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Emmett Till's family says authorities are protecting the woman accused in his death

A woman holds a sign in honor of Emmett Till during a protest on June 13, 2020 in Chicago, Ill. Till's family urged authorities to move on a recently discovered unserved warrant from 1955 that charges a white woman for the murder and kidnapping of the teenager.
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A woman holds a sign in honor of Emmett Till during a protest on June 13, 2020 in Chicago, Ill. Till's family urged authorities to move on a recently discovered unserved warrant from 1955 that charges a white woman for the murder and kidnapping of the teenager.

Days after the discovery of an unserved warrant from 1955, advocates and relatives of Emmett Till say they are pressing authorities to arrest and charge the white woman who may be responsible for his murder and kidnapping.

Priscilla Sterling, Till's cousin, urged Mississippi Fourth Circuit Court District Attorney W. Dewayne Richardson during a news conference Thursday to issue the warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham's arrest — nearly 70 years after Till was kidnapped and killed.

Richardson's office would be responsible for handling a potential prosecution if the warrant for Donham's arrest is served.

"I know that over a period of time, 67 years, nothing has been done as far as this warrant," Sterling told reporters. "The family wants Carolyn Bryant to face justice. And by justice, we want her to at least come here and defend herself."

The family feels both the federal government, along with the state of Mississippi, are "protecting [Bryant]" because of authorities telling Richardson to "not move forward on the warrant," Sterling told reporters.

"So what is really going on here in the state of Mississippi?" she added. "The warrant must be issued. The warrant must be executed."

Richardson's office did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. Leflore County, Miss., Sheriff Ricky Banks also did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

However, Banks told The Associated Press last month it was the first time he's known about the warrant.

"I will see if I can get a copy of the warrant and get with the DA and get their opinion on it," Banks told the AP.

If the warrant can still be served, Banks would have to speak with authorities in the state where Donham currently resides, according to AP.

The arrest warrant for Donham, identified as "Mrs. Roy Bryant," was dated Aug. 29, 1955. The warrant itself was discovered last month by searchers inside a file folder that was placed inside a box, Leflore County Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill told the AP.

Till, who was just 14 years old at the time, was abducted, tortured and killed in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at and grabbing Donham, a white woman, while visiting relatives in Mississippi.

Roy Bryant, Donham's then-husband, and J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant's half-brother, were tried for Till's murder but were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury.

Months later, both men admitted in a magazine interview to murdering Till. Nearly 50 years after the crime, Donham told a historian that Till had never put his hands on her.

Donham, who currently resides in North Carolina, has not yet commented publicly on the recent discovery of the arrest warrant.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.