USA TODAY US Edition

Grand jury declines to indict woman who accused Emmett Till

- N’dea Yancey-Bragg

A Mississipp­i grand jury declined to indict the white woman whose accusation led to the kidnapping and death of Emmett Till in 1955, making it unlikely she will ever be prosecuted for her role in the lynching.

A grand jury in Leflore County listened to more than seven hours of testimony from investigat­ors and witnesses last week before determinin­g there was insufficie­nt evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, 87, on charges of kidnapping and manslaught­er. It’s the second time a grand jury has heard evidence against Donham, according to a news release from W. Dewayne Richardson, county district attorney.

The Rev. Wheeler Parker, Till’s cousin, called the outcome “unfortunat­e, but predictabl­e.”

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

Donham accused Till, 14, who was Black, of making lewd remarks and grabbing her while she worked at a store in Money, Mississipp­i.

Till, who was from Chicago and visiting relatives in Mississipp­i, was abducted at gunpoint by Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law J.W. Milam. They brought him to her for identifica­tion, she wrote in an unpublishe­d memoir.

Donham said she was unaware of what would happen to the teen, whose badly disfigured body was found days later weighed down in a river.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, held an open casket funeral in Chicago to show the brutality of lynching, which d galvanized the civil rights movement.

Till’s death led to a decades-long effort to pass legislatio­n to make lynching a federal hate crime. President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynchi­ng Act in March.

Roy Bryant and Milam were arrested and acquitted by an all-white, male jury, but Donham was never taken into custody. In the mid-2000s, the FBI investigat­ed the case and presented evidence to another Leflore County grand jury, which returned a “no bill” against Donham for manslaught­er, Richardson said.

In 2017, the Justice Department reopened the investigat­ion after reports that Donham had recounted her statements about Till but found “insufficie­nt evidence” that she lied to the FBI.

In June, an unserved arrest warrant for Donham was found in the Leflore County circuit clerk’s basement, leading Till’s family to again call for her arrest. That discovery and “additional informatio­n” led prosecutor­s to present the matter to a jury, Richardson said in the news release.

“The murder of Emmett Till remains an unforgetta­ble tragedy in this country and the thoughts and prayers of this nation continue to be with the family of Emmett Till,” Richardson said.

 ?? AP ?? Carolyn Bryant rests her head on her husband Roy’s shoulder, after testifying in 1955, in Sumner, Miss., in the murder of Emmett Till. Six decades later, a grand jury declined to indict her for her role in his death.
AP Carolyn Bryant rests her head on her husband Roy’s shoulder, after testifying in 1955, in Sumner, Miss., in the murder of Emmett Till. Six decades later, a grand jury declined to indict her for her role in his death.
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