Governor who commuted Leo Frank’s sentence honored posthumously


(JTA) – The Georgia Historical Society dedicated a marker posthumously honoring the governor who commuted the death sentence of accused murderer Leo Frank.

Wednesday’s ceremony on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center occurred four days prior to the centennial of the order by John Slaton. Frank, an Atlanta pencil factory worker who was Jewish, had been found guilty in 1913 of murdering a teenage girl.

The marker reads that Slaton granted clemency because he was “[c]oncerned by the sensationalist atmosphere and circumstantial evidence that led to the notorious conviction” of Frank. The commutation “led to the end of Slaton’s political career,” it continues. Slaton died in 1955 at the age of 88.

Frank, who headed an Atlanta chapter of B’nai B’rith, was lynched in August 1915 in Marietta by a mob that stormed the prison in Milledgeville nearly 200 miles away.

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Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historical Preservation, told JTA that relatives of Slaton and of members of the lynching party attended the dedication.

Without deciding on his guilt or innocence, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Frank in 1986. Four years earlier, a man who as a boy was working at the factory on the day of the murder contradicted the testimony of a key prosecution witness.

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