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Leo Frank Trial: 1913

Little Mary Phagan Murdered, Prosecutors Emphasize Frank's Nervousness, Prosecution Clinches Their Case, Frank Convicted, Commuted, And Lynched

Defendant: Leo Max Frank Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Reuben Arnold, Herbert Haas, Stiles Hopkins, and Luther Z. Rosser
Chief Prosecutors: Hugh Dorsey, Frank Arthur Hooper, and Edward A. Stephens
Judge: Leonard Strickland Roan
Place: Atlanta, Georgia
Dates of Trial: July 28-September 26, 1913
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by hanging, commuted by Georgia Governor John Slaton to life imprisonment (After his commutation, Frank died at the hands of an angry lynch mob.)

SIGNIFICANCE: The Leo Frank trial was a national scandal, which exposed the double standard of Southern justice: one for whites and one for minorities such as Frank, who was Jewish. Not only was Frank hung by a lynch mob after his death sentence was commuted, but the Ku Klux Klan experienced a period of renewed growth for years afterward due to the racist feelings brought on by the trial.

Leo Max Frank was born in Paris, Texas, in 1884. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York while he was still a baby. Frank's family was Jewish, and he was raised in New York City's extensive Jewish community. Frank was a quiet, shy man, but he had exceptional mechanical aptitude and he graduated from Cornell University with an engineering degree. After working for brief periods with several companies, Frank went to work for his uncle, Moses Frank, who was the principal owner of the National Pencil Company. The National Pencil Company had a factory in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 1907 Frank was appointed the superintendent and moved to Atlanta.

It probably never occurred to Frank that, since he was moving to the South, racism might be a problem. Atlanta's Jewish community was small by New York standards but nevertheless significant and had deep roots in the city's history. In 1911, Frank married Lucile Selig, whose family was also Jewish and well-off. Frank spent most of his time supervising the pencil factory, avoided politics and racial issues, and was honored by the Jewish community as one of Atlanta's most promising young businessmen. By 1913 Frank was one of Atlanta's leading citizens and was enjoying a successful career.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917