On Tuesday (Aug. 9), a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict the white woman whose accusation against Emmett Till led to his gruesome death almost 70 years ago. After hearing at least seven hours of testimonies from investigators and witnesses, the jury determined there was insufficient evidence against Carolyn Bryant Donham, despite the recent revelations of an unserved arrest warrant and Donham’s memoir.
In June, a group searching the Leflore County Courthouse found an arrest warrant charging Donham, her then-husband Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law J.W. Milam in Till’s abduction in 1955. The men involved were arrested and later acquitted, but Donham, who was 21 years old at the time, will most likely never be prosecuted for her role in Till’s death.
The Associated Press obtained Donham’s unpublished memoir last month. She wrote that she accused Till of making vulgar comments and grabbing her while she worked alone at a family store. The memoir claims she had no idea what would happen to the 14-year-old boy. Donham recalled her husband and brother abducting Till at gunpoint and bringing him to her in the middle of the night for identification. She claims he identified himself to the men and she tried to save him by denying that he was the culprit. The young boy’s disfigured body was found in a river and was weighted down with a heavy metal fan.
Till’s cousin, Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr. criticized the decision but called it “predicatable.” He said in a statement, “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. 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.”
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