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In 1913 Atlanta, a child worker is found dead in the basement of the National Pencil Company. The police soon focus on Mary Phagan’s boss, a Jewish engineer recently arrived from New York – Leo Frank. Frank’s murder trial becomes a free-for-all of racial stereotypes and contradictions. He is found guilty largely on the say of the state’s star witness, Jim Conley, a black factory sweeper.
Leo Frank is sentenced to death, but his story is far from over.
Frank’s lawyers appeal the conviction 13 times, all the way to the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, The New York Times leads a crusade to exonerate Frank. At the eleventh hour, Georgia Governor John Slaton concludes that Frank had not received a fair trial and commutes his sentence from death to life in prison.
Slaton’s decision ignites a backlash.
On a hot August afternoon, 25 men in seven cars drive more than 100 miles to the state penitentiary, walk in and -without any resistance- abduct Frank. They drive him to an oak grove near Mary Phagan’s childhood home. A noose is put around his neck and the small table on which he has been hoisted is kicked out from under him.
THE PEOPLE v LEO FRANK weaves first-rate drama with recollections, commentary, and a rich trove of archival images. Will Janowitz (The Sopranos) is Leo Frank and Seth Gilliam (The Wire) plays Jim Conley with a script drawn directly from the historical record.
DOWNLOAD THE TEACHER’S GUIDE
To obtain a free Teacher’s Guide developed by the Anti-Defamation League, please visit www.adl.org/leofrank. To view a sample of the the fully customized clips that accompany the Teacher’s Guide and are available on the educational version of the DVD, please click here.