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An Unspeakable Crime(Age 14-18) Library Binding – Jan 1 2010

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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group; Reprint edition (Feb. 8 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822589443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822589440
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 18.7 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,280,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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About the Author

No Bio --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Famous Murders Explained Aug. 3 2016
By Acute Observer - Published on
Format: Paperback
An Unspeakable Act

Elaine Marie Alphin wrote more than a dozen books. She lives with her husband in Bozeman Montana. This 2010 book has 18 chapters, ‘Major Figures’, ‘Timeline’, ‘Legal Terminology’, ‘Selected Bibliography’, ‘Source Notes’, and ‘Index’ in its 152 pages. This book provides an overall summary of this case. Aside from this crime, it teaches the reader on how unreliable the press can be. Newspapers play the news to sell copies, its their business. Just as manufacturers advertise their products to sell to customers. It is your duty to understand the news, you can’t believe everything you read or hear from the media. Its like those voices on talk radio who say things that you can’t verify. Its show business, not history or legal testimony. You’ll learn this in time.

On Saturday April 26, 1913 Mary Phagan went to the pencil factory where she worked to collect her pay. She was attacked and murdered, her body was found in the basement. Who was guilty? Or who did the people want to be guilty? [Most people are never happy unless they have somebody to hate or look down on. Just observe your friends and relatives to see how this works. Or listen to the callers on talk radio.] Two notes were found near the body. The police telephoned Leo Frank, the superintendant, at home. The police detectives considered Frank a suspect. Chapter 4 has the background and history of Frank. The police wanted a worthy victim (Chapter 6). Employees said Frank was “familiar” with some of the girl employees (Chapter 7). Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey used the press to attack Frank and get an indictment (Chapter 8). [Most people today believe what they read in the press, unless their experience says otherwise.] The police used Jim Conley as a witness against Frank (Chapter 9).

Prosecutor Dorsey forced the cook to incriminate Frank (Chapter 10). The defense lawyers picked the sweeper as the murderer, they had a witness - Mincey. The trial began, popular feeling considered Frank guilty (Chapter 11). Frank didn’t talk to the detectives because they were trying to frame him. Conley blamed Frank for the murder. The defense showed how Conley was coached in his testimony (Chapter 12). The Prosecutor used rumors (p.78). Frank was convicted. Frank appealed, the judges rejected him (Chapter 13). Was he convicted on rumors? A new defense team appealed based on suppressed or overlooked evidence (p.90). Witnesses told who really did it (p.93). The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the appeal (p.94). The US Supreme Court rejected the appeal because the defense id not object in a timely manner (p.95).

The courts ruled against Frank because they followed the law, not common sense (Chapter 14). The mob spirit hated Frank as a northern industrialist, a violater of a southern woman, and a Jew. Governor Slaton studied the trial and commuted the death sentence (Chapter 15). Frank was sent to the State Prison Farm as an ordinary prisoner (Chapter 16). Another prisoner nearly killed him with a hidden knife. A group of men conspired to kidnap Frank and hang him (Chapter 17). One electrician cut the telephone lines. The Lynch Party is named, “leading citizens of the community” (p.117). In 1982 Alonzo Mann told what he had eyewitnessed (Chapter 18). Frank was given a posthumous pardon (p.130). The controversy remains. Was Frank convicted on the evidence or because of prejudice (p.131)? There have been changes in the US legal system since then, but not all prosecutors follow the rules (personal ambition). This case shows the injustice in the “justice system” (p.133).

There is racial, religious, and geographic prejudice, and, the commercial need to play the news for sensation to attract customers. One unanswered question is why did the Pinkerton detective turn against his employer? Was he ordered to sacrifice Frank to benefit the corporation that hired him? Or did his instincts tell him Frank was guilty? The involvement of Conley suggests his guilt; why was he used against Frank? The events before the crime are unlisted here.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another book on the Frank case, but weak on facts Feb. 21 2010
By Allen Koenigsberg - Published on
Format: Library Binding
In this latest book on the Leo Frank Case (152 pages), author Elaine Alphin takes for her title a post-lynching judgment by the Mayor of Atlanta (James Woodward): "a just penalty for an unspeakable crime." But she has recast that harsh approval of Leo's Midnight Ride, and added, "The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank." This is clearly not a volume of subtleties and the reader is thus quickly informed of the writer's sympathies. It is mostly about the trials and tribulations of the accused and there is little (correct) about Mary Phagan herself.

The book is aimed at young people, and Ms. Alphin notes that in all the literature on the case -- despite the abundance of teenagers at so many stages of the events -- there has not up to now been a retelling aimed for that audience. It is clearly written, with fine production values, with a large variety of vintage photographs, and rarely have they been reproduced so well. She is obviously entranced with this "miscarriage of justice" and has traveled widely and visited several of the major Archives - all are cited in the back along with the previous major books, and is so current that the recent PBS-TV Special ('The People v. Leo Frank') is mentioned.

Some of the original material was of a salacious nature, but all is handled here tastefully. The major problem is that even high-schoolers are entitled to an accurate accounting of this iconic case, and that is where this latest publication falls short. The basic narrative of the crime, and its ultimate resolution at the end of the lynchers' rope, strikes our sensibilities to this day, and there are still many who would prefer that an innocent Leo Frank be the prime example of American justice gone wrong. But the Jury, in Georgia's longest trial, heard all of the evidence, and the author seems unaware that the Atlanta newspapers were an excellent source for the day-to-day testimony. As she notes, the stenographic Court Transcript has been lost for some fifty years.

For reasons unknown, Ms. Alphin has Mary Anne Phagan born in Marietta, Georgia and her biological father also dying there. But Mary was born in Florence, Alabama, on June 1, 1899 and her father had died several months before she was born - she was a posthumous child. Fannie Phagan (Alphin wrongly calls her `Frannie' throughout) raised her youngest daughter and siblings as a single parent and did not (re-)marry John Coleman until 1912 - she was essentially raised without a father. When Mary did not return home by 7pm, her step-father would indeed look for her on the evening of April 26, 1913, but the family never "called the police" as is claimed here. They would learn of their daughter's death only after a night of waiting, 5:30 the next morning, from one of Mary's chums.

We would not expect all material to be footnoted in a book like this, but the author (and her readers) would have benefitted from more explanatory Notes at the back. For example, on p. 11, it is claimed that Mary's body showed bitemarks on her shoulder when found. This is rather a unique statement and was not reported at the time - actually, it derives from one book ('To Number Our Days' by Pierre van Paassen) published years later, in 1964, describing a visit by that author to Atlanta in 1922. Van Paassen said these marks had been "x-rayed" and were still preserved in a court folder. But who could (then or now) x-ray such indentations in human flesh? And surely van Paassen's parallel claim (through lawyer Henry Alexander) that Leo Frank did not have a trial to overturn would make his report highly suspect. But Ms. Alphin does not question her sources, simply quoting what seems beneficial on each occasion - Oney's book does the same with this incident (p. 617). Van Paassen would argue that Leo's dental records (which he also says he saw in 1922) did not match the bites in Mary's neck and hence he was innocent of the crime. But this is one man's word at best and does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

Although this is (or should be) a case where the devil is in the details, they come thick and fast but are often unverified or wrong. Ms. Alphin states that Leo's father had retired by 1907 due to a railway accident, and that the family had their basic estate of $20,000 as a result of a financial settlement. However, there is no evidence for this claim, and the 1910 Census shows Rudolph Frank still working (as a salesman). Ms. Alphin does not give a source for this "accident" but it was only mentioned once, in a publication in 1947 by Burton Rascoe, who also gave no supporting details. When Rachel Frank (Leo's mother) testified at the trial, she explained her husband's absence by saying that he was too "nervous" to come to Atlanta and was broken down from his work.

Several times, Ms. Alphin refers to Leo and his family as "relatively poor" (but he earned $150 per month as Superintendent of the National Pencil Co.); however, the record shows he had traveled to Europe twice (in 1905 and 1908). Leo's wealthy uncle, Moses Frank, is cited as having fought for the Confederacy, and this factoid is often mentioned in other books on the case, but it is not true and was only introduced (again without details) by one of Leo's lawyers (Reuben Arnold) in October of 1913. Leo would later deny it.

It is claimed that the Seligs were a "high society family" but Lucille's father was at the time a traveling salesman for the West Disinfecting Co., having earlier dealt in various liquor products. On p. 25, Lucille "announced her pregnancy" in the Spring of 1913, but no evidence from that period is offered. This remark apparently derives from Steve Oney's book (p. 85), where the event is instead dated months later to the early Winter of 1913, but leading to a miscarriage (cited Interviews of 1986 and 1998). Oddly, in all the voluminous correspondence between Leo and Lucille (and many other family members), there is not a single reference (oblique or otherwise) to this lost 'offspring' (a tragic result if true). Only 73 years later is this supposed 'miscarriage' mentioned.

When one is truly immersed in a murder case, even decades after the fact, one can look at original documents with a new eye. For example, Ms. Alphin seems to have used some of the unpublished Pinkerton Reports generated by the NPCo.'s hiring of that detective agency. But Oney did so as well, and both report that two men in the factory, Ely Burdett and James Gresham, knew more than they were telling. These two indeed worked at the factory, but never testified; however, their names were actually Earl Burdett and James Graham. In a remarkable coincidence, their fathers were in the Forsyth Street building just minutes before Mary was killed.

I could go on.... It is claimed that the ADL was founded as a result of Leo's lynching in 1915, but the newspaper backing up this assertion (illustrating the caption) is dated two years before, October 1913. Even then, the ADL did not state that it was established because of the crime, the trial, OR the lynching. Standard dates, such as the original Murder Indictment of May 24th (1913) and the lynching of Aug 17 (1915), are mangled and mis-cited.

The Jury had to confront many other details, some of which are omitted here. For example, Newt Lee had been told the day before (by Leo himself) to report early for his watchman's duties on Saturday, 4pm instead of the usual 5. But when Newt dutifully appeared, on time and after confronting a locked door, Leo sent him away, telling him not to remain in the factory, and only come back at 6pm (an hour later than usual).

Having said all of this, can we surmise more accurately than those who came before us, what really happened on Confederate Memorial Day in 1913? Solicitor Dorsey would argue that it was a crime of passion, that Mary stood up for her Southern honor, and that Leo violently reacted to her refusal. Was that scenario indeed the truth? And was Dorsey (and others) driven mainly by anti-Semitism? Even Steven Hertzberg, author of a well-regarded history of the Jews of Atlanta, exculpates him from this charge. Tom Watson's diatribes are mentioned and rightly excoriated, but Watson did not publish anything at all on the case until a year after the crime. And Jim Conley? Alphin makes him out to be a Machiavellian character, intelligent and articulate when he wanted, and folksy and charming at other times. Anyone who has studied the case for a while will surely acknowledge that Conley lied about several of his actions that day, but what was really being concealed? Did Jim bear a greater responsibility than he admitted, or was he instead the sole killer, lurking so close to his boss' office? Why did Leo not permit cross-examination after his own long-courtroom Statement - under Georgia Law, since 1868 (Title VI), it WAS allowed (unsworn), IF the defendant agreed.

It is likely that the case will continue to be debated for a long time, even by anonymous reviewers. But those who argue it and present their best efforts on either side are encouraged to get the details right. First the facts, then the interpretations, not the other way around.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad and eye-opening April 29 2016
By G.B. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this account heartbreaking and at times I could not believe what I was reading. I see that some reviewers have differing opinions as to what actually happened and who was the killer of this poor, lovely innocent. But from any viepoint this was a tragic chapter in American history.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling History at its Best April 6 2010
A Kid's Review - Published on
Format: Library Binding
As someone from a family who takes history very seriously, I have been familiar with the details of the Leo Frank case for a long time, and I thought it a great pity that no recounting of the case existed for teen readers like me, because so many teens were involved in the trial, so I was excited to see this book coming out. Now that I've read it, I've got to say it exceeded my expectations. Rather than condescending to simplify the information to a young person's level, like so many writersdo, Ms. Alphin elevated the reader to the complexity of the case.

I was really impressed at the quality of original research evident in the book, at the detailed endnote citations, and at the excellent period photographs and newspaper reproductions. These focus the reader's attention on the impact that period media had on the trial and its aftermath, and make you think about how the same is so true today. I think this book will encourage readers to think about the impact that we can have on current events, and teachers should like it because it invites debate and discussion.

So I suppose the early review by the gentleman claiming that this book is weak on facts shouldn't surprise me, as this case is still a hot topic in more places than around our dinner table, especially on holidays when the whole family is together. In the 21st century, one of those places is the internet, and I've seen that this reviewer has a website dedicated to misrepresenting the facts of the case. He similarly misrepresents the book he claims to review here, making it sound as if the material in the book is not footnoted when it is, stating that the author seems unaware that newspapers were an excellent source for the trial, when she consistently cites newspaper sources. And he challenges information such as the Frank miscarriage, which a family interview states. The fact is, anybody can write anything on the internet without having to face the type of fact-checking that a publisher requires before releasing a book such as this, so I've got a lot more faith in the book's sources than his.

Hopefully other teen readers, and teachers who work with teens, will decide for themselves where injustice and responsibility lies. Misrepresentation of facts convicted Leo Frank of Mary Phagan's murder. Fear of challenging those people who stuck with those flawed facts destroyed the appeal process. Blind belief in those flawed facts led to an illegal lynching. As Ms. Alphin makes clear, the reader's judgment is a matter of conscience.
5.0 out of 5 stars so assume all's good. Feb. 24 2015
By CJ Harris - Published on
Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
Purchased by school district. Didn't hear any complaints from the teacher (and I would), so assume all's good.

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