Plot & Details
The made-for-TV The Murder of Mary Phagan is an account of the real-life events fictionalized in the 1937 theatrical feature They Won't Forget. In 1913, Atlanta-area teenager Mary Phagan (Wendy J. Cooke) is found murdered. Although the evidence points to another suspect (who years later confessed to the crime), the authorities choose to bring charges against Leo Frank (Peter Gallagher), a Jewish "outsider" who owns the pencil factory where Mary worked. Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Richard Jordan) capitalizes on the anti-Semitism rampant in the South, hoping to ride the Frank case into a higher political office. He is aided in his scheme by equally unprincipled journalist Wes Brent (Kevin Spacey). Only Georgia-governor John Slaton (Jack Lemmon) perceives the bigotry and opportunism at the base of Dorsey's case. Within the limits of his power, and at the risk of destroying his own political career, Slaton tries to see that justice is served. Alas, the decision has already been made to railroad Leo Frank to the electric chair -- or into the hands of a lynch mob. Originally presented in two parts, The Murder of Mary Phagan was first broadcast January 24 and 26, 1988.