Mary Phagan’s Family Opposes Exoneration of Sex Killer Leo Frank

Mary Phagan-Kean honoring her great-aunt, Mary Phagan

MY NAME is Mary Phagan-Kean and I am the great-niece and namesake of “Little Mary Phagan,” the thirteen-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by Leo Max Frank, the president of Atlanta’s B’nai B’rith Lodge No. 144, on April 26, 1913.

Leo Frank was the manager of the National Pencil Company — a sweatshop factory where over a hundred children labored, and where the Sam Nunn federal building stands today. Little Mary Phagan was 12 years old when she started working there in 1912, and Frank admitted he was the last person to see Mary alive.

In fact, the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming and on August 25, 1913, after a month-long trial in the Fulton County Superior Court, Leo Frank was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and on the next day, he was sentenced to hang for the murder of Mary Phagan.

What followed was an unprecedented effort by Leo Frank and his legal team and supporters to pin this horrific crime on everyone but himself. It is an effort that continues to this very day. The Leo Frank case is no “cold case.” It is obvious to anyone who objectively considers the case evidence that Leo Frank was rightly convicted for this heinous crime.

Today, his supporters have targeted a black man named James Conley who worked as a janitor at the factory. Evidence shows that after Frank beat and strangled Mary he was unable to move the body. He called on Conley and ordered him to help him conceal the crime and swore him to secrecy. After initially concealing Frank’s crime Conley ultimately revealed to authorities the true events of that day. The detail he gave was so shocking and so convincing that he became the state’s star witness against Leo Frank. Frank and his legal team’s response was to accuse Conley of the murder, and that has been their story for a century.

But Mary’s killer was not James Conley, and the state of Georgia proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Leo Frank alone murdered Little Mary Phagan.

The Phagan family has no objection to anyone expressing their opinions about the Leo Frank case, but we do insist that organizations and personal campaigns not distort the truth and facts to use this case for their own political purposes. For over 100 years, each passing decade brought with it dubious revelations of “new historical evidence” falsely claiming to exonerate Leo Frank. The Phagan family has stated since 1982 that if there were clear-cut evidence to clear Leo Frank of this heinous crime, we would be the first to ask for an exoneration. However, such historical evidence has never come to light. Rather, there are considerable data, extensive documentation, revealing archival material, and legal, court, and government records that only support and even strengthen the guilty verdict.

Phagan Family’s Statement on the Latest Attempt to Exonerate Leo Frank

It was reported in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution that on April 26, 2019 [ironically 106 years to the day after Mary Phagan’s murder] that the Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard [defeated by Fani Willis on November 6, 2020] had established a “Conviction Integrity Unit” that he said would review the Leo Frank conviction of 1913. Those named as participants in this move were the following:

  • Former Governor Roy Barnes
  • Rabbi Steven Lebow
  • Attorney Dale Schwartz
  • Melissa D. Redmon, director of the University of Georgia Law School
  • Former Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears
  • Former Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher
  • Former Cobb County Superior Court Chief Judge J. Stephen Schuster
  • Assistant District Attorney Van Pearlberg

The Family of Mary Phagan believes that these individuals have colluded since August of 2018 to find a way to vacate the murder conviction. ADL attorney Dale Schwartz was quoted thus: “we’re still trying to get a new trial that would, in effect, exonerate him.” [In 1914, several attempts were made to “exonerate” Leo Frank using “new evidence” that included witness affidavits later found to have been forged or obtained by bribery and other illegal means. See the Atlanta Constitution of May 5, 1914, p. 1.]

Clearly, the new agency was a blatantly political scheme that had nothing to do with justice. It was set up, it appears, at the behest of the above-mentioned Frank advocates for one purpose only — to help Leo Frank escape culpability for his crime. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 7, 2019), Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard stated, “The Frank Case helped inspire the creation of the new unit” and that former Gov. Roy Barnes “will serve as a consultant.” Barnes admitted that he “had lobbied the district attorney [Howard] to re-examine Frank’s case.”

Let us be clear what that means. Those statements alone convince us that the Conviction Integrity Unit has already determined the outcome of the Leo Frank case. According to the article, “Barnes said he is convinced that this will happen. ‘There is no doubt in my mind, and we’ll [Who is “we?” — Ed.] prove it at the appropriate time, that Frank was not guilty.’”

For years Roy Barnes has been promoting a fraudulent narrative about the Frank case, and in particular that the 1913 trial was illegitimate because it was “mob-dominated.” He said that “there were just mobs of people. And as the jury would go [to] the courthouse every day, the mob would scream, “Hang the Jew or we’ll hang you!”[1]

This charge is a blatant lie that has been disproven by the scholars of the case. It was made up long after the trial by an overzealous writer trying to make a name for himself. Only Barnes continues to repeat it.[2] For this and many other reasons Governor Roy Barnes is simply unfit to participate in any serious inquiry into the Leo Frank case.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard (with former Governor Roy Barnes) announces “Conviction Integrity Unit” to re-open Leo Frank case. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 7, 2019. Once again, most advocates and so-called experts who determine Leo Frank is not guilty have relied on blatantly false information and politically biased propaganda. Frank’s conviction was upheld by thirteen separate courts and judges in his thirteen appeals from Fulton County to the United States Supreme Court. Every court affirmed the trial was fair and the jury was not “mob terrorized.”

What’s more, driven by the need to exonerate a Jewish leader, they intend to convict an innocent African American man, James Conley — Frank’s employee that he ordered to help move the body. They ignore the 20 young girls and women who testified under oath that Frank sexually harassed them at the factory. Frank’s attorneys refused to cross-examine ANY of them, and later admitted that they were all telling the truth.[3]

Nonetheless, Frank’s advocates spread fabrications, propagandize falsehoods, distort the facts and change headlines of original newspapers to promote the hoax of not guilty. The real miscarriage of justice is that in this time of the #MeToo movement, they seek to override a duly convicted child rapist and murderer’s conviction.

The Evidence Points to Leo Frank’s Guilt

Most people are not aware that there was blood and hair evidence at the murder scene, that Frank changed his alibi several times and lied to police, and that he sexually harassed his young girl employees. Most people are unaware that Leo Frank hired private detectives who planted evidence and bribed and intimidated witnesses to change their testimony. They even hatched a plot to murder the African American James Conley who became a key witness against Leo Frank.[4]

Most people are not aware that the two detective firms Leo Frank hired; the Pinkertons’ National Detective Agency and the Burns Detective Agency concluded Leo Frank was guilty of the murder!

At his own trial Leo Frank refused to be sworn on the Bible and be cross-examined. A lot has been covered up about the case, including Leo Frank playing the race card to play to the white jurors’ prejudices about black men.

In 1915 and under intense political pressure Gov. John M. Slaton commuted Frank’s death sentence to life imprisonment. But even as he signed that commutation order he also wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court “found in the trial no error in law” and had “correctly in my judgment [found] that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the verdict.”

The fact is that Leo M. Frank was found guilty under Georgia law with facts and evidence, not with political bullying. The good people of Georgia can make up their own minds about Leo Frank’s innocence or guilt by delving into the historical records themselves. Having researched the Leo Frank/Mary Phagan murder case, including spending thousands of hours examining court records, newspaper reports, and private and public archives, I ask you to please consider the following facts:

Sexual harassment by Leo Frank: the Harvey Weinstein of his era

On Saturday April 26, 1913, Leo Frank used the opportunity of a deserted factory and his power as the company boss to lure Little Mary Phagan to a back area of the factory and attempt to rape her. Mary resisted and, and in the struggle Frank struck her and knocked her unconscious, and then strangled her to death. He left a trail of clues leading to himself, so within a few days of the murder he was arrested.

Evidence showed that the murder was sexually motivated, and many of Leo Frank’s own female employees testified to Leo Frank’s history of sexual harassment. They testified that he “got too familiar,” “put his hands on” them, tried to corner them, and proposed sexual acts to them for money.

These teenagers bravely took the witness stand and spoke of Leo Frank’s lewd behavior. Sixteen-year-old Nellie Wood told the court how Frank had pushed himself against her and touched her breast. Fourteen-year-old Nellie Pettisa witness for the defense—recounted how Leo Frank had propositioned her for sex. Twenty girls in all gave similar testimony about Frank’s improprieties. Several male employees described how they had witnessed Leo Frank “rub up against” young female workers “a little too much.” The testimony was so explicit that the judge had to clear the courtroom of women.

The defense attorneys did not even attempt to cross-examine any of the girls who testified at trial about Leo Frank’s lewd behavior. Instead, Leo Frank’s lawyers argued that his improper behavior was not wrong—that it was a sign of more liberal times! One even said in his closing argument, “Deliver me from one of these prudish fellows that never looks at a girl and never puts his hands on her…”

In the South the LOVE of Jews reigned supreme — not anti-Semitism!

“Anti-Semitism is absolutely not the reason for this libel that has been framed against me. It isn’t the source nor the result of this sad story.” — Leo M. Frank, interviewed by Abraham Cahan of the Forwardnewspaper

Most people are unaware that the prosecutor Hugh Dorsey first brought his case against Leo Frank before a 23-member grand jury that included five prominent members of the Jewish community (including at least two from Frank’s own synagogue), and all the grand jurors signed the bill of indictment against Leo Frank.

The trial judge, Leonard Roan, was once a law partner of one of Frank’s defense attorneys, Luther Rosser and, according to a confidential ADL memo: “In general, the rulings of the trial Judge had been favorable to the defense.” Leo Frank’s defense attorney even declared after the trial: “[W]e do not make the least criticism of Judge Roan, who presided [over the trial]. Judge Roan is one of the best men in Georgia and is an able and conscientious judge.”

The false claims of anti-Semitism before, during, and after the trial of Leo Frank are simply unfounded and untrue. The detailed daily accounts by the three Atlanta newspapers — the Constitution, the Georgian, and the Journal, each of which had Jewish editors — reflected no anti-Jewish bias at all. Leo Frank’s religion is only alluded to when it is reported that he is the president of ‘B’nai B’rith, and he is written of with the utmost respect for his prominence in the community. In fact, a University of Georgia study showed that the reportage by Atlanta’s three dailies was openly pro-Leo Frank and exhibited a pronounced pro-Frank bias.

Author Steve Oney, listed by the Anti-Defamation League as an expert on the Leo Frank case, reported: “To the extent that there was bias in the coverage, it was mostly in Frank’s favor…” He goes on to state that Atlanta’s newspapers, “evincing the prejudices of the time, ridiculed the state’s star witness—a black factory janitor named Jim Conley…”

It has been claimed that “anti-Semitism” and the “hatred of Jews” motivated Leo Frank’s conviction and lynching. And yet, incredibly, there was no anti-Semitism expressed by police, detectives, prosecutors, jurors, judge, or reporters! There was no “prejudicial trial” or “mob rule” or anti-Jewish bigotry of any kind.

Mr. Oney refutes the claim that there were anti-Semitic mobs shouting “Hang the Jew!” He told the Jewish Journal:

“[I]t didn’t happen. It was something that someone wrote a couple [of] years after the crime, and then it got stuck into subsequent recountings of the story….Jews were accepted in the city, and the record does not substantiate subsequent reports that the crowd outside the courtroom shouted at the jurors: ‘Hang the Jew or we’ll hang you.’” Though there is no record of “anti-Semitism” on the part of the crowd, the courtroom audience, the press, or the prosecutors, that doesn’t mean it was non-existent. As the evidence of his guilt became overwhelming, Leo Frank and his lawyers tried desperately to insert “anti-Semitism” into the trial as a diversionary tactic. They actually staged a courtroom confrontation with a prosecution witness over his alleged previous “anti-Semitic” statements. This officially brought “anti-Semitism” into the trial for the first time. Turns out that witness was working for the Leo Frank defense and was planted to promote their “anti-Semitism” agenda. It was yet another trick by the Leo Frank defense to undermine the court proceeding and to neutralize the evidence of his guilt.

The ADL has been promoting a lie for over a century!

“HANG THE JEW, HANG THE JEW” is what the Anti-Defamation League says was chanted during the month-long trial, but its own expert Steve Oney says it NEVER OCCURRED!

According to Steve Oney, at the time of Mary Phagan’s murder, “Atlanta was a philo-Semitic city. Its assimilated, German-Jewish elite were part of the financial and legal power structure…” Gov. John Slaton in his commutation order also addressed the false claim of an “anti-Semitic mob” surrounding the courtroom pressing to lynch Leo Frank: “No such attack was made and…none was contemplated.” Gov. John Slaton countered the false claim of an “anti-Semitic” atmosphere by reminding Leo Frank supporters that Jews were highly respected and appreciated in Georgia because they had been “conspicuous” contributors to the history and development of the state.[5]

Frank’s Jewish defenders believed he was guilty

By the time of his lynching in 1915 many people — including his Jewish supporters — not only were repelled by Leo Frank’s abrasive personality but also believed he was in fact the murderer of Mary Phagan. Chicago icon Albert Lasker, a Jewish philanthropist and the “father of modern advertising,” paid millions (in today’s money) for Leo Frank’s defense, but he privately admitted that he was not even convinced that Leo Frank was innocent.

Lasker financed all of Frank’s post-conviction appeals and orchestrated his international public-relations campaign that involved media outlets across the nation, including the New York Times. Albert Lasker recalled the meeting in Frank’s jail cell:

It was very hard for us to be fair to him, he impressed us as a sexual pervert. Now, he may not have been—or rather a homosexual or something like that…”

According to Lasker’s biographer, the men with him during that encounter took “a violent dislike to him.” Lasker “hated him,” and said, “I hope he [Leo Frank] gets out…and when he gets out I hope he slips on a banana peel and breaks his neck.”

Leo Frank’s Trial Defense was one of the most RACIST in American History

Though “anti-Semitism” was not a factor in his trial, Leo Frank’s racism certainly was: Frank’s defense attorneys used the word “nigger” and other racist slurs dozens of times in court. His main attorney told the jury: “If you put a nigger in a hopper, he’ll drip lies.”

Leo Frank argued in court that the many black witnesses that testified against him should not be believed — simply because they were black — and that “negro testimony” — as they referred to it — was by definition inferior and unreliable. At trial Leo Frank’s attorney castigated the white jurors for even considering the testimony of the black witnesses:

They would rather believe the negro’s word….Oh, how times have changed. I hope to God I die before they change any worse than this…”

Leo Frank’s lawyers argued to the jury of twelve white men that murder, rape, and robbery were “negro crimes” and thus Leo Frank, “a white man,” could not have committed the murder of Mary Phagan. One defense attorney said that “the murder was the unreasoning crime of a negro,” that “It isn’t a white man’s crime.”

Leo Frank’s own racist thinking is reflected in an Atlanta Constitution front-page headline on May 31, 1913: “Mary Phagan’s Murder Was Work of a Negro Declares Leo M. Frank.” The newspaper quoted Leo Frank:

Here is a negro [James Conley], not alone with the shiftless and lying habits of an element of his race, that is common to the South….No white man killed Mary Phagan. It’s a negro’s crime, through and through. No man with common sense would even suspect I did it.”

Leo Frank tried to pin his crime on two innocent black men

Leo Frank’s supporters then and now have played the race card and falsely represent an African-American man as the “real killer.” For over 100 years James “Jim” Conley has been scapegoated in nearly all the literature on the case. He was a sweeper in the factory on the day of the murder who was ordered by his boss Leo Frank to help move the dead body of Mary Phagan. When James Conley confessed to his accessory-after-the-fact role, Frank and his supporters tried to pin his crime on Conley. Leo Frank’s supporters continue to this day to smear James Conley as a devious criminal who got away with murder, but Conley’s very detailed statement—corroborated by the physical evidence at the crime scene — was so convincing that it became central to the prosecution’s case. (At trial, Leo Frank refused to be cross-examined by prosecutors, but James Conley withstood 16 hours of cross-examination—under oath.)

In 1914, Leo Frank supporters tried to hire a black woman named Annie Maude Carter to slip James Conley some poison while he was in jail waiting to testify at Frank’s hearing for a new trial. She identified the would-be assassins in open court as prominent members of the Jewish community. The plot was exposed in the May 6, 1914 edition of the New York Times.

Before he accused James Conley of the crime, Leo Frank worked overtime to pin the murder on another factory employee — the African-American night watchman who found Mary Phagan’s body, Newt Lee.Leo Frank hired private detectives who planted a blood-soaked shirt in the innocent black man’s home, and then Leo Frank’s attorney hinted to the police where they might find that damning “evidence.” When the newspapers reported that a bloody shirt was found at Newt Lee’s home, it almost caused an innocent man to be lynched. Luckily for Newt Lee, Leo Frank’s private detectives did such a sloppy job at planting the shirt that the police were not fooled at all, and it only increased their suspicion of Leo Frank. That is the point when the people of Atlanta came to believe—and rightly so—that Leo Frank was the murderer of Little Mary Phagan.

Alonzo Mann — the man that is supposed to have exonerated Frank in 1982 — would have CONVICTED him in 1913.

I, Mary Phagan-Kean, examined in detail the dubious claims of Alonzo Mann, who came forward in 1982 — after 69 years of silence — to say he saw Conley with the body of Mary Phagan. It turns out that his new statements hurt Leo Frank far more than they help him.

• Alonzo Mann (who died in 1985) was Frank’s “office boy” in 1913 and from the very start he gave many conflicting stories that are irreconcilable with the known facts: In May 1913 as a young teenager, Alonzo Mann told detectives 3 different stories in 3 separate interviews and gave yet another story in his sworn testimony at trial in August. In those interviews and in his trial testimony Alonzo Mann never mentioned seeing James Conley at all on the day of the murder. At age 83, in his 1982 videotaped session before the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, he gave still more conflicting versions that contradict the testimony of Leo Frank himself!

• What motivated Alonzo Mann to break his 69-year silence on the Leo Frank case by pinning the crime on James Conley? The answer was disclosed at the videotaped private hearing in 1982: behind Alonzo Mann’s obviously scripted, wavering “testimony” was a book and movie deal executed by the Tennessean newspaper—the same Tennessean that abandoned the truth and the facts of the case and any trace of journalistic ethics just to exonerate Leo Frank. So Alonzo Mann was induced to come forward for fame and fortune.

Alonzo Mann in 1913: Tells 4 different versions, and 2 more in 1982. The Phagan family was consulted by the Board in the run-up to the 1983 pardon decision, since the surviving members of the family had a great deal of personal knowledge of and documentation about the case and would be directly and profoundly affected by any decision. It was our Little Mary who had been strangled and very likely raped, after all. And the Board denied that pardon application.

The Jewish organizations tried again in 1986, but this time the Phagan family was not consulted. They were told about the upcoming pardon decision after the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) and its well-heeled allies: Atlanta Jewish Federation and American Jewish Committee had been meeting with and lobbying the Board for six months or more. Why the secrecy? Obviously, the Jewish groups — led by Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith board member and attorney Dale Schwartz — didn’t want the victim’s family to have any say on the matter or any time to alert the public as to what was afoot.

Thus, in 1986 the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a posthumous “pardon” to Leo Frank on the basis of the state’s failure to protect him while in custody, but it did not absolve him of the crime of murdering Mary Phagan and Frank’s conviction remained intact.

The state’s 1986 “pardon” did not overturn the guilty verdict

Believe it or not, there are still documents from the Leo Frank case that are being hidden from the public because they have been classified as “GEORGIA STATE SECRETS”! Our repeated attempts to obtain them from the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles were denied again in December 2020. What could they be hiding? What could be so secret about a case that is 106 years old!? And why aren’t the media pursuing this extraordinary government action?

My book, The Murder of Little Mary Phagan is available free at:

Sources Banned and Censored

On the 100th Anniversary (April 26, 2013) of Mary Phagan’s rape and murder, the trial Brief of Evidence and appeals records of the Leo Frank case were digitized as well as the voluminous Atlanta newspaper reports about the crime.

These sources — and many, many more like them — use to be available on the internet until very recently. Indeed, the books, videos, articles, and court documents that provide a balanced view of the case have been systematical­ly removed from the internet SINCE THE Fulton County CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT WAS ANNOUNCED!

No Longer Available

  • Original articles from the three major dailies covering the day-by-day progress of the case (removed from
  • Videos from YouTube that challenge the false idea that Leo Frank was “wrongly convicted.
  • Official case documents like the Brief of Evidence, the appeals filings, and the pub­lished trial records have been scrubbed from the internet.
  • Books that prove Leo Frank’s guilt and provide a serious case analysis have been banned and censored. My 1987 book titled The Murder of Little Mary Phagan has been removed from some websites where it was previ­ously available for years. The Nation of Islam’s recent book Leo Frank: The Lynching of a Guilty Man has been myste­riously banned from sale on
  • Google searches EXCLUDE articles and documents that show evidence of Frank’s guilt.
  • When we made an Open Records Request to the Uni­versity of Georgia, they first said 70 records match the request. When we paid to have them mailed to us, all of a sudden, all 70 records vanished with no explanation!

Fortunately for the Fulton County Conviction Integrity Unit, the public and the media will still be able to ac­cess those critical official documents that the Leo Frank crusaders are trying to hide. We have made them available at where we believe they will be safe from the Leo Frank censors and their internet cleansing campaign.

Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard was defeated in the last election but the Conviction Integrity Unit he set up is still operating under the new District Attorney Fani Willis. Ms. Fani Willis might do well to ask why the original documents in the case all of a sud­den have been removed from the internet, and who had the power to remove them and why. How can the case be carefully reviewed without them? Indeed, the books, videos, articles, and court documents that provide a full and balanced view of the case have been systematical­ly removed SINCE THE CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT WAS ANNOUNCED!!! Obviously, Truth has become offensive or objectionable and has been deemed “hate speech” in order to impose censorship. But FACTS ARE NOT HATEFUL!

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis inherited this corrupt process, but will she bow to the same pressure that was put on her former boss to exonerate a man who raped and murdered our family member?

As of today, no word from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on whether her office will finally give long overdue justice to the victim, Mary Phagan. Can we expect that she will stand by her own words?: “Cases won’t be for sale under my administration. Not for an endorsement, not for money, not for anything.” “You have my word, during my tenure as district attorney in Fulton County, we will become a beacon for justice and ethics in Georgia and across the nation.” “[D.A.] Willis vowed to bring ‘transparency and accountability’ to the DA’s office,” reported the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

She would be the first to do so. We’ll see.

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2 Replies to “Mary Phagan’s Family Opposes Exoneration of Sex Killer Leo Frank”

    1. Why is the truth ‘anti-semitic’ to you?

      Slapped with hundreds of facts, and all you can do is stutter out ‘anti-semite.’

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