Family Of Lynched Boy Emmett Till Demand Arrest Of White Woman 70 Years Later
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The family of Emmett Till are demanding that a white woman accused of kidnapping the teenager be taken into custody after they discovered a warrant for her arrest.
Emmett was just 14 years old when he was kidnapped and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 over accusations he had offended a white woman in her family's shop.
More than six decades later a search team, including members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and two of Till's relatives, is now scouring the basement of a Mississippi courthouse to find evidence about the case, and last week they discovered the warrant placed inside a file folder in a box.
The document is dated 29 August, 1955, Leflore county circuit clerk Elmus Stockstill told the Associated Press, and calls for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, identified on the warrant as 'Mrs. Roy Bryant'. At the time of Emmett's killing, Donham was married to one of two men tried and acquitted for his murder, which took place after she accused Emmett of making improper advances towards her.
Evidence in the case suggests a woman, possibly Donham, identified Emmett to the men who later killed him. The warrant for her arrest was made public at the time, but the Leflore County sheriff said he did not want to 'bother' Donham as she had two young children.
Donham is now in her 80s, but Teri Watts, daughter of Emmett's cousin Deborah Watts, told AP authorities should 'serve [the warrant] and charge her'.
Teri believes the warrant, which accuses Donham of kidnapping, amounts to new evidence, arguing: "This is what the state of Mississippi needs to go ahead."
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said he hadn't previously heard about the warrant, but said he would try to get a copy of it and get the District Attorney's opinion on the matter.
If the warrant could still be served, Banks said he would have to talk to law enforcement officers in the state where Donham currently lives.
Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor at the University of Mississippi, said warrants can 'go stale' due to changing circumstances over time, NPR reports, but said new evidence could work with the original warrant to create a stepping stone towards establishing probable cause for a new prosecution.
He explained: "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'."
District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, whose office could prosecute, has not provided a comment on the case but pointed to a report from the Justice Department in December which said no prosecution was possible.
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