A grand jury in Mississippi once again delayed, and therefore likely denied the family of Emmet Till justice for the final time by declining to charge the white woman whose original false claims about the Black teenager’s actions led to one of the most brutal lynchings in American history.
LeFlore County, Miss., District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, who is also Black, said that the grand jury declined to charge Carolyn Bryant Donham with kidnapping and manslaughter after hearing seven hours of testimony in the case, the Associated Press reported. Till was murdered , at 67 years ago this month, at age 14. He was snatched and tortured by a group of white men including Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, after she told them Till grabbed and threatened her while she worked at her family’s store. Till lived full-time in Chicago but was visiting relatives in the Jim-Crow era Mississippi, where a even a Black boy making passes at a white woman was subject to murderous violence.
Till’s body was later found in a nearby lake and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley insisted on having the boy’s bloated and disfigured cadaver displayed in an open casket, allowing the world to see the brutality of his demise. Till-Mobley died in 2003.
Donham was 21 when till was murdered. She was never charged in the crime. Bryant and Milam never did any jail time and are now deceased. But in recent years, new developments opened the possibility that she might be finally held accountable. First came The Blood of Emmett Till, a 2017 book on the case by Duke University researcher Timothy Tyson, that includes a circa-2007 interview with Donham in which she admitted that Till never threatened her at all.
In June of this year, an arrest warrant issued for Donham back in 1955 was discovered by Till’s family in a box of files at the Leflore County courthouse. Since the warrant had never been served and no statute of limitations exists in Mississippi on homicide charges, Donham, now in her late 80s, could have still been charged.
Last month, the Duke researcher Tyson revealed that he had obtained a copy of Donham’s unpublished memoir, which he said she’d given him in a 2008 interview under a promise that he wouldn’t release the information “for decades.” Tyson said he had already given a copy to the FBI, but decided to make the memoir’s existence public when he heard that the warrant for her arrest was found.
Even more interest was generated about the case last month when a trailer for a Till biopic starring Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, and Whoopi Goldberg, dropped. The movie is slated for theatrical release Oct. 28.