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James 'Jim' Conley
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Murderer (Alleged)
    Born in Atlanta, Georgia
    Key witness in the murder trial of Leo Frank (1912)
    Employed as a janitor for the National Pencil Company
    Identified himself as Frank's accomplice in the murder of 13-year old Mary Phagan, during his testimony to the prosecution
    Testimony proved sufficient to condemn Leo Frank to life in prison (and to later be lynched); widely believed to have been 'the real murderer'
    Sentenced to a year in jail for being an accomplice after the fact to the murder (Feb. 24, 1912)
    Events of the murder and his testimony dramatized in the Tony award-winning musical 'Parade' (originally staged 1998)
    The Atlanta Georgian variously dubbed him 'The Ebony Chevalier of Crime' and 'Darktown's Own Hero.'
    He was party to a modern day 'blood libel' (and never publicly commented on the lynching of his former employer).
    He was arrested after being caught washing what appeared to be blood from his work uniform.
    He had seven disorderly conduct charges on his criminal record prior to being implicated in the murder.
    He casually admitted to defecating in the factory's elevator shaft while under oath.
    During his preliminary interrogations he claimed to be illiterate (he was then presented with promissory notes he had signed).
    He claimed that Leo Frank had bribed him with $200 to help him dispose of Mary Phagan's body (and, in at least on version of his account, retracted the offer).
    He contradicted his own story during cross-examinations so many times that he admitted to forgetting what lies he had told.
    He went off book during his testimony; rather than simply describe his whereabouts at the time of the murder (as he had been coached), he openly implied that Leo Frank sexually took advantage of girls in the factory.
    It was determined that his poor penmanship so closely matched the ransom note wording ('night witch' for 'night watchman') that only he could have written it.
    An office boy named Alonzo Mann admitted to having seen Conley carrying Phagan's through the lobby and into the basement.
    Mann claimed that Conley threatened to kill him, effectively silencing him for a seventy year period.
    His date of death has never been formally established; ranging from 1952 to the sometime during the early '60s. He was allegedly last seen passing 'dirty love letters' to a female inmate during his one-year sentence.
    He was in a chain gang, several times (getting off the final time early for good behavior).
    He became a local celebrity during and after his testimony.
    He may gotten 'carried away' with the unusual amount of attention he was getting in a segregated society (hence his embellishments about Leo Frank's sexual proclivities).
    There are those who still believe he was innocent and that Frank was the killer.
    He apparently did confess to his attorney , who with-held the information due to client-lawyer confidentiality.
    He figured into a newspaper war - with yellow journalists competing over whether the public would buy him as the killer, or Mr. Frank (the Frank side won out).
    If he had been indicted and avoided the death penalty, a juiced-up mob probably would have lynched him in the same way (if he even got far enough to a jury trial before getting killed).
    He unwittingly proved the depths to which anti-Semitism pervaded into the Southern consciousness, in that they would take a poor black man's word over a white Jewish businessman's.
    He was able to outsmart experienced white attorneys and policemen by pretending to be a stereotypical 'dumb black brute.' They exonerated him, certain that he lacked the cunning to commit such an elaborate crime.
    He had no way of knowing the case would spur a revival in the Ku Klux Klan (which proved to be equally destructive to both black and Jewish communities in the South).
    He's warranted comparisons with O.J. Simpson, but considering that this trial took place in the Jim Crow South its even more remarkable that he walked.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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