State officials: No plans to reopen Emmett Till lynching case

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Officials have no plans to reopen Emmett Till lynching case despite new evidence

Mississippi officials who could reopen the 1955 lynching case of Emmett Till do not have plans to proceed despite the recent discovery of new evidence. 

Evidence that has come to light in the past few weeks are an unpublished memoir by Carolyn Bryant Donham, who accused Till of whistling and grabbing her, which was shared with and reported on by The Associated Press, and the unserved original arrest warrant in Till’s case which lists Donham alongside the men who kidnapped and killed the teenager. 

Michelle Williams, chief of staff for Lynn Fitch, told The Associated Press Friday there isn’t new evidence to reopen the case and that her office hasn’t been in contact with the Leflore County District Attorney’s office, which would be responsible for a case against Donham.

Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson and Sheriff Ricky Banks were not immediately available for comment Monday. 

The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, started by members of Till’s family, is asking supporters to help to demand justice by contacting the district attorney’s office. In a Friday tweet, the foundation said the memoir and warrant are new evidence of Donham’s role as an accomplice in Till’s

“We never accepted (the) closing of this case by the authorities or gave up hope,” Deborah Watts, Till’s cousin and head of the foundation, said in a June 30 statement. “We have always pushed for full accountability of all those involved in Emmett’s murder who may still be alive.”

A representative from the foundation was not immediately available for comment Monday. 

The Associated Press obtained a copy of Donham’s unpublished memoir Thursday titled, “I am More Than a Wolf Whistle.” In it, she said she didn’t know what would happen to Till after she accused him of whistling at and grabbing her at the store she worked at in the Delta.

She said her former husband Roy Bryant and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped the 14-year-old from his family’s home and brought Till to her in the middle of the night for identification. She denied it was him and claimed Till identified himself. 

Timothy Tyson, a historian and author, shared a copy of the manuscript he obtained from Donham while interviewing her in 2008 for his book, the Associated Press reported. He put the manuscript in a University of North Carolina archive with the agreement not to make it public for decades, but he publicized it now after the discovery of the unserved warrant for Donham. 

Last month, a team including Till family members searched the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood and found the warrant dated Aug. 29, 1955, and listing “Mrs. Roy Bryant,” Bryant and Milam. 

The men were acquitted of Till’s murder but later admitted to the in a magazine interview. 

The U.S. Department of Justice had investigated the Till case several times without filing charges.

Donham is now 87 and had a last known address in North Carolina. She nor relatives did not respond to requests for comment from the Associated Press. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.State Officials: No Plans To Reopen Emmett Till Lynching CaseState Officials: No Plans To Reopen Emmett Till Lynching Case