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A Lynching, a List and Reopened Wounds; Jewish Businessman's Murder Still Haunts Georgia Town
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Lynchings; History; Murders & murder attempts
Author: Sawyer, Kathy
Date: Jun 20, 2000
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION

The plotting began after Gov. John Slaton commuted [Leo Frank]'s sentence--an act of heroism in many versions of the tale. But Slaton was a partner of Frank's defense attorney, a detail that aggravated community outrage and suspicion over what many saw as an arbitrary subversion of justice. A group of Cobb County civic leaders secretly organized an abduction. There were false starts. An inmate slit Frank's throat but failed to kill him.

Waking Frank, the raiders handcuffed him in his nightshirt and drove him for about six bumpy hours through the night back to Marietta. The vigilantes apparently had planned to hang him near [Mary Phagan Kean]'s grave, but they stopped short in a grove of oaks just outside Marietta at a place called Frey's Mill, a farm with a cotton gin (or mill) belonging to former county sheriff William Frey, who may have also served as the hangman.

A Jew with a Yankee education, Frank was convicted in 1913 in the grisly murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, who worked in the pencil factory where he was the manager. The chief witness against him was a janitor. The Georgia governor, persuaded that the trial was tainted, defied community passions by commuting Frank's death sentence to life in prison.

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