1955 subpoena for white woman in Emmett kidnapping Until the kidnapping case was found, the family sought arrest
An arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham – identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” on the document – was discovered by searchers last week inside a file in a box, said County Clerk Leflore Elmus Stockstill told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The documents, he said, were kept inside the box for decades, but there was nothing else to indicate where the subpoena dated August 29, 1955 might have been.
Stockstill, who certified the warranty as genuine, said: “They narrowed it down to between the 50s and 60s and luckily.
The search team includes members of the Emmett Till Heritage Foundation and two of Till’s relatives: cousin Deborah Watts, who heads the organization; and her daughter, Teri Watts. Relatives want authorities to use an arrest warrant for Donham, who at the time of the murder was married to one of two white men to be tried and acquitted just weeks after Till was abducted from a relative’s home. , was killed and thrown into the river.
“Serve it and charge her,” Teri Watts told the AP in an interview.
Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” preceded a new Justice Department investigation that ended without charge in 2007, is also part of the search. He said there was enough new evidence to prosecute Donham.
Donham began the case in August 1955 by accusing 14-year-old Till of making improper advances at a family store in Money, Mississippi. A cousin of Till’s there said Till whistled at the woman, an act that went against Mississippi’s racist social norms of the time.
Evidence suggests that a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till with the people who later killed him. A warrant for Donham’s arrest was announced at the time, but the Leflore County sheriff told reporters he didn’t want to “disturb” the woman because she had two young children to take care of.
Now in her 80s and most recently living in North Carolina, Donham has not publicly commented on calls for her prosecution. But Teri Watts said Till’s family believes the kidnapping subpoena is new evidence.
“This is where the state of Mississippi needs to go,” she said.
District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, whose office will prosecute a case, declined to comment on the order but cited a December report on the Till case from the Justice Department, which said there was no possibility of a prosecution.
Contacted by the AP on Wednesday, Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said: “This is the first time I’m aware of a subpoena.”
Banks, who was 7 years old when Till was killed, said “nothing was said about the subpoena” when a former district attorney investigated the case five or six years ago.
“I’ll see if I can get a copy of the order and contact the DA and get their opinion on it,” Banks said. If the order can still be served, Banks said, he will have to speak to law enforcement officers in the state where Donham resides.
Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor, said: at the University of Mississippi.
But combined with any new evidence, the “absolutely” initial arrest warrant could be an important stepping stone to establishing probable cause for a new prosecution, he said.
“If you go in front of a judge, you can say, ‘Once upon a time, a judge determined there was probable cause, and there is much more information today,’” says Rychlak.
Till, from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he walked into the store where Donham, then 21, was working on August 24, 1955. A relative of Till’s there, Wheeler Parker, told the AP that Till was whistling at the woman. . Donham testified in court that Till also grabbed her and made lewd comments.
Two nights later, Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, JW Milam, showed up armed at the rural Leflore County home of Mose Wright, Till’s great uncle, to looking for young people. Till’s brutal body, weighed down by a fan, was dragged from a river into another county a few days later. His mother’s decision to open the coffin so Chicago mourners could see what had happened helped ignite the civil rights movement at the time.
Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murder but later admitted the murder in a magazine interview. While both men were named on the same subpoena for kidnapping Donham, authorities did not pursue the case after they were acquitted.
Wright testified during the murder trial that a person whose voice was “softer” than a man’s Till was identified from inside a pickup truck and his kidnappers took him Go. Other evidence in the FBI files indicates that earlier that same night, Donham told her husband at least two other Black men were not the right people.
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