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Till case 'closed' says Dept. of Justice
DOJ won't pursue perjury charges against Donham despite her recant in Tyson's book.
AP — The US Justice Department told relatives of Emmett Till on Monday that it is ending its latest investigation into the 1955 lynching of the Black teenager from Chicago who was abducted, tortured, and killed after witnesses said he whistled at a white woman in Mississippi.
Carolyn Bryant Donham, the central witness in the Emmett Till murder trial, had claimed that Till had grabbed her and made sexually suggestive remarks towards her. Donham's concocted story drove her husband Roy Bryant and another man to abduct and then murder Till, dumping his mutilated body in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury but they later admitted to the crime. Both men are dead now.
The Justice Department reopened the investigation after a book published in 2017, “The Blood of Emmett Till” by historian and civil rights activist Timothy Tyson, quoted Donham recanting her testimony, saying that the earlier stories she told were “not true.” Donham's recantation was done in a stunning interview with Tyson, a Duke University professor — the only interview she has given to a historian or journalist since shortly after the lynching.
Tyson’s book shined a new light on the case and peeled open the scab on Mississippi’s bloody history of Jim Crow and on America’s continuing affinity with lynch-law justice from Emmett Till to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. “Affronted white supremacy drove every blow.”
But now, the Justice Department is claiming that Tyson’s interview with Donham was not enough evidence to pursue charges in the case. Citing the statute of limitations and Donham’s denial that she had ever changed her story, the DOJ said it could not move forward with prosecuting her for perjury.
From the New York Times:
In a statement on Monday, the Justice Department said Mr. Tyson, despite saying he had recorded two interviews with Ms. Donham, provided just one recording to the F.B.I. that did not contain a recantation.
Mr. Tyson has said that although he did not record Ms. Donham’s recantation, he took detailed notes.
“Carolyn started spilling the beans before I got the recorder going. I documented her words carefully,” Mr. Tyson said in an email on Monday, adding, “My reporting is rock solid.”
Knowing Tim, as I do, as well as his history of meticulous scholarly research and reporting, I concur.
At a news conference in Chicago on Monday afternoon, Emmett’s family members said they were disappointed by the result of the investigation but were not surprised.
And so it goes.