More information on the case of Emmet Till has emerged. The Till family is now seeking the arrest of Carolyn Bryant.
The unserved warrant charging Carolyn Bryant Donham has been found by a team who had been searching a Mississippi courthouse basement for evidence regarding the lynching of Emmett Till.
On Wednesday, Elmus Stockstill, the Leflore County Circuit Clerk told The Associated Press:
“A warrant for the arrest of Bryant, identified as ‘Mrs. Roy Bryant’ on the document, had been discovered last week by searchers within a file folder that had been placed in a box.”
Documents had been stored inside boxes and were organized by decade, said Stockstill. There was nothing else to indicate where the original warrant, dated Aug. 29, 1955, might have been.
“They narrowed it down between the ’50s and ’60s and got lucky,” said Stockstill, as he was the one who certified the warrant as genuine.
The search group comprised members from the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and two Till relatives: cousin Deborah Watts, head of the foundation, and daughter, Teri Watts.
Till’s relatives wanted authorities to use the warrant to arrest Donham, who at the time of the slaying was married to one of two white men tried and acquitted just weeks after Till was abducted from a relative’s home, killed, and dumped into a river.
“Serve it and charge her,” Teri Watts told the AP in an interview.
Keith Beauchamp and his documentary film “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” came before a renewed Justice Department probe ending in 2007 without charges being pressed. Beauchamp was part of the search and said there was enough new evidence to prosecute Donham.
The arrest warrant against Donham was publicized at the time. However, the sheriff informed reporters he did not want to “bother” the woman since she had two young children to care for.
Now going by Donham, in her 80s and living in North Carolina, she has not made any public comments on calls for her prosecution. Teri Watts said the Till family believes the warrant accusing Donham of kidnapping amounts to new evidence.
“This is what the state of Mississippi needs to go ahead,” said Watts.
District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, whose office prosecutes cases, did not comment. Richardson instead cited a December report about the Till case from the Justice Department, which said no prosecution was possible.
When the Associated Press contacted Leflore County County Sheriff Ricky Banks on Wednesday, he said, “This is the first time I’ve known about a warrant.”
Banks, who was only seven years old when Till was murdered, stated:
“Nothing was said about a warrant when a former district attorney investigated the case nearly six years ago.
“I will see if I can get a copy of the warrant and get with the DA and get their opinion on it.”
Banks also noted if the warrant could still be served, he would have to talk to law enforcement officers in the state where Donham resides. Arrest warrants risk going stale because of the passage of time and changing circumstances.
“An arrest warrant in 1955 almost didn’t pass muster before a court, even if a sheriff agreed to serve it,” said Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor at the University of Mississippi.
“If combined with any new evidence, the original arrest warrant ‘absolutely’ could be an important stepping stone toward establishing probable cause for a new prosecution,” said Rychlak.
“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,” Rychlak added.
Emmett Till Relatives Face Slim Odds In Pursuit of Justice Against Accuser, Carolyn Bryant
Relatives of Emmett Till and activists have been advocating another possible way toward accountability for Carolyn Bryant. However, roadblocks have cropped up in the way of this path.
The Till family wanted authorities to launch a kidnapping prosecution against Bryant, who played a part in Emmett’s brutal murder.
Carolyn Bryant Donham was named 67 years ago in a warrant that accused her of Till’s abduction before Till’s body was found.
However, she was never arrested or brought to trial. The authorities at the time said the woman had two young children, and they did not want to bother her.