It is increasingly unlikely that the 87-year-old woman will ever be charged for her role in the events that led to Emmett Till’s brutal death nearly 70 years ago.
GREENWOOD, Mississippi — A Mississippi grand jury has declined to indict the white woman whose allegation sparked the lynching of black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, despite revelations about an unreconciled warrant and a newly revealed memoir of the woman, one Prosecutor said on Tuesday.
After hearing testimony from investigators and witnesses for more than seven hours, a Leflore County grand jury determined last week that there was insufficient evidence to charge Carolyn Bryant Donham with kidnapping and manslaughter, the Leflore County District Attorney said, Dewayne Richardson, in a press release.
It is now increasingly unlikely that Donham, now in her 80s, will ever be prosecuted for her role in the events leading up to Till’s lynching.
Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., Emmett Till’s cousin and the last living witness to Till’s kidnapping in 1955, said Tuesday’s announcement was “unfortunate but predictable.”
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“The prosecutor did his best and we appreciate his efforts, but he alone cannot undo hundreds of years of anti-black systems that have guaranteed that those who killed Emmett Till remain unpunished to this day.” said Parker.
“The fact remains that the people who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Emmett did so in full view of all, and our American justice system was and is designed in such a way that they could not be tried for their heinous crimes. “
An email and voicemail seeking comment from Donham’s son Tom Bryant were not immediately returned Tuesday.
A group searching the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in June uncovered the uncorroborated warrant charging Donham, then-husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law JW Milam in Till’s 1955 kidnapping. While the men were arrested and acquitted of murder in Till’s subsequent murder, Donham, then 21 and now 87, was never taken into custody.
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In an unpublished memoir obtained by The Associated Press last month, Donham said she didn’t know what would happen to 14-year-old Till, who was living in Chicago and visiting relatives in Mississippi, when he was kidnapped, killed and taken to a country was thrown river. She accused him of making lewd remarks and grabbing her while she worked alone at a family business in Money, Mississippi.
Donham said in the manuscript that the men brought Till to her in the middle of the night for identification, but she tried to help the youth by denying it was him. Despite being kidnapped at gunpoint from a family home by Roy Bryant and Milam, the 14-year-old identified himself to the men, she claimed.
Till’s battered, disfigured body was found days later in a river, weighted down with a heavy metal fan. His mother’s decision, Mamie Till Mobley, to open Till’s coffin for his funeral in Chicago showed the horror of what had happened and gave the civil rights movement additional fuel.
The Justice Department opened an investigation into Till’s murder in 2004 after receiving inquiries about whether anyone who was still alive could be charged. The department said the statute of limitations on potential federal crimes had expired, but the FBI was working with state investigators to determine if state charges could be filed. In February 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict anyone and the Justice Department announced it would close the case.
The Justice Department then reopened the investigation after a 2017 book quoted Donham as saying she lied when she claimed Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances towards her. Relatives have publicly denied that Donham has retracted their allegations about Till. But federal officials announced last year that they were dropping their investigation again, saying there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI.”
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https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/grand-jury-declines-to-indict-woman-emmett-till-killing/507-1911ae57-e0f6-4996-bb52-e9c43ac7c4d2 Emmett Till accuser: Grand jury declines to indict Carolyn Donham