JACKSON, Miss. — A relative of emmet up is suing to try to make a Mississippi sheriff serve a 1955 arrest warrant for a white woman in the kidnapping that led to the brutal lynching of the black teen.
Till’s torture and murder in the Mississippi Delta became a catalyst for the civil rights movement after his mother insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago and Jet magazine published photos of his mutilated body.
Last June, an investigating team at the Leflore County, Mississippi, courthouse found an unserved 1955 arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant, listed in that document as “Mrs. Roy Bryant”.
Till’s cousin, Patricia Sterling, of Jackson, Mississippi, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against current Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks. The lawsuit seeks to compel Banks to serve the arrest warrant against Carolyn Bryant, who has since remarried and goes by the name Carolyn Bryant Donham.
«We are using whatever means are available to us to try to achieve justice on behalf of the Till family,» Sterling’s attorney, Trent Walker, told The Associated Press on Friday.
The AP left a phone message for Banks on Friday, seeking comment. The sheriff did not immediately respond. Court records showed the lawsuit had not been served on him on Friday.
Till, who was 14 years old, had traveled from Chicago to visit relatives in Mississippi in August 1955. Donham accused him of making undue advances at a grocery store in the small community of Money. A cousin of Till’s who was there said Till hissed at the woman, an act that went against the racist social codes of the time in Mississippi.
Evidence indicates that a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to the men who later killed him. The arrest warrant for Donham was made public in 1955, but the Leflore County sheriff at the time told reporters that he did not want to «bother» the woman as he was raising two small children.
Weeks after Till’s body was found in a river, her husband Roy Bryant and half-brother JW Milam were tried for murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. Months later, the men confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine.
Now over 80 years old, Donham has lived in North Carolina and Kentucky in recent years. She has not publicly commented on the calls for her prosecution.
The US Department of Justice announced in December 2021 that it had concluded its latest investigation into the lynching of Till, without pressing charges against anyone.
After investigators found the arrest warrant last June, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office said in July that there had been no new evidence to try to start a criminal case against Donham. In August, a district attorney said a Leflore County grand jury had refused to accuse Donham.
Walker, the attorney for Till’s cousin, said Friday that the South has a history of cases of violence that were not brought to justice until decades later, including the 1963 murder of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers by which was accused the white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith. convicted of murder in 1994.
«Had Carolyn Bryant not falsely told her husband that Emmett Till assaulted her, Emmett would not have been murdered,» Sterling’s lawsuit states. «It was Carolyn Bryant’s lie that angered Roy Bryant and JW Milam, resulting in the mutilation of Emmett Till’s body in (a) unrecognizable condition.»