Testimony of Dr. Leroy Childs

The prosecution presented testimony by Dr. Henry Harris, who suggested that autopsy evidence showed that the murder had to have occurred around noon (or slightly earlier).  Harris testified that the contents of Phagan's stomach showed that she had eaten less than an hour before her death.  She was known to have eaten around 11:00.  The testimony of Dr. Harris aided the prosecution because it fit well with its timeline and testimony from another prosecution witness that Frank was not in his office at 12:05.
Dr. Childs was called to counter the prosecution's time-of-death evidence.

Examination by Reuben Arnold

Arnold:  “Is cabbage considered a hard food to digest?”

Childs:  "It is generally considered the hardest."

Arnold: [Arnold presents a vial containing cabbage from Phagan's autopsy.] "Look at this cabbage. Was it well masticated?"

Childs: "Not very well."

Arnold: "Where does cabbage begin to be digested?"

Childs: "In the mouth, when ptyalin in the saliva acts on it."

Arnold: "Does it keep up in the stomach?"

Childs: "No, the acids of the stomach neutralize the ptyalin."

Arnold: "Then where is cabbage really digested?"

Childs: "In the small intestines."

Arnold: "When it goes out of the stomach, it is really undigested, is it not?"

Childs: "Yes. It may pass out of the body entirely in the undigested form."

Arnold:  "Are there a great many things that retard digestion?"

Childs: "Yes, the psychic causes-fright, anger and sudden mental excitement.”

Arnold: "Take a human body has been interred nine days. Take out the stomach and in the contents cabbage and certain remnants of wheat bread. Could you hazard an opinion or guess that the person had taken it into his stomach one-half or three quarters of an hour before death?"

Childs: "I certainly could not." 

Arnold: "How long would you say it was possible for cabbage like this to stay the stomach?"

Childs: "I have seen cabbage less digested than that which had been in the stomach for twelve hours."




Leo Frank Trial Home