Earlier this week, Mississippi’s attorney general indicated she would not serve a decades-old warrant on Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused teenager Emmett Till of making inappropriate advances toward her in 1955.
The warrant was issued nearly 70 years ago, but had since been lost. A team of investigators searching through the basement of a Mississippi courthouse basement in late June found the warrant, but the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a Republican, said the case wouldn’t be reopened.
“There’s no new evidence to open the case back up,” Fitch’s chief of staff, Michelle Williams, told The Associated Press.
Williams also told the outlet that Fitch’s office was not in contact with Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, the prosecutor who would have to issue the warrant against Donham.
Till’s family members were understandably upset by the Mississippi AG’s decision not to prosecute, with Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, telling reporters that “the person that holds the responsibility for prosecution is Dwayne Richardson, which is the 4th district DA, and that’s who we need to hear from.”
“Justice delayed should not be justice denied,” Watts added. “So we just ask them to look at all of the evidence.”
In late June, Richardson wouldn’t provide The Associated Press with a comment about prosecuting Donham, but did point to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report in December saying it found no evidence that Donham had ever lied about Till and that prosecuting her would not be possible.
The DOJ explained at the time that in 2017, federal investigators began looking into whether Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham, admitted to lying about what, if anything, actually happened between her and Till. The DOJ concluded, however, that it found no evidence Donham had ever lied, closing the case without any arrests. In its case document, the DOJ said it could not prosecute Donham or anyone else because it had “not uncovered any new evidence that would change its conclusion from its 2004 investigation that it was not able to bring federal charges against [Donham] in connection with Till’s abduction and murder.”
Another issue the DOJ faced was that the statute of limitations had run out for all “potential federal crimes that could apply to Till’s abduction and murder, and there is no other potential basis for federal jurisdiction,” the Department said. This includes prosecuting Donham for allegedly lying on the stand or making false allegations against Till.
Till was brutally beaten and shot in the head by J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, Donham’s then-husband, after she made the allegations against him. They were arrested but acquitted by an all-white male jury in Mississippi in an era before the Civil Rights movement, so no one has been held accountable for one of the most famous potentially false accusations of misconduct of all time.