WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department told relatives of Emmett Till on Monday that it is ending its 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.
A person familiar with the matter informed The Associated Press about the closure of the investigation and the meeting with Till’s family. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The killing galvanized the civil rights movement after Till’s mother insisted on an open casket, and Jet magazine published photos of his brutalized body.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were tried on murder charges about a month after Till was killed, an an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. Months later, they confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine.
The Justice Department in 2004 opened an investigation of Till’s killing after it received inquiries about whether charges could be brought against anyone still living. The department said the statute of limitations had run out on any potential federal crime, but the FBI worked with state investigators to determine if state charges could be brought. In February 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict anyone, and the Justice Department announced it was closing the case.
The department reopened an investigation after a 2017 book quoted a key figure, Carolyn Bryant Donham, as saying she lied when she claimed that 14-year-old Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances while she was working in a store in the small community of Money. Donham was married to Roy Bryant in 1955.
Bryant and Milam were not brought to trial again, and they have died. Donham is in her 80s and has been living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Relatives have publicly denied that she recanted her allegations about Till.