By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A grand jury in Mississippi has declined to indict a white woman whose discredited accusations against Emmett Till in 1955 led to the lynching of the Black teenager, a brutal death that helped ignite the civil rights movement, the New York Times reported.
A panel in Leflore County, Mississippi, heard more than seven hours of testimony before deciding it did not have enough evidence to indict the woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, on charges of kidnapping or manslaughter, the newspaper reported, citing a statement on Tuesday from the local prosecutor.
Till, visiting from Chicago, was beaten, shot and mutilated in Money, Mississippi, on Aug. 28, 1955, four days after Donham, then 20, accused him of whistling at her. Later, the woman added the accusation that Till grabbed her waist and made sexual remarks.
Till’s death and an all-white jury’s dismissal of charges against two white men who later confessed to his killing drew national attention to the atrocities and violence that African Americans face in the United States and became a civil rights rallying cry.
The grand jury’s decision comes six weeks after a team that included members of the Till family searching files in Greenwood, Mississippi, found the arrest warrant for kidnapping for Donham, the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation said.
Duke University professor Timothy Tyson had alluded to the warrant in a 2017 book, writing that days after the murder the local sheriff told reporters he did not want to “bother the woman” by serving it because she was a mother of two small boys.
Tyson wrote that Donham had told him in 2008 that parts of her testimony about Till were untrue.
Last year the U.S. Justice Department said it failed to prove Donham lied about Till, though the department said there was “considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events.”
The Aug. 29, 1955, warrant ordered Donham, her husband at the time Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, to be arrested for kidnapping. The men later confessed in a paid magazine interview. Bryant died in 1994 and Milam in 1981.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Mark Porter)