JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi’s top legal official has no plans to prosecute the white woman whose accusation sparked the lynching of black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, a an aide said on Friday following revelations about an unissued arrest warrant and a new memoir the woman revealed.
“There is no new evidence to reopen the case,” Michelle Williams, chief of staff for Attorney General Lynn Fitch, told The Associated Press.
Williams also said Fitch’s office has not been in contact with Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, the local prosecutor who would be responsible for prosecuting any cases against Carolyn Bryant Donham.
The Justice Department previously investigated without complaint and dismissed the case, Williams said, referring to the government’s decision in December to end its latest review of the infamous murder.
Neither Richardson nor Sheriff Leflore Ricky Banks immediately returned messages seeking comment on Friday.
A group searching the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in June discovered the unissued arrest warrant charging Donham, her then-husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law JW Milam during the kidnapping of Till in 1955. While the men were arrested and acquitted of murder charges in Till’s subsequent murder, Donham, 21 at the time and 87 now, was never arrested.
In an unpublished memoir obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, Donham said she was unaware of what would happen to Till, 14, who was living in Chicago and visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was kidnapped, killed and thrown into a river. . She accused him of making lewd comments and catching her working alone at a family store in Money, Mississippi.
Donham said in the manuscript that the men brought Till to her in the middle of the night for identification, but she tried to help the youth by denying it was him. Despite being abducted at gunpoint from a family home by Roy Bryant and Milam, the 14-year-old identified with the men, she claimed.
Till’s battered and disfigured body was found days later in a river, where it was weighed down by a heavy metal fan. The decision of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, to open Till’s casket for his funeral in Chicago demonstrated the horror of what had happened and fueled the civil rights movement.
Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till who runs the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, said the unissued arrest warrant and memoir are new evidence that shows Donham’s involvement in the case.
“I truly believe these developments cannot be ignored by Mississippi authorities,” she said.
Dale Killinger, a retired FBI agent who handled an examination that ended without charge 15 years ago, said grand jurors should be given the opportunity to review recent developments in the case.
“It’s still a court decision. As an investigator, my position has always been and remains that a grand jury should know all the facts,” he said.
Neither Donham nor any of his relatives responded to messages and phone calls from the AP seeking comment. It is not known where Donham currently lives or if she has an attorney. His last known address was in Raleigh, North Carolina.