Lawsuit seeks woman's arrest in landmark Emmett Till murder
Emmett Till's cousin is suing to try to make a Mississippi sheriff serve a 1955 arrest warrant on a white woman in the kidnapping that led to the brutal killing of the black teenager.
A cousin of Emmett Till is suing to try to make a sheriff serve a 1955 arrest warrant on a white woman in the kidnapping that resulted in the brutal killing of the black teenager.
Till was a 14-year-old African American boy whose dead body was thrown in the Tallahatchie river of Mississippi, after being brutally disfigured and tortured in 1955 while on a visit to relatives.
This incident became a catalyst for the civil rights movement after his mother, Mamie Elizabeth, insisted on an open-casket funeral. Elizabeth said she "wanted the world to see what they did to my baby."
Last June, a research team in Mississippi found an unserved 1955 arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham, recorded on the document as 'Mrs. Roy Bryant.'
Read: US Justice Department closes Emmett Till case
Donham, who is 88 years old now, lives with her son in a small apartment community in Kentucky and not only has cancer, but is also legally blind and also receiving end-of-life hospice care. according to the Daily Mail.
Patricia Sterling, a 64-year-old cousin of Till, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the current Leflore County sheriff, Ricky Banks, seeking to compel Banks to serve the warrant on Carolyn Bryant, who has remarried and is named Carolyn Bryant Donham.
"We are using the available means at our disposal to try to achieve justice on behalf of the Till family," Sterling's attorney Trent Walker told The Associated Press on Friday.
AP called Banks on Friday and left a message requesting a comment. While he did not respond, court records reveal that the lawsuit had not been served by Friday.
Bryant had claimed Till had flirted with her in a store she was employed at and touched her on the arm, hand, and waist. A cousin of Till who was there said Till whistled at Bryant, an act that flew in the face of Mississippi's racist social codes of the era.
Evidence shows that a woman, probably Donham, identified Till to the men who later murdered him. The arrest warrant against her was publicized in 1955, but the Leflore County sheriff at the time told reporters he did not want to "bother" Donham because she was raising two young children.
Weeks after Till's body was found in a river, Donham's husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were tried for murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. Months later, both men confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine.
Now in her late 80s, Donham has not made any public comments on calls for her prosecution.
In December 2021, the US Justice Department announced the ending of its latest investigation into the lynching of Till, and no charges were brought against anyone.
After researchers found the arrest warrant last June, no new evidence was found to try to pursue a criminal case against Donham, according to the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. In August, a district attorney said a Leflore County grand jury had rejected to charge Donham.
On Friday, the attorney for Till's cousin said that the South has a long history of violence cases that were only brought to justice decades later, "But for Carolyn Bryant falsely claiming to her husband that Emmett Till assaulted her Emmett would not have been murdered," Sterling's lawsuit says.
"It was Carolyn Bryant's lie that sent Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam into a rage, which resulted in the mutilation of Emmett Till's body into (an) unrecognizable condition."