The three-year inquiry into the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old child horrifically murdered in Mississippi in 1955, has been officially concluded by the US Justice Department. Officials stated that they were unable to establish that one of the key witnesses lied in her testimony.
In his book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” author, historian, and college professor Timothy B. Tyson claims that Carolyn Bryant Donham, the lady at the center of Till’s murder, informed him that she lied about the teen touching her, making sexual attempts toward her, and whistling at her.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi, in collaboration with the Mississippi District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth District, investigated the veracity of Tyson’s quote in the book. If it turned out to be genuine, it would have provided the family and the country closure on one of the country’s most terrible crimes.
“She provided him a transcript of her sworn 1955 testimony and stated, ‘[t]hat part’s not true,’ implying that she lied,” according to Tyson, who interviewed the woman in his office in 2008.
On the morning of Aug. 28, several white men, including Roy Bryant, Donham’s then-husband, and his half-brother John William (J.W.) Milam, kidnapped the young Emmett Till, because of her testimony.
The next time anyone would see Till, he would be pulled out of the Tallahatchie River, brutally beaten to death. The men who killed the Black boy for allegedly making a move at Donham, a white woman, bound him with barbed wire, dumped him in the river, and anchored him with a 75-pound cotton gin fan.
Bryant and Milam were both charged with murder, but an all-white jury acquitted them. The two men confessed to the murders in the January 1956 issue of Look magazine after they were acquitted.
Officials interviewed Donham in response to the new allegations, according to the Justice Department, and inquired if she had changed her testimony. They also inquired if she had any information that “would permit the prosecution of any living individual.”
The woman, who is now in her 80s, continues to tell her experience from more than 60 years ago. She did not recant her story to Tyson, she told the FBI. Tyson was unable to produce any recordings or transcripts to back up his accusations that she acknowledged to lying about Till’s alleged conduct, according to officials.
“The government’s re-investigation uncovered no new evidence suggesting that either the woman or any other surviving person was involved in Till’s kidnapping and murder,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Even if such evidence could be developed,” the statement said, “no federal hate crime legislation existed in 1955, and the statute of limitations on the limited civil rights provisions in effect at the time has run.” As a result, even if a living suspect could suddenly be found, a federal investigation into Till’s kidnapping and murder would be impossible.”
Investigators also spoke with Till’s family, including a family member who witnessed the events leading up to the Chicago native’s kidnapping and murder, to personally inform them that the case had been closed.
In a letter to the family, the department claimed that their loved one’s lynching was “one of the most brutal illustrations of the violence commonly committed upon Black inhabitants.”
Several family members expressed their opinions on the decision.
“I’m not surprised, but my heart is torn,” Thelma Wright Edwards, a relative who knew Emmett as a newborn, told ABC News.
“I pinned Emmett’s diapers on.” She said, “I lived with him, he was like a brother to me.” “I have no ill will toward anyone, but I had hoped for an apology.” But that did not happen, and no agreement was reached. The case is closed, and we must now proceed.”
“Today is a day that we’ll never forget,” remarked Rev. Wheeler Parker, another cousin, during a press conference.
“We have suffered pain for 66 years for his death, and I have suffered enormously because of the way they painted him,” he concluded.
“I think [there] might have been a different outcome, a different verdict since the world has gone forward,” another relative, Ollie Gordon, said in the present day.