Grand Jury Will Not Indict Woman Involved In Emmett Till Lynching

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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A grand jury in Mississippi declined to indict a woman on Tuesday whose accusation caused the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.

The grand jury, based in Leflore Country, did not find sufficient evidence to indict 87-year-old Carolyn Bryant Donham for her role in the crime, Leflore Country District Attorney Dewayne Richarson said in a press release. The ruling makes it increasingly unlikely she will face charges in the death of Till.

Jurors reviewed evidence and testimony for seven hours, including an unserved arrest warrant and unpublished memoir, to determine whether to bring kidnapping and manslaughter charges against Donham, whose then-husband and brother-in-law lynched Till in 1955, according to USA Today. Donham accused Till of making lewd remarks and inappropriately grabbing her at a family story, which led to his death, the outlet reported.

“The murder of Emmett Till remains an unforgettable tragedy in this country and the thoughts and prayers of this nation continue to be with the family of Emmett Till,” the release said.

Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., called the grand jury’s decision “unfortunate,” but not surprising, the Associated Press reported. (RELATED: Biden Signs Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act Into Law) 

“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,” Parker Jr. said.

The Emmett Till Legacy Fund called on Leflore County District Attorney DeWayne Richardson to serve the arrest warrant earlier Tuesday.

Till’s body was found disfigured and unrecognizable in a river, where it had been weighted down with a heavy metal fan, according to The Associated Press. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, requested for an open casket funeral to display the brutality inflicted upon her son to the public, the outlet reported.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into the matter in 2004 after receiving inquiries on whether charges should be brought forth for anyone still living, the outlet reported. A grand jury in 2007 declined to bring charges against anyone, leading to the case being closed at the time.

The case was reopened in 2017 based on allegations that Donham “recanted previous statements” in her husband’s trial, according to the press release. The Department of Justice closed the case in December 2021 finding no sufficient evidence of direct involvement in Till’s murder.