‘New Information’ Leads DOJ to Reopen Emmett Till Murder Case

Justice Dept reopens investigation into Emmett Till’s lynching murder

A year after a book on the brutal slaying of black teen Emmett Till revealed that a key figure in the case acknowledged lying, the federal government has reopened its investigation of the 1955 crime that helped build momentum for the civil rights movement. The act paves the way for the department to "expeditiously investigate" unsolved pre-1980 civil rights murders. It did not elaborate. Till's disfigured body was found tied to a weight in the river.

The 2017 book "The Blood of Emmett Till" by Timothy B. Tyson quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as saying during a 2008 interview that she wasn't truthful when she testified that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a MS store in 1955.

Though the Justice Department has reopened its investigation-possibly due to Donham's comments to Tyson-it is not yet known if prosecutors will bring a new case against anyone connected to the murder. Two white men - Donham's then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam - were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of Till, who had been staying with relatives in northern MS at the time.

Emmett's savage murder in 1955 jolted a nation, spurring it to action on civil rights. Outside of the presence of a jury, she testified that Till had grabbed her around the waist and said, "How about a date, baby?" An all-white jury freed her husband and the other man even without it. Testimony indicated a woman might have been in a auto with Bryant and Milam when they abducted Till, but no one else was ever charged.

When they arrived at the river's bank, Bryant and Milam reportedly told Emmett to disrobe, and they purportedly began to beat him profusely and gouged out one of Emmett's eyes. "Chicago boy, ' I said, "I'm exhausted of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble". He was unflappable; he wouldn't even "holler" when they pistol-whipped him - and that just couldn't stand, Milam said, according to a copy of the article archived by PBS. With jurors out of the courtroom, she said a "nigger man" she didn't know took her by the arm. I'm as good as you are. "My grandmother was a white woman".

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"Milam: 'You still "had" white women?'" The youth turned to catch that big, expanding bullet at his right ear. Against advice, she demanded that his funeral be open casket. Thousands witnessed his injuries over a four-day period, and the stories and photos about his murder shook the nation. His mother had forbidden the mortician from any attempts to touch up his injuries.

The Duke University scholar says he shared materials including recordings of 2008 interviews with a white woman, Carolyn Donham, acknowledging that she wasn't truthful when she testified that Till made sexual advances at a MS store in 1955.

"That part's not true", she told Tyson, referring to her claims that Till had grabbed her and made verbal advances, as Sheila Weller reports for Vanity Fair.

"She was glad things had changed (and she) thought the old system of white supremacy was wrong, though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time", Tyson told the magazine.

Milam died in 1980 at the age of 61, and Bryant died in 1994 at the age of 63. Roy Bryant died in 1994.

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