The family of Emmett Till — a 14-year-old Black boy who was abducted, tortured and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 — are calling for the arrest of his white female accuser after they discovered an unserved, 70-year-old warrant charging her with kidnapping.
Relatives and members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation were searching a Mississippi courthouse basement for evidence in the notorious murder when they found the 1955 warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham last week.
Donham — then just Carolyn Bryant and 21 years old — accused Till of making improper advances and obscene comments towards her while she was working the register of her family’s store in Money, Mississippi in August 1955.
Till, who was in town from Chicago to visit relatives, allegedly whistled at her, according to a cousin who witnessed the interaction. Such an interaction violated the racist code of behavior in the Jim Crow-era South.
Donham told her husband Roy Bryant about the alleged encounter. Enraged that a black boy allegedly came onto his white wife, Bryant and his half-brother John William Milam kidnapped the young teen from his great-uncle’s house two nights later and subsequently beat him, shot him and tossed his body in a river.
A woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to his killers, according to testimony from the case — prompting the warrant for her arrest.
The warrant was reported in papers at the time, but never served. The Leflore County sheriff had told reporters that he didn’t want to “bother” the woman since she was the mother of two young children.
Now, 70 years later, Till’s descendants want police to serve it and arrest Donham, who is now in her 80s and living in North Carolina.
“Serve it and charge her,” Teri Watts, the daughter of Till’s cousin Deborah Watts, told the Associated Press.
However, unserved arrest warrants can have a time limit if no new evidence is presented along with it, according to Ronald Rychlak, a law professor at the University of Mississippi.
The Till family believes the warrant itself amounts to new evidence.
“This is what the state of Mississippi needs to go ahead,” Watts said.
The family received no justice at the time of Emmet Till’s murder.
Bryant and Milam were tried of the murder and acquitted by an all-white jury, but confessed to the murder in magazine interview a year later.
Till’s mother held an open-casket funeral for her son so people could see what was done to him by the two white men — which brought momentum to the civil rights movement. Till posthumously became a tragic icon of the movement.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi declined to comment on the newly-discovered warrant.
The Justice Department closed an earlier investigation into the infamous case in December 2021 with no new charges issued.
With post wires