Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Grand jury in US declines to indict woman in Emmett Till killing

Published:Tuesday | August 9, 2022 | 2:12 PM
An undated portrait of Emmett Louis Till, a black 14-year-old Chicago boy, whose weighted down body was found in the Tallahatchie River near the Delta community of Money, Mississippi, on August 31, 1955. (AP Photo, File)

A grand jury in Mississippi has declined to indict the white woman whose accusation set off the lynching of black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, despite revelations about an unserved arrest warrant and an unpublished memoir by the woman, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses, a Leflore County grand jury last week determined there was insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter, Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said in a news release.

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

The Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., Emmett Till's cousin and the last living witness to Till's 1955 abduction, said Tuesday's news is unfortunate but predictable.

“The fact remains that the people who abducted, 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 could not be brought to justice for their heinous crimes,” Parker said.

An email and voicemail seeking comment from Donham's son Tom Bryant weren't immediately returned Tuesday.

A group searching the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in June discovered the unserved arrest warrant charging Donham, then-husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law J.W. Milam in Till's abduction in 1955.

While the men were arrested and acquitted on murder charges in Till's subsequent slaying, Donham, 21 at the time and 87 now, was never taken into custody.

In an unpublished memoir obtained last month by The Associated Press, Donham said she was unaware of what would happen to the 14-year-old Till, who lived in Chicago and was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was abducted, killed and tossed in a river. She accused him of making lewd comments and grabbing her while she worked alone at a family store in Money, Mississippi.

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