The woman who accused Emmett Till of whistling at her and grabbing her, leading to his murder, will not be charged with kidnapping or manslaughter.
A grand jury in Leflore County, Miss., heard seven hours of testimony last week before they chose not to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said Tuesday.
Donham is now 87 and reportedly living in North Carolina. She has avoided prosecution in Till’s killing for decades, dodging two federal investigations and the latest effort from Richardson.
The newest probe included a 1955 arrest warrant for Donham — listed at the time as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” — that was found by Till’s family members in June.
But that still wasn’t enough for the grand jury.
“The fact remains that the people who abducted, tortured, and murdered Emmett did so in plain sight, and 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,” said the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Till’s cousin.
Donham was 21 years old and married to Roy Bryant when she said Till harassed her at a corner store in Money, Miss., in August 1955. Till, 14, was from Chicago and visiting his family.
Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Till from his family home at gunpoint before they murdered him and tossed his body in a river. An all-white jury acquitted the two men, but they quickly admitted to the killing in a Look magazine interview.
“When a n—-r gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’,” Milam told Look. “I’m likely to kill him.”
Bryant and Milam died free men decades later. Donham was investigated by the Justice Department in 2004 and again in 2017, but both she wasn’t charged after either probe.
Last month, the Associated Press obtained an unreleased manuscript attributed to Donham. In the documents, she claimed that she didn’t know Bryant and Milam were going to murder Till and refused to identify him as the boy she encountered at the store.