Grand jury refuses to indict woman in Emmett Till murder


A grand jury in Mississippi has refused to indict the white woman whose indictment sparked the lynching of black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, despite revelations about an unexecuted warrant and an unpublished memoir from the woman, a report said. prosecutor on Tuesday.

After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses, a Leflore County grand jury determined last week that there was insufficient evidence to charge Carolyn Bryant Donham with kidnapping and manslaughter charges, the Leflore County district attorney said. Leflore County, Dewayne Richardson, in a press release.

It is now increasingly unlikely that Donham, now 80, will ever be prosecuted for her role in the events leading up to Till’s lynching.

The Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., a cousin of Emmett Till and the last living witness to Till’s 1955 kidnapping, called Tuesday’s announcement “unfortunate, but predictable.”

“The DA did his best and we appreciate his efforts, but he alone cannot undo hundreds of years of anti-Black systems that ensured that those who killed Emmett Till would go unpunished to this day,” Parker said in a statement.

“The fact is that the people who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Emmett did so in plain sight, and our American justice system was and continues to be set up in such a way that they cannot be brought to justice for their heinous crimes.”

An email and voicemail seeking comment from Donham’s son, Tom Bryant, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

A group that searched the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in June uncovered the unserved warrant for their arrest charging Donham, then-husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law JW Milam with Till’s 1955 kidnapping. Although the men were arrested and acquitted of the murder charges in Until the subsequent murder of Donham, 21 years old at the time, was never arrested.

The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview, but were not retried. They are both now dead.

In an unpublished memoir obtained last month by The Associated Press, Donham said he was unaware what would happen to Till, 14, who was living in Chicago and visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was kidnapped, killed and dumped. in a river. She accused him of making lewd comments and grabbing her while she was working alone at a mom-and-pop store in Money, Mississippi.

Donham said in the manuscript that the men brought Till to her in the middle of the night for identification, but that she tried to help the young man by denying it was him. Despite being kidnapped at gunpoint from a family home by Roy Bryant and Milam, Till identified himself to the men, she said.

Till’s battered and disfigured body was found days later in a river, laden with a heavy metal fan. The decision of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, to open Till’s casket for his funeral in Chicago demonstrated the horror of what had happened and fueled the civil rights movement.

In 2004, the Justice Department opened an investigation into Till’s murder after receiving inquiries about whether charges could be brought against anyone still alive. Authorities said the statute of limitations had been exhausted for any potential federal crimes, but the FBI worked with state investigators to determine if state charges could be brought. In February 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict anyone, and the Justice Department announced that it would close the case.

The department then reopened its investigation after a 2017 book quoted Donham as saying she lied when she claimed Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances toward her. Family members have publicly denied that Donham has retracted her accusations about Till. But federal officials announced last year that they were once again closing their investigation of her, saying there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI.”


Associated Press writer Allen G. Breed contributed to this report.

Michael Goldberg is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.

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