Why didn’t a jury indict Emmett Till’s accuser for kidnapping?

An undated portrait of Emmett Louis Till, a Black 14-year-old Chicago boy, whose weighted down body was found in the Tallahatchie River near the Delta community of Money, Mississippi, Aug. 31, 1955.

An undated portrait of Emmett Louis Till, a Black 14-year-old Chicago boy, whose weighted down body was found in the Tallahatchie River near the Delta community of Money, Mississippi, Aug. 31, 1955. Local residents Roy Bryant, 24, and J.W. Milam, 35, were accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering Till for allegedly whistling at Bryant’s wife. A team searching the basement of a Mississippi courthouse for evidence about the lynching of Till has found the unserved warrant in June 2022 charging a white woman in his kidnapping in 1955, and relatives of the victim want authorities to finally arrest her nearly 70 years later.

Associated Press file photo

In 1955, Carolyn Bryant, who is white, accused 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was Black, of making advances on her.

Three days after the incident, Till was kidnapped from his bed, brutally tortured and eventually murdered for the alleged encounter.

This week, after new evidence came forward, a jury declined to indict her on kidnapping and manslaughter charges due to “insufficient evidence,” per Axios.

Here’s a timeline what happened in the Emmett Till case

Aug. 24, 1955: 14-year-old Emmett Till goes into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, with a group of teenagers.

Carolyn Bryant Donham claims Till whistled at her and tells her husband. Children outside the store later testify to witnessing Till whistle at Bryant Donham on her way out of the store, per CNN.

Aug. 28, 1955: Bryant Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam, kidnap Till from the bed he is sleeping in at his great uncle’s home around 2:30 a.m. Later, the two confess to “brutally beating him, taking him to the edge of the Tallahatchie River, shooting him in the head, fastening a large metal fan used for ginning cotton to his neck with barbed wire, and pushing the body into the river,” per PBS.

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In this file combo photo, John W. Milam, 35, left, his half-brother Roy Bryant, 24 , center, who went on trial in Sumner, Miss., Sept. 18, 1955, and charged with the murder of 14-year-old African American Emmett Till from Chicago, Bryant’s wife Carolyn, is seen right.

Associated Press file photo

Aug. 29, 1955: Milam and Bryant are arrested on kidnapping charges, per CNN.

Aug. 31, 1955: Till’s body is pulled out of the river, and his great uncle Moses Wright identifies him by his ring that has the initials “L.T.” inscribed on it, per PBS.

Sept. 3, 1955: His mother opts for an open casket funeral.

Mamie Till decides to display the brutality Till experienced before his death with an open casket funeral. Thousands of people attend the funeral at Chicago Roberts Temple Church of God, per ABC News.

Sept. 21, 1955: Moses Wright accuses two white men in court.

Till’s great uncle, a Black man, accuses two white men in court of entering his home and kidnapping Till, per PBS.

Sept. 23, 1955: The brothers are acquitted of the murder.

After deliberating only 67 minutes, the all-white, all-male jury renders a not guilty verdict, per PBS.

Nov. 9, 1955: Milam and Bryant go free.

The jury fails to indict the two white men on the kidnapping charges, and the men walk away free, per PBS.

1960s: Till’s murder adds fuel to the fire in the civil rights movement.

Till’s murder and the horrifying photographs of his badly mutilated body are part of a catalyst for the civil rights movement.

His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, dedicated her life to exposing the world to “the cruelty of racism,” per ABC News.

2007-2008: Professor Timothy Tyson interviews Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham.

Tyson also obtained a draft memoir by Bryant Donham that raised questions in Tyson’s mind about the circumstances surrounding the incident at the market and the following kidnapping, torture and murder, per CNN.

Bryant Donham sought Tyson’s help with working on the memoir. This prompted Tyson to interview Bryant Donham to learn more about what happened in Mississippi in 1955.

During the interview, Tyson presses Bryant Donham on differing accounts of what happened at the market. Witnesses testified that Till whistled at her on her way out of the market. But she later testified that he grabbed her and verbally assaulted her.

She responded to the question, saying, “That part’s not true,” per CNN.

2017: Tyson comes forward with claiming the response could be considered as the accuser recanting previous statements, per CNN.

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President Joe Biden signs the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, in Washington.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

Mar. 29, 2022: The Emmett Till Antilynching Act is signed into law.

President Joe Biden signed the landmark law making lynching a federal hate crime, per the Deseret News.

June 2022: A search group finds a 1955 warrant for Bryant Donham for kidnapping.

The Leflore County Clerk certified a warrant for Bryant Donham for her connection in Till’s kidnapping.

“If you went in front of a judge you could say, ‘Once upon a time a judge determined there was probable cause, and much more information is available today,’” University of Mississippi, Ronald J. Rychlak law professor told The Associated Press.

Aug. 10, 2022: A jury declines to indict Bryant Donham on kidnapping and manslaughter charges, per The New York Times.

Sarah Gambles

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