'You cannot ignore this.' Emmett Till family renews push for decades-old arrest warrant to be served

6 July 2022

Calls for justice are growing louder in the Emmett Till murder case from more than 60 years ago in Mississippi.

Till’s cousin said she and her family won’t rest until justice is served.

“You see all the things that were done to his body, and you don’t think that affects not only our family, but people?” Till’s cousin Priscilla Sterling said.

Sterling was filled with emotion and tears as she talked about how the 14-year-old was beaten and killed in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, after Carolyn Bryant Donham accused him of whistling at her.

Days after the accusation, Till was abducted from his bed, tortured, shot and a 75-pound fan from a cotton gin was tied around his neck prior to being tossed into the Tallahatchie River. Till was unrecognizable with a crushed skull and a disfigured face when his body was found.

Emmett Till's family seeks arrest after 1955 warrant found for white woman who accused him before deadly lynching

Donham’s husband at the time, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were arrested and later acquitted in the case.

Now, 67 years later, an unserved arrest warrant for Donham was recently found in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood.

“I was actually called to come and meet them that morning, and I had to work — teacher doing summer program. They got here, my cousin Debra Watts, her daughter and son-in law got here that morning. It took them an hour and a half to find the warrant,” said Sterling.

The Associated Press reports the arrest warrant against Donham was publicized at the time, but the Leflore County sheriff said he did not want to “bother” the woman since she had two young children to care for.

Till’s cousin said she believes the discovery of the warrant serves as new evidence in this case.

Sterling said she wants the district attorney for the Fourth Circuit District Court of Mississippi, Dewayne Richardson, to serve the warrant because they want Donham, who is now in her 80s, arrested.

‘He Had a Life Before Death’: Remembering Emmett Till for the Child He Was

Donham reportedly is living at a Raleigh nursing home facility.

The family is also calling on the Justice Department to reopen the case. Last year, the department officially closed the investigation into Till’s murder.

“You cannot ignore this. That is the reason why the warrant needs to be served, and it will help create change,” said Sterling. “If this is what’s needed to do for us to change our mindset, our behaviors and attitudes in the society, then this will do it. This will do it. Execute the warrant.

“At least bring her to trial.”

Richardson, whose office would prosecute the case, decline to comment on the warrant but cited a December report from the Justice Department, which said no prosecution was possible.

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