Grand Jury Refuses To Indict Woman Whose False Claims Led To Lynching Of Emmett Till

Emmett Till

Carolyn Bryant Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam abducted and brutally murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.

Carolyn Bryant Donham won’t face charges for her role in the death of Emmett Till.

According to the Associated Press, a Mississippi grand jury chose to not indict the white woman whose accusations caused Emmett Till to be lynched in 1955. The grand jury determined there was insufficient evidence to indict the 87-year-old woman on kidnapping and manslaughter charges.

Earlier this year, members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and two of his relatives found an unserved warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham’s arrest in a Mississippi courthouse. The discovery renewed interest in pursuing charges against her for Emmett Till’s death.

Emmett Till’s cousin Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr. expressed disappointment after the grand jury declined to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham. The reverend is the last living witness to his cousin’s 1955 abduction.

“The prosecutor tried his best, and we appreciate his efforts, but he alone cannot undo hundreds of years of anti-Black systems that guaranteed those who killed Emmett Till would go unpunished, to this day,” he said. “The fact remains that the people who abducted, tortured, and murdered Emmett did so in plain sight, and our American justice system was and continues to be set up in such a way that they could not be brought to justice for their heinous crimes.”

Emmett Till’s killers, Carolyn Bryant Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, died many years ago. The two white men were acquitted of murder by an all-white jury in 1955. They later confessed to the abduction and gruesome murder of the 14-year-old Black boy in an interview with Look magazine.

Carolyn Bryant Donham never faced any charges for setting off the lynching of Emmett Till. He allegedly whistled at her, but she accused him of grabbing and threatening her. Decades later, she admitted “that part is not true” in an interview with historian Timothy B. Tyson.