abduction, Arrest Warrant, Carolyn Bryant, Carolyn Bryant Donham, Civil Rights, courts, demographics, Emmett Till, evidence, FBI, Grand Jury, grand jury indictment, Greenwood Mississippi, insufficient evidence, jury selection, justice, justice system, Leflore county Mississippi, majority black counties, Mississippi, Mississippi AG, Mississippi DA, Mississippi Delta, murder, new evidence, no new evidence, racism, US Civil Rights movement, voting rights, W. Dewayne Richardson
Percentage Black or African American: Leflore (75.3%), Washington (72.7%), Sunflower (73.8%) counties in the Mississippi Delta – https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221
The Emmett Till FBI case was closed in December of 2021, because “the government’s re-investigation found no new evidence suggesting that either the woman or any other living person was involved in Till’s abduction and murder.” https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndms/pr/federal-officials-close-cold-case-re-investigation-murder-emmett-till
An apparently majority Black Mississippi grand jury arrived at the same conclusion: “After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses, a Leflore County grand jury last week determined there was insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter, Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said in a news release Tuesday.”https://www.voanews.com/a/grand-jury-declines-to-indict-woman-in-emmett-till-killing-/6695591.html
A 1955 arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant was allegedly just found, almost 70 years after the fact, despite repeated investigation of the case, especially by the FBI. https://www.voanews.com/a/warrant-in-emmett-till-case-found-family-seeks-arrest-/6639285.html It seems obvious that any warrant would have been discovered or destroyed years ago. Everyone appears to have taken this find at face value with no investigation of its authenticity, even though it looks like a PR stunt to increase interest in a new film on Emmett Till.
The Mississippi grand jury, which decided not to put Carolyn Bryant on trial, came from an overwhelmingly Black Mississippi jury pool. It was convened in Leflore county Mississippi, which is 75.3% Black/African American. The jury pool was from either Leflore, alone, or Leflore, Washington and Sunflower counties. The DA is over all three counties. Washington County is 72.7% Black/African American, Sunflower is 73.8% Black/African American. They are counties in the Mississippi Delta – https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221
In Mississippi: “All indictments and grand jury reports must be presented to the clerk of the circuit court by the foreperson or the foreperson’s designee, must be endorsed with the foreperson’s name, and must be accompanied by the foreperson’s affidavit that all indictments were concurred in by twelve (12) or more members of the grand jury and that at least fifteen (15) grand jurors were present during all deliberations.” Miss. R. Crim. P. 13.6 As amended through September 9, 2021 Rule 13.6 – Grand Jury Proceedings https://casetext.com/rule/mississippi-court-rules/mississippi-rules-of-criminal-procedure/rule-13-the-grand-jury/rule-136-grand-jury-proceedings
This exposes the statement by Emmett Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., as mostly false. Parker stated: “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.” He complains that “our American justice system was and continues to be set up in such a way that they could not be brought to justice for their heinous crimes.”https://www.voanews.com/a/grand-jury-declines-to-indict-woman-in-emmett-till-killing-/6695591.html Because of justifiable bitterness, he appears to be unfairly conflating Leflore county in 1955 and 2022, although this runs counter to things that he has said elsewhere. Such statements downplay the achievements of the US Civil Rights movement, and undermine it.
It’s good that it was presented to an apparently majority Black Mississippi grand jury, because it looked bad for the Mississippi AG to refuse to re-examine the case, since the AG is a white female. This is all the more true since the so-called BLM movement has created, or re-created, racial animosity where it never existed or no longer existed.
“Last Witness to Emmett Till Abduction Recounts His Final Days” By Cynthia Medina Date February 21, 2020 https://www.rutgers.edu/news/last-witness-emmett-till-abduction-recounts-his-final-days
“Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr. Recalls His Cousin Emmett Till” By pszatmaryOctober 12, 2018 https://www.deltastate.edu/news-and-events/2018/10/rev-wheeler-parker-jr-recalls-his-cousin-emmett-till/
“Timothy Tyson, the North Carolina historian who interviewed [Carolyn Bryant] Donham for his 2017 book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” said the newly rediscovered warrant did nothing to “appreciably change the concrete evidence against her.” But he said the renewed focus on the case should “compel Americans” to face the racial and economic disparities that still exist…”https://www.voanews.com/a/grand-jury-declines-to-indict-woman-in-emmett-till-killing-/6695591.html
The Emmett Till FBI case was just closed in December of 2021, because “the government’s re-investigation found no new evidence suggesting that either the woman or any other living person was involved in Till’s abduction and murder. Even if such evidence could be developed, no federal hate crime laws existed in 1955, and the statute of limitations has run on the only civil rights statutes that were in effect at that time. As such, even if a living suspect could now be identified, a federal prosecution for Till’s abduction and murder would not be possible.” Updated December 7, 2021 https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndms/pr/federal-officials-close-cold-case-re-investigation-murder-emmett-till
The Mississippi grand jury who decided not to put Carolyn Bryant on trial was from an overwhelmingly Black Mississippi jury pool. Thus, the grand jury had to have been majority Black. The DA, W. Dewayne Richardson is also African American. The Leflore County Board of Supervisors is majority African American. https://www.leflorecounty.ms/board-of-supervisors/index
The sole Leflore County Supervisor exception is apparent Lebanese American Sam Abraham, who would be census categorized as “white” but has darker skin than most of the African American supervisors. He would not pass the infamous “brown paper bag test” practiced in nearby New Orleans Louisiana: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Paper_Bag_Test (In French Louisiana, Latin America, and India, color has been defined on a gradient). Nonetheless, Sam Abraham doesn’t share the same history as formerly enslaved Black Mississippians, nor the census categorization. As the saying goes: “Not all skin-folk are kin-folk”. His wife, the late Flora Harrell Abraham of Greenwood, Mississippi, 1953 – 2016, looks remarkably like Mississippi Choctaw Chief, Greenwood Leflore, for whom both Greenwood and Leflore county were named: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwood_LeFlore This is his late wife: https://www.wilsonandknight.com/obituary/3871875
US Census Figure 2. Most Prevalent Race or Ethnicity Group by County: 2020 public domain
“Office of the
W. DEWAYNE RICHARDSON
SERVING WASHINGTON, LEFLORE
AND SUNFLOWER COUNTY” https://msdeltada.com/leflore-county/
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Federal Officials Close Cold Case Re-Investigation of Murder of Emmett Till
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi announced today that it has closed its investigation into a witness’s alleged recantation of her account of the events leading up to the murder of Emmett Till. The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Mississippi District Attorney’s Office, Fourth District. Till’s murder is one of the most infamous acts of racial violence in our country’s history.
Today, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Acting U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner, District Attorney W. Dewayne Richardson and career attorneys and employees from the Civil Rights Division and the FBI met with members of Till’s family, including a family member who had been a witness to the events preceding Till’s abduction and murder. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the reasons for closing the investigation and to give the family an opportunity to ask questions about the department’s investigation and conclusions.
The department conducted the investigation as part of its Cold Case Initiative and pursuant to the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act (Till Act). The Cold Case Initiative is a comprehensive effort to identify and investigate racially motivated murders committed decades ago. As in all federal cases, the department may only bring a case with laws that were enacted at the time of the crime and are still within the statute of limitations. However, under the Till Act, the federal government is authorized to assist state and local jurisdictions with investigating and, where possible, prosecuting such crimes.
Because there were no federal hate crime statutes at the time of Till’s death, the case was not then opened for federal investigation. In 2004, the department opened an investigation into Till’s murder as part of its Cold Case Initiative, but determined after a thorough review that it lacked jurisdiction to bring federal charges.
The department reopened the matter in 2017 after a professor alleged in a book he had written that a white woman, who was a witness to crucial events leading up to Till’s abduction and murder, had recanted her previous accounts of those events. In response, the department and the FBI examined whether the woman had recanted and, if so, whether she had information that would allow prosecution of any living person.
In the summer of 1955, the 14-year-old Till traveled from Chicago to Money, Mississippi, to visit relatives. He stayed with family members in their home just east of Money. On Aug. 24, 1955, Till and approximately six other youths drove to a store in Money. A witness indicated that, contrary to long-standing belief about the events in and near the store, no one challenged Till to speak to or flirt with a white woman who was at the store. Nor did Till show a photo of a white girl to the men standing outside the store. Rather, Till bought some items in the store and left with one of his companions without incident. According to this witness, the woman then left the store, unhurried and undisturbed, at which time Till whistled at her. Till’s companions, aware of the dangers posed to Black men perceived to have violated the unwritten, racist code prevalent in the Jim Crow South, hurried to get Till away from the store.
A few days later, in the early morning hours of Aug. 28, Roy Bryant, his half-brother John William (J.W.) Milam, and at least one other person abducted Till from the home of his relatives. Three days later, a teenager fishing in the Tallahatchie River discovered Till’s brutally beaten body floating in the river. Till’s assailants had weighed him down with a 75-pound cotton gin fan, which they tied to his body with barbed wire.
State officials charged Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam with murder; they were tried the following month and acquitted by an all-white jury. During the trial, the woman at the store testified under oath, but not in front of the jury, that Till had propositioned her and physically touched her hand, arm and waist while they were both inside the store. Following their acquittals, both Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam confessed to kidnapping and murdering Till in an account published in Look magazine in January 1956.
In early 2017, new information emerged suggesting that the woman may have confessed to a professor, who later wrote a book about Till’s murder, that the account she provided to the state court in 1955 was untrue. Specifically, the professor asserted that, during a 2008 interview with the woman, she handed him a transcript of her sworn 1955 testimony and said, “[t]hat part’s not true.” If credible, the professor’s assertion suggests that the woman lied in state court and confessed to having done so. The alleged recantation raised questions about whether the woman would be willing to acknowledge to federal authorities that her prior versions of events had been untruthful and whether she now would provide new and accurate information relating to the abduction and murder of Till.
The woman however, when asked about the alleged recantation, denied to the FBI that she ever recanted her testimony and provided no information beyond what was uncovered during the previous federal investigation. Although lying to the FBI is a federal offense, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI when she denied having recanted to the professor. There is insufficient evidence to prove that she ever told the professor that any part of her testimony was untrue. Although the professor represented that he had recorded two interviews with her, he provided the FBI with only one recording, which did not contain any recantation. In addition, although an assistant transcribed the two recordings, neither transcript contained the alleged recantation. The professor also provided inconsistent explanations about whether the missing recording included the alleged recantation or whether, instead, the woman made the key admission before he began recording the interview.
A federal prosecution of the woman would be complicated by the fact that, according to the professor’s account, when she said “that part’s not true,” she did not expressly reference her state court testimony or refer to any specific part of that testimony. Rather, the professor stated that he understood her to be referring to her allegation that Till physically accosted her in the store from the context of their conversation. It would thus be impossible for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman intentionally recanted all or part of her state court testimony, and that she then lied to the FBI when she denied having done so.
Even if the government could prove that she recanted her prior state court testimony, the federal government could not prosecute her for perjury for her 1955 testimony. Perjury in state court is not a federal offense. Moreover, the statute of limitations, a deadline for bringing a prosecution, expired in 1960 on any state perjury offense. Similarly, the five-year statute of limitations has expired on any claim that she lied to the FBI during the 2004 investigation. However, in closing this matter without prosecution, the government does not take the position that the state court testimony the woman gave in 1955 was truthful or accurate. There remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events, which is contradicted by others who were with Till at the time, including the account of a living witness.
The government’s re-investigation found no new evidence suggesting that either the woman or any other living person was involved in Till’s abduction and murder. Even if such evidence could be developed, no federal hate crime laws existed in 1955, and the statute of limitations has run on the only civil rights statutes that were in effect at that time. As such, even if a living suspect could now be identified, a federal prosecution for Till’s abduction and murder would not be possible. A copy of the memorandum explaining the reasons for closing the investigation is available at: Emmett Till | CRT | Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/crt/case/emmett-till-0
The Department of Justice remains committed to identifying and investigating racially motivated crimes of violence committed decades ago through its Cold Case Initiative, and through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act and its reauthorization. Those who have information related to an unsolved or un-vindicated cold case that occurred on or before Dec. 31, 1979, and have reason to believe are hate crimes or crimes that would violate other civil rights law should contact the Civil Rights Division’s Cold Case Unit.
USAO – Mississippi, Northern
Updated December 7, 2021”https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndms/pr/federal-officials-close-cold-case-re-investigation-murder-emmett-till
“Emmett Louis Till (1945-1955) was murdered while visiting relatives in LeFlore County, Mississippi. In 1955, two suspects were tried for the murder, but acquitted. In May 2004, the FBI reopened the investigation to determine if other individuals were involved. This release consists of the FBI’s 2006 “Prosecutive Report” on the matter and includes a type-copy of the transcript of the first trial as an appendix.
In the summer of 1955, 14-year-old African-American Emmett Till had gone on vacation from Chicago to visit family in Money, Mississippi. He was shopping at a store owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryant—and someone said he possibly whistled at Mrs. Bryant, a white woman.
At some point around August 28, he was kidnapped, beaten, shot in the head, had a large metal fan tied to his neck with barbed wire, and was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His body was soon recovered, and an investigation was opened.
It took fewer than four weeks for the case to go to trial: Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were accused of the murder, and an all white, all male jury acquitted both of them. No one else was ever indicted or prosecuted for involvement in the kidnapping or murder. Bryant and Milam, though, later confessed and told a magazine journalist all the grisly details of their crime. They are both, now, long deceased.
In May 2004, the FBI reopened the investigation to determine if other individuals were involved, working with the Mississippi District Attorney, U.S. Attorney, federal attorneys, and local law enforcement. Till’s body was exhumed for an autopsy in 2005. In March 2006, the FBI announced that information developed in its exhaustive investigation confirmed the Department of Justice’s earlier conclusion that the five-year statute of limitations on any potential federal criminal civil rights violation had expired, thereby precluding federal prosecution of this case. The FBI reported the results of its investigation to Joyce Chiles, the District Attorney for the Fourth Judicial District of Mississippi.
Although justice has not been served in the case, the tragic murder helped galvanize the growing civil rights movement in this country in the 1950s and beyond.
For more information:
- FBI Report from the 2006 investigation
https://vault.fbi.gov/Emmett%20Till%20 - 2021 Press Release on Closure of the Till Re-Investigation