The documentary â€œThe People v. Leo Frank,â€ which re-tells a true century-old story of a murder trial, racial stereotype, and a lynching, premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on PBS.
In 1913 Atlanta, a child worker, Mary Phagan, was found dead in the basement of the National Pencil Company.Â Police focused on Phaganâ€™s boss, Leo Frank, a Jewish engineer who recently arrived from New York.Â Frankâ€™s murder trial became a free-for-all of racial stereotypes and contradictions, according to the filmâ€™s web site.
Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death, mostly based on what the stateâ€™s star witness, Jim Conley, a black factory sweeper, said.Â Frankâ€™s lawyers appealed the conviction 13 times, and even went to the U.S. Supreme Court.Â
Meanwhile, The New York Times led a crusade to exonerate Frank, according to the filmâ€™s web site.Â Georgia Governor John Slaton concluded that Frank did not receive a fair trial and changed his sentence to life in prison.
The decision sparked a backlash.Â A group of 25 men in seven cars drove more than 100 miles to the state penitentiary, walked in, and abducted Frank.Â They drove him to an oak grove near Phaganâ€™s childhood home, where they reportedly put a noose around his neck and hung him.
The film includes recollections, commentary, and archival images, with Will Janowitz as Leo Frank and Seth Gilliam as Jim Conley, with a script drawn directly from the historical record.
For more about the film, click here.