More than 65 years after the harrowing lynching of a 14-year-old black man in the southern state of Mississippi, a grand jury has refused to indict the woman whose allegations led to the crime. The Leflore County Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that the panel of lay judges concluded after a seven-hour hearing that there was not enough evidence to charge Carolyn Bryant Donham.
It is almost impossible for the 88-year-old man to be prosecuted for the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. There have been reports of kidnapping and wrongful death.
Till, a teenager from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant Donham – a white woman – accused him of whistling at her in her husband’s store and touching her. Three days later, Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s house by Roy Bryant’s husband, then 21, and his half-brother, JW Milam.
Another three days later, Till’s horribly mangled corpse was found in a river: one eye had been ripped out, the head had been split open, and a weight had been secured with barbed wire around the neck.
Bryant and Milam were acquitted by an all-white jury after just five days of trial. Just four months after the acquittal, the two men confessed to the crime in an interview. Both remained at liberty, have now died.
There have been repeated investigations against Carolyn Bryant Donham. The FBI investigated the case between 2004 and 2007, but there were no charges against the woman. In 2017, an author said that Bryant Donham had admitted to him that his earlier allegations against Till were wrong. The investigation ended in December 2021, also without charges.
Finally, last June, a 1955 arrest warrant for the woman was discovered in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse, which was never executed. This led to further investigations, which have now come to an end.
Till’s murder is one of the most notorious crimes of the segregation era and fueled the black civil rights movement in the southern states. Till’s mother insisted that her dead son be placed in an open coffin so that the brutality of the murder would become public. Last March, President Joe Biden signed legislation in Till’s name, making lynching and attempted lynching a hate crime.