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Emmett Till’s family finds 70-year-old arrest warrant for Carolyn Donham

The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation found the old warrant in danky old basement nearly 70 years after it was first issued in Mississippi.
Emmett Till's family finds 70-year-old arrest warrant for Carolyn Donham
Emmett Till (Image source: YouTube/ABC News screenshot)

The family of Emmett Till is resuscitating calls for the arrest of the White woman who claimed the Black teen whistled at her which led to his gruesome murder nearly 70 years ago in Mississippi.

The kidnapping, hanging, shooting and overall mutilation of Till back in 1955 was so shocking to Americans that it sparked the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

A copy of the arrest warrant was found by a search team in the old basement of the county courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi at the end of June 2022, CNN reports. The warrant charged J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant and Bryant’s then-wife Carolyn Bryant – who was then identified in the documents as Mrs. Roy Bryant – and is dated Aug. 29, 1955. The warrant was issued by the Leflore County Clerk.

Carolyn Bryant now officially goes by the name Carolyn Bryant Donham.

When the family learned of the original arrest warrant, they were overcome with roiling emotions.

“I cried. We cried. We hugged. Unbelievable. We held each other. Justice has to be served,” said Deborah Watts, one of Emmett’s cousins, during an interview with CNN. “It was overwhelming. We were also in a state of shock,” Watts said.

Another relative, Terri Watts, was also shocked to her core. “I had to look at the warrant several times just to make sure that it was real,” she said.

The problem facing the family is that the U.S. Department of Justice closed the case for perhaps the final time in 2021 citing with sufficient insufficient evidence to indict Donham for any crime. She denies that she ever recanted the story that Till whistled at her and grabbed her, which was first alleged by author Timothy Tyson. Without any physical proof, the DOJ said its hands were tied.

“We thought of things like citizen’s arrest,” Watts told CNN. “If the authorities aren’t going to do this, what can we do?”

“I definitely want to see it through. But it has been a tremendous amount of trauma. I still feel like the weight is on our shoulders. We found the new evidence, and so we just want justice served,” Terri Watts added.

The New York Times was the first to report that the arrest warrant included the statement that the three “did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and without lawful authority, forcibly seize and confine and kidnap” Emmett. 

Neither Donham nor the Leflore County Clerk’s Office in Mississippi has responded to multiple media inquiries. 

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