A team searches the basement of a Mississippi courthouse for clues about the execution of black teenager Emmett Till.A white woman is accused of kidnapping him in 1955, and Till’s relatives who started the search want authorities to finally arrest her nearly 70 years later.
Elmus Stockstill, clerk for Leflor County Circuit, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant Dunham — identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” in the document — was discovered last week inside a file folder that had been placed in a box. .
The documents were kept inside the boxes by contract, he said, but there was nothing else to indicate where the August 29, 1955 note might have been.
“They trimmed it between the 1950s and 1960s and got lucky,” said Stockstill, who certified the memo as authentic.
The research was initiated by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and included two members of the Till family: Cousin Deborah Watts, President of the Foundation; and her daughter, Terry Watts. They want the authorities to use the warrant to arrest Dunham, who at the time of the murder was married to one of two white men who were tried and acquitted just weeks after Till was kidnapped from a relative’s home, murdered and dumped in the river.
“He provided and shipped it,” Terry Watts told The Associated Press in an interview.
Dunham began the case in August 1955 by accusing 14-year-old Till of making improper advances at a family store in Money, Mississippi. Till’s cousin who was there said that Till whistled to the woman, who soared against the racist social norms of Mississippi of the era.
Evidence suggests that a woman, possibly Dunham, was identified until the men who later killed him. The arrest warrant against Dunham was announced at the time, but the Mayor of Leflower County told reporters he did not want to “harass” the woman because she had two young children to look after.
Now in her 80s and recently living in North Carolina, Dunham has not commented publicly on calls to sue her. But Terry Watts said the Till family believes the arrest warrant accusing Dunham of kidnapping amounts to new evidence.
“This is what the state of Mississippi needs to move forward,” she said.
District Attorney DeWane Richardson, whose office will be filing a case, declined to comment on the memo but noted aOn the case of Till from the Department of Justice, which said it could not be prosecuted.
Called by the Associated Press on Wednesday, Leflower County Mayor Ricky Banks said, “This is the first time I’ve known of an order.”
“Nothing was said of a warrant” when the former attorney general investigated the case five or six years ago, said Banks, who was 7 when Till was killed.
“I’ll see if I can get a copy of the memo and get the DA and get their opinion on it,” Banks said. Banks said that if the warrant can still be issued, he will have to speak to law enforcement officials in the state where Dunham resides.
Ronald J. said: Richlac, professor of law at the University of Mississippi.
But he said that along with any new evidence, the original arrest warrant “absolutely” could be an important stepping stone toward establishing probable cause to start a new trial.
“If you appear before a judge, you can say: ‘Once upon a time the judge decided there was a probable cause, and there is a lot of information available today,'” Richlack said.
Till, who was from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he entered the store where Dunham, then 21, was working on August 24, 1955. The woman. Dunham testified in court that Till grabbed her and made a lewd comment.
Two nights later, Dunham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, showed up armed at the Leflor County cottage for Till’s older uncle, Moss Wright, in search of the young man. Till’s monstrous body, laden with a fan, was retrieved from a river days later in another county. His mother’s decision to open the casket so mourners in Chicago could see what had happened helped spur the civil rights movement at the time.
Bryant and Milam were acquitted of the murder, but later confessed to the murder in a magazine interview. While the two men’s names were mentioned in the same memo that accused Dunham of the kidnapping, the authorities did not follow up on the case after their acquittal.
During the murder trial, Wright testified that someone had a voice “lighter” than the man who had even been identified from inside a pickup truck and that the kidnappers had taken him from the family home. Other evidence in FBI files indicates that earlier that same night, Dunham told her husband that at least two other black men were not the right person.