1913 After intense questioning, Jim Conley admits that he wrote the notes found next to Mary’s body, but claims that he wrote them at the order of Leo Frank.
June 4, 1913 Frank’s wife releases a statement insisting upon her husband's innocence and accusing Solicitor Dorsey of torturing witnesses in order to get false evidence.
June 28, 1913 John M. Slaton is sworn in as the new governor of Georgia.
July 18, 1913 Because of rumors that Pinkerton detectives involved in the case believe that Conley was the murderer, a grand jury convenes to consider indicting Conley.  Solicitor Dorsey refuses to allow Pinkerton detectives to interview Conley and opposes indicting Conley. (Three days later, the grand jury decides to postpone an indictment.)
July 28, 1913 The trial of Leo Frank begins.  The jury is selected.  Mary Phagan’s mother testifies as the first witness for the prosecution. Newt Lee testifies.
August 4, 1913 Jim Conley testifies the chief prosecution witness against Leo Frank.
August 7, 1913 Solicitor Hugh Dorsey closes the state’s case.  The defense begins its case.
August 18, 1913 Leo Frank takes the stand and testifies.
August 20, 1913 The defense rests.
August 21, 1913 Final arguments begin.
August 25, 1913 Final arguments end.  The jury is instructed.  The jury returns its verdict:  Leo Frank is found guilty of murder.  Frank, his family, and his lead attorneys are not present when the verdict is announced because of the judge’s fear of mob violence. 
August 26, 1913 Frank is sentenced to hang.  His execution date is set for October 10, 1913.  Frank’s attorneys file a motion for a new trial.
October 31, 1913 Judge Roan denies Frank’s motion for new trial, but adds an unusual statement expressing his own doubts about the verdict.  Frank’s execution is rescheduled for April 17, 1914. 
February 17, 1914 The Georgia Supreme Court denies Frank's motion for a new trial.
February 24, 1914 Jim Conley is sentenced to a year on a chain gang for his part in the murder.
April 6, 1914 Frank’s attorneys file a motion in the Fulton County Superior set aside the verdict. The execution is rescheduled for January 22, 1915.
June 6, 1914 The Fulton County Superior Court denies the motion.  Frank’s attorneys appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.
October 14, 1914 The Georgia Supreme Court denies Frank’s motion to set aside the verdict.
November 14, 1914 The Georgia Supreme Court affirms the decision in the Leo Frank case.  Frank’s attorneys file a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing a denial of federal due process rights, in the U.S. District Court of North Georgia.
December 21, 1914 The U.S. District Court denies the motion to set aside the verdict.  Frank’s attorney’s appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The execution is again delayed
April 9, 1915 The Supreme Court of the United States rejects the appeal, with Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Chief Justice Hughes dissenting.  Frank’s execution is set for June 22, 1915.
June 20, 1915 Governor John Slaton, during his last day in office, commutes Frank’s sentence from death to life in prison. (He expects a full pardon to come later as doubts about the verdict increase.)
June 21, 1915 Because of the fear of a mob violence, Frank is transferred in the middle of the night from Fulton County Prison to the Georgia State Penitentiary in Milledgeville.
July 18, 1915 A prisoner slashes Frank’s throat.  Two other prisoners, both doctors, save Frank’s life by stopping the bleeding and stitching the wound.
August 16, 1915 At night, twenty-five armed men cut the prison’s telephone lines and storm the facility.  They seize Frank.
August 17, 1915 In the early morning hours, the men who had seized Frank drive to the outskirts of Marietta, Georgia (Mary Phagan’s hometown).  The lynch mob hangs Frank from an oak tree in a grove.
August 20, 1915 Frank is buried in Brooklyn, New York.
March 4, 1982 Alonzo Mann, who as a boy testified at Frank’s trial, signs an affidavit on his death bed claiming Frank’s innocence.  He claims that he had seen Conley carrying Mary’s body.  Conley, he says, threatened to kill him if told anyone what he had seen. 
January 4, 1983 The Anti-Defamation League submits an application for a posthumous pardon of Leo Frank based on Mann’s testimony.
March 11, 1986 The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issues a posthumous pardon to Leo Frank.  But the pardon does not officially clear Frank of the murder. 

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