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No MS Indictment of Woman Who Set Off Emmett Till Lynching

A Mississippi grand jury refused to indict the white woman whose accusation set off the lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago. The decision closed the case that shocked a nation and galvanized the modern civil rights movement, reports the Associated Press. After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses, a Leflore County grand jury determined there was insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter, said District Attorney Dewayne Richardson. The case was closed despite revelations about an unserved arrest warrant and the 87-year-old Donham’s unpublished memoir. The Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., Emmett Till’s cousin and the last witness to Till’s Aug. 28, 1955, abduction, said the result was “unfortunate, but predictable.”


Parker said, “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.” Ollie Gordon, another Till cousins, said, “Ms. Donham has not gone to jail. But in many ways, I don’t think she’s had a pleasant life. I think each day she wakes up, she has to face the atrocities that have come because of her actions.” In June, a group searching the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse discovered the unserved arrest warrant charging Donham, then-husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law J.W. Milam in Till’s abduction in 1955. Donham, 21 at the time, was never taken into custody.

The 14-year-old Chicago boy was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he went to the store in Money, Ms., where Carolyn Bryant worked. Relatives said Till whistled at the white woman, but denied that he touched her as she’d claimed.

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