NASHVILLE — A grand jury in Mississippi examining the case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy whose abduction and killing more than six decades ago became a galvanizing force for the civil rights movement, has declined to indict the white woman whose accusations prompted the attack, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Jurors in Leflore County in the Mississippi Delta, where Emmett had traveled from Chicago in the summer of 1955, heard more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses with direct knowledge of the case. Still, prosecutors said, the panel did not find sufficient evidence to indict the woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, on charges of kidnapping or manslaughter.
“After hearing every aspect of the investigation and evidence collected regarding Donham’s involvement, the grand jury returned a ‘no bill’ to the charges of both kidnapping and manslaughter,” the office of W. Dewayne Richardson, the district attorney for the Fourth Circuit Court District of Mississippi, said Tuesday.
unearthed an arrest warrant for Ms. Donham — issued by the Leflore County sheriff and dated Aug. 29, 1955 — that had never been served. It accused her of kidnapping and led to the grand jury examination.
The Murder of Emmett Till
In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Mississippi after he allegedly whistled at a white woman.
The most recent turn in the case on Tuesday could very well be one of the last options for prosecution in the case.
“The murder of Emmett Till remains an unforgettable tragedy in this country,” prosecutors said in a statement, “and the thoughts and prayers of this nation continue to be with the family of Emmett Till.”
The Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., a cousin and best friend of Emmett’s who is the last living witness to the abduction, described the development as “unfortunate, but predictable, news.” Still, he said he believed that prosecutors were living up to their assurances that “they would leave no stone unturned in the fight for justice for my cousin.”
already decided once before, in 2007, not to indict Ms. Donham. That came after federal officials had launched an investigation in 2004 as his family and others maintained that other people had been involved in the lynching. Investigators exhumed Emmett’s body. They also discovered a long-lost trial transcript and produced an 8,000-page report handed over to local prosecutors.