Emmett Till “Victim” Recants 62 Years Later

In a book set to be published next week, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Duke University Professor Timothy B. Dyson reveals that the woman who claimed that 14 year old Emmett Till had grabbed her and made sexually crude statements to her has recanted in an interview with Dyson.  Carolyn Bryant Donham’s claims led to the brutal torture and murder of Emmett Till by two white men who were later acquitted by an all white jury.

Emmett lived in Chicago, but was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he went into Roy and Carolyn Bryant’s store.  Carolyn, who was 21 at the time, told her husband and others that Emmett had whistled at her, grabbed her, and made suggestive comments to her.  Four days later, Emmett was kidnapped from his relatives home, beaten, tortured, shot in the head, and thrown into a river with a cotton gin fan tied to him to weigh his body down.

After the murder, Carolyn Bryant hid from law enforcement to avoid giving a statement.  She claims that her husband was physically abusive and she was coerced into lying about Emmett.  Roy Bryant and another white man were tried for Emmett’s murder and both were acquitted.  Carolyn Bryant was never charged for her role in the crime.  At trial, Emmett’s uncle identified the defendants as the men who had taken Emmett.  Defense attorneys argued that the prosecutor had never proven that the body was Emmett Till’s and therefore the defendants could not be found guilty – with help from the County Sheriff, who had stated publicly he was not sure the body was Emmett Till’s.  In closing arguments, the defense told the jurors that “every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men,” and that the jurors’ “forefathers would turn over in their graves if these boys were convicted on such evidence as this.”  Both defendants later confessed to the murder in an interview with Look magazine.

We have endured a long and bloody struggle to end racism and bring equality to our justice system.  The struggle is not only not over, but in some areas we are losing ground and racists nationwide have been empowered by recent and current political events.  Criminal defense is more than taking fees and representing clients in court – attorneys have an obligation and calling to pursue justice and to fight for equality for all people in America, especially for those who may be targeted because they look or act differently.  Racism is deeply embedded in our nation’s culture and at all levels of the criminal justice system, and it cannot be denied today any more than it could 62 years ago.

Walter Scott

Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Laquan McDonald

Philando Castile

Alton Sterling

Freddie Gray

Terence Crutcher

Trayvon Martin

Tamir Rice

A full account of the Emmett Till story online. 

One Response to “Emmett Till “Victim” Recants 62 Years Later

  • What would any ethical person consider ‘justice’ in this case?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *