The grand jury declines to indict Emmett Till prosecutor Carolyn Donham Bryant

Even after the discovery of an arrest warrant and unpublished memoir, the woman behind Emmett Till’s lynching has once again evaded prosecution.

A grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Emmett of assaulting her in Mississippi in 1955 during the Jim Crow era.

Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said the grand jury heard more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses last week and decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Donham.

Carolyn Bryant Donham accused Emmett Till of flirting with her in 1955. (Photo: Twitter/Black Diaspora Voices)

Emmett’s family members had increased their call for justice for the murdered 14-year-old, helped by the kidnap warrant they found in a Mississippi courthouse in late June. The grand jury considered both kidnapping and manslaughter charges. It was the fourth time authorities had considered prosecuting Donham since the warrant was issued nearly 70 years ago. Each time the evidence has fallen short.

Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Emmett Till’s cousin and the last living witness to Till’s kidnapping in 1955, said the grand jury’s decision was “unfortunate but predictable.”

“The prosecutor did his best and we appreciate his efforts, but he alone cannot reverse hundreds of years of anti-black systems that, to this day, have guaranteed that those who killed Emmett Till remain unpunished.” Parker said in a statement. “The fact remains that the people who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Emmett did so in full view of all, and our American justice system was and is designed in such a way that they could not be tried for their heinous crimes. ”

Donham’s husband and brother-in-law were arrested and then acquitted of Emmett’s murder in 1955. Parker said Emmett snapped at the woman in her family business. She told her husband about the encounter and triggered the fatal attack. Roy Bryant and JW Milam admitted kidnapping, torturing and beating the teenager before tying him to a gin fan and dumping his body in a river. Donham told the court during her husband’s trial that the boy held her hand and told her he had been with other white women.

The case is a symbol of racial violence in America. Emmett’s family’s quest for justice spurred the passage of anti-lynching legislation through Congress earlier this year. Reports show it also fueled the civil rights movement decades ago. Many attorneys believe Donham embellished her account of what happened during the trial to help her husband. However, in a personal reminiscence released last month, Donham said she did not know the boy was going to be killed and she tried to save him, telling her husband and brother-in-law that he was not to blame .

According to the memoir, Emmett admitted to the men that it was him, but Emmett’s great-uncle said in another court hearing that he heard a voice, lower than that of a man identifying his nephew, when Bryant and Milam pulled him from his home .

It’s not the first time a grand jury has considered charges against Donham. A grand jury in the same Mississippi county declined to charge her with manslaughter in a federal investigation. The US Department of Justice also launched two investigations and dropped them due to lack of evidence. The last case was closed in December.

Richardson’s grand jury may have been Emmett’s family’s last chance for justice. Donham, the only living person involved in the boy’s murder, is 88 and being treated in a hospice for cancer.

https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/08/10/cannot-undo-hundreds-of-years-of-anti-black-systems-grand-jury-declines-to-indict-emmett-till-accuser-carolyn-donham-bryant/ The grand jury declines to indict Emmett Till prosecutor Carolyn Donham Bryant

James Brien

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