1955 kidnapping warrant found in Mississippi

An arrest warrant for kidnapping tied to the killing of Emmett Till was discovered last week in Mississippi.

The warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham — listed at the time as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” — was issued in 1955 but never served.

Donham was the 21-year-old white woman who said Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, harassed her in her country store in Money, Miss., in August 1955. Her husband and his brother brutally murdered Till, got acquitted in court and then admitted to the crime in a magazine interview.

In addition to the murder charges against Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the two men and Carolyn Bryant were investigated for kidnapping. However, cops did not pursue the case. They didn’t want to “bother” Carolyn Bryant because she had two young children to care for.

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam have both died. Carolyn Bryant, however, still reportedly lives in North Carolina.

“Serve it and charge her,” said Terri Watts, daughter of Till’s cousin Deborah Watts, when she learned of the arrest warrant.

The warrant’s existence was only speculation earlier this year, because it was mentioned in FBI records but lost to time in the Leflore County courthouse.

A team of people dedicated to honoring Till’s memory searched the courthouse basement and found the long-lost warrant in a file folder stuffed in a box. It was dated Aug. 29, 1955.

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Experts told the Associated Press they were unsure the decades-old warrant would lead to new prosecution of Donham. She has already escaped a renewed investigation at least once. Last year, the Justice Department closed a federal investigation involving claims that Donham lied on the stand at her husband’s trial.

Local district attorney Dewayne Richardson did not comment on the warrant discovery and cited that December pronouncement by the feds. The county sheriff said he heard about the warrant for the first time on Wednesday.

University of Mississippi law professor Ronald J. Rychlak provided the most supportive response.

“If you went in front of a judge you could say, ‘Once upon a time a judge determined there was probable cause, and much more information is available today,’” he told the AP. But even he said a court would probably ignore a document from 1955.

Donham has never been prosecuted in the case before, so she is not protected by double jeopardy like Bryant and Milam were after they were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury and later spoke about the killing to Look magazine.

“When a n—– gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’,” Milam told Look. “I’m likely to kill him.”

With News Wire Services

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