A Leflore County grand jury has found insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham for her role in the kidnapping and lynching death of Emmett Till.
District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said the jury considered charges of kidnapping and manslaughter, but returned a “no bill” indicating they would not indict Donham, according to a news release from his office.
“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,” Richardson said in a statement.
Donham is in her late 80s and had a last known address in North Carolina, the Associated Press reported.
Till, who was from Chicago, was murdered at the age of 14 while visiting his family in the Delta in 1955.
The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, founded by members of Till’s family, has been demanding justice by charging Donham as an accomplice in his death.
The grand jury met last week and heard more than seven hours of testimony from witnesses who detailed the case investigation since 2004, according to the district attorney’s office.
Last month, the original unserved arrest warrant for Donham was found in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood. The FBI was notified about the discovery and there were discussions between Richardson’s office and federal partners, according to the district attorney’s office.
“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 in a statement.
In July, an unpublished memoir of Donham was shared with and reported on by The Associated Press. In it, Donham said she didn’t know what would happen to Till after she accused him of whistling at and grabbing her in 1955.
Her former husband Roy Bryant and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from his family’s home and brought the 14-year-old to her in the middle of the night to identify. In the memoir, Donham said she denied it was him and claimed Till identified himself.
The FBI investigated Till’s case from 2004 to 2007, and in 2007 the case was presented to a different Leflore County grand jury by former District Attorney Joyce Chiles. The jury declined to indict Donham for manslaughter.
In 2017, a state and federal investigation was reopened based on information that Donham may have recanted previous statements given during the 1955 trial of her former husband or during the first FBI investigation.
The recent investigation, which ended in December 2021, did not result in new charges.
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