Relative of Emmett Till sues Carolyn Bryant Donham

A lawsuit was filed in Mississippi by a cousin of Emmett Till demanding the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose deception led to the murder of the 14-year-old.

An unserved warrant accusing Donham of kidnapping Till in 1955 was discovered in the courtroom basement of a Mississippi city in June 2022.  Patricia Sterling, Till’s cousin, reportedly filed a federal complaint on Feb. 7, asking Leflore County Sheriff’s Dept. to deliver that arrest warrant from 1955 to Donham. 

Aug. 29, 1955, a warrant was located in a box and was confirmed to be authentic. According to the AP, there have been allegations of a warrant in 1955, but the sheriff of Leflore County at the time reportedly told newsmen he did not want to “bother” Donham because she had two small children.

Trent Walker, the lawyer for Sterling, said, “We are using the tools at our disposal to attempt to seek justice on behalf of the Till family.”

Donham, who was 21 years old at the time, accused Till of whistling at her in a store in Aug. 1955 (he reportedly had a lisp and was unable to whistle). The Chicago-based adolescent was in Mississippi for the summer to spend time with his family. Following Donham’s claim, her then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam kidnapped, tortured, and killed Till. The body was weighed down and thrown into the Tallahatchie River.

An all-white jury exonerated Bryant and Milam after they were prosecuted for murder. In an interview with “Look” magazine many months later, the two admitted to the crime while shielded from double jeopardy.

Following the publication of Timothy Tyson’s book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” which contended Donham had reneged on her evidence against Till, an inquiry into Till’s murder was revived in 2018. In contrast, Donham asserted that she had changed her story during a meeting with the FBI, who came to the conclusion that there was insufficient proof that she had lied to them. The FBI concluded its inquiry.

Following the discovery of the unfulfilled warrant in July 2022, Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch declared there were no plans to charge Donham. According to a statement from Fitch’s office, “There is no fresh evidence to open the investigation back up.”

The Daily Mail reported in Aug. 2022 that Carolyn Bryant Donham is 88 years old and resides in Kentucky. Thomas Bryant, her 71-year-old son, was asked by a Daily Mail reporter if she would comment on Till. He allegedly shrugged his shoulders in denial as his mother watched from behind him.