A Mississippi grand jury declined to indict the white woman whose sexual harassment accusation against Black teenager Emmett Till led to his 1955 lynching in Mississippi, making it unlikely that she will ever be prosecuted for her alleged role.
Despite the discovery in June of an unserved warrant charging Carolyn Bryant Donham, now 87, the Leflore County grand jury last week concluded after more than seven hours of testimony that there was insufficient evidence to indict her on kidnapping and manslaughter charges.
"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," Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr.,Till’s cousin, said in a statement to CBS News.
"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."
Till, who was from Chicago visiting Mississippi relatives, was 14 years old when the then-Carolyn Bryant accused him of whistling and making sexual advances toward her. That accusation prompted her then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam to abduct, torture and murder Till. The boy’s body was weighted down and thrown into the Tallahatchie River.
An all-white jury acquitted the men of murder charges, but they later confessed to the slaying in a Look magazine interview when the double jeopardy rule protected them from a retrial.
Donham, however, was never taken into custody. In her unpublished memoir, obtained by The Associated Press in July, Donham says she neither identified Till to the killers nor wanted him murdered. She claims in the manuscript that the men brought Till to her in the middle of the night for identification but that she tried to help the Black teen by denying it was him.
An investigation into Till’s killing was reopened in 2018, following the publication of Timothy Tyson’s book The Blood of Emmett Till. The work alleges Bryant had recanted her testimony that Till had grabbed her and uttered obscenities.
However, Bryant denied she recanted her testimony in an interview with the FBI, who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that she lied to them after she denied that she recanted her testimony in The Blood Of Emmett Till.