ACT ONE - Marietta, Georgia (1913)
At a parade commemorating the Southern perspective on the American Civil War, Leo Frank, a northern 'Yankee', alone in his Judaism, is deeply uncomfortable in the town in which he works. His discomfort is shared by Britt Craig, a local journalist bored by the same old stories in the area. Meanwhile, two local children, Frankie Epps and Mary Phagan talk. Frankie wants Mary to go to the picture show with him, but Mary playfully resists, insisting her mother won't let her. Mary leaves to collect her pay from the pencil factory managed by Frank.
Frank's wife Lucille bemoans the state of their marriage, believing herself unappreciated by a man so wrapped up in his work and himself. Mary Phagan is found raped and murdered in the basement of the factory and the local police immediately turn to Newt Lee, an African-American night watchman also working at the factory. Throughout his interrogation he maintains his innocence but inadvertently directs the suspicion of the police upon Frank, who didn't answer his telephone when Lee called him to report the incident. Mary's funeral is a focal point for the rage of the townspeople of Marietta. Epps swears revenge, and Craig exalts in his new-found opportunity to cover a 'real' story. A trial ensues, and Leo Frank finds himself subject to various accusations of molestation and harassment. Frank is desperate to interject but his lawyer insists he stay silent, assuring Frank he has a plan. As prosecutor Hugh Dorsey whips the observers and jurors at the trial into a frenzy, Frank is given his chance to defend himself. He offers a heartfelt speech, pleading to be believed, but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang
ACT TWO - After the trial
The African-American population of Marietta air their grievances regarding the public reaction to the trial, both locally and nationwide. The trial has been noted by the press in the north, and the reaction is strongly disapproving of the way in which it was conducted. Lucille Frank has been working to get word to the governor of Georgia in order to gain a retrial or at least a reprieve from the noose, but Leo is unimpressed. Lucille reacts angrily and offers Leo a chance to continue without her help. Leo relents, and Lucille speaks to the governor as an advocate for Leo.
The governor, under pressure from all sides, agrees to commute Frank's sentence to life in prison away in Milledgeville, Georgia, which elates Leo and Lucille Frank but enrages the Marietta residents, still baying for blood. Leo realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her, but after Lucille departs the prison a party of masked men arrive and remove Leo from the prison. They return him to Marietta and hang him. Lucille is crushed by her sudden loss but takes comfort in believing that Leo is with God and free from his ordeal.
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