Carolyn Bryant is the white woman whose accusation led to the lynching death of Black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi almost seven decades ago. Now, a grand jury in Mississippi has declined to indict her.
Today, a prosecutor said an arrest warrant went unserved, along with other revelations that came to light in her unpublished memoir.
A news release from Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson announced the grand jury’s decision August 9, 2022. It said the grand jury considered evidence and testimony regarding Carolyn Bryant’s involvement in the kidnapping and death of Till, and found insufficient evidence to indict her on kidnapping and manslaughter charges. The grand jury heard more than seven hours of testimony presented in the case of Carolyn Bryant Donham.
Here’s what you need to know:
Bryant Has Cancer & Is Receiving Hospice Care in Kentucky, Where She Lives With Her Son
The outlet reported her home is in an apartment community and she is on oxygen. The outlet reported that she declined to speak to the outlet through her son.
“Here she is just an anonymous old lady, living out her final days with her son in the apparent tranquility of a southern backwater town. She was last seen in 2004 when she was known to be living in Raleigh, North Carolina,” the Daily Mail wrote. “But to many, this woman is on a par with a Nazi war criminal and the decades have done nothing to dim the horror of what passed or the anger and grief that it spawned.”
Donham accused Till of whistling at her and grabbing her in 1955, which was a violation of racist societal codes at the time. Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was visiting family members in the Mississippi Delta when he was kidnapped, murdered and tossed in a river. Bryant was a 21-year-old mother of two. Her then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were acquitted of murder charges, but eventually confessed in an interview with a magazine. Roy Bryant died in 1994.
Donham wrote in an unpublished memoir shared with the Associated Press that she did not know what would happen to Till and declined to identify him when he was brought to her after being dragged from his family home.
An Unserved Warrant for ‘Mrs. Roy Bryant’ Spurred the Grand Jury Investigation
After an unserved warrant issued for a “Mrs. Roy Bryant” was discovered, Till’s family called on Bryant to face justice nearly 70 years after the killing.
“The family wants Carolyn Bryant to face justice,” Till’s cousin, Patricia Sterling told reporters in a July 2022 press conference. “We want her to at least come here and defend herself.”
But the grand jury found the evidence was insufficient to press charges against Bryant Donham, who is in her late 80s now.
The original unserved arrest warrant for Donham was found in July in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi, according to Mississippi Today. Officials told the FBI about the discovery and local and federal partners discussed how to proceed.
“Although prosecutors do not arrest people nor do prosecutors serve arrest warrants, the existence of the 1955 warrant along with additional information confirmed the decision to present this matter to the next regularly scheduled Leflore County Grand Jury,” Richardson said in a statement at the time.
After the grand jury declined to indict Bryant, he offered “thoughts and prayers” to the family.
“The murder of Emmett Till remains an unforgettable tragedy in this country and the thoughts and prayers of this nation continue to be with the family of Emmett Till,” Richardson said in the news release.