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Mississippi grand jury declines to bring charges against Emmett Till's accuser

Emmet Till and his mother Mamie Till in an undated photo. A Mississippi grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict the White woman whose accusations led to the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Black 14-year-old Emmet Till. File Photo courtesy Emmett Till Foundation/Facebook
Emmet Till and his mother Mamie Till in an undated photo. A Mississippi grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict the White woman whose accusations led to the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Black 14-year-old Emmet Till. File Photo courtesy Emmett Till Foundation/Facebook

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A Mississippi grand jury on Tuesday declined to indict the White woman whose accusations led to the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Black 14-year-old Emmet Till.

The Leflore County grand jury said that it found insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, 87, on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter.

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Donham's then-husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Till and brought him to her for identification after she accused him of whistling at her in a store.

"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," District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said.

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In June, a team of researchers, including Till's relatives, found an unserved arrest warrant for Donham in the basement of a courthouse in Greenwood, Miss., prompting the Emmett Till foundation to call for her to be charged.

"Although prosecutors do not arrest people nor do prosecutors serve arrest warrants, the existence of the 1955 warrant along with additional information confirmed the decision to present this matter to the next regularly scheduled Leflore County Grand Jury," Richardson said.

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The grand jury met last week and heard seven hours of testimony from witnesses who detailed the case investigation since 2004.

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In an unpublished memoir, Donham said she didn't know what would happen to Till after her accusations. She said that she denied that Till was the one who whistled at her when Bryant and Milam brought him to her but claimed Till identified himself.

Bryant and Milam were arrested and acquitted of murder charges by an all-White, male jury and the FBI investigated Till's case from 2004 to 2007 when a grand jury declined to bring charges against Donham for manslaughter.

The Justice Department reopened the investigation in 2017 after reports that Donham had recounted her statements about Till but found "insufficient evidence" that she lied to the FBI.

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Till's cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker, called the latest grand jury decision Tuesday "unfortunate, but predictable."

"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 said.

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