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Emmett Till’s Family Demands Arrest Warrant Served In 1955 Lynching In New Lawsuit

“The pain and suffering of the Till family never goes away,” Priscilla Sterling, Emmett Till’s cousin, said in a statement on the heels of the newly filed federal civil lawsuit.

By Dorian Geiger

Emmett Till’s family has filed a federal lawsuit demanding authorities serve a decades-old arrest warrant on a Mississippi woman they say is partially responsible for the Black teenager’s lynching nearly seven decades ago.

The civil lawsuit, which was filed in Mississippi federal court on Feb. 7 by Till’s cousin, Priscilla Sterling, seeks to compel Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks to arrest Carolyn Bryant Donham for her alleged role in Till’s 1955 kidnapping and fatal shooting

The lawsuit accuses Banks of being “racially selective” in his “enforcement of the law” for failing to arrest Donham after an unserved arrest warrant ordering her arrest was found in a Mississippi courthouse last year. 

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In 1955, Till’s mutilated body, weighted down by a cotton gin fan, was extracted from a river days after Donham had allegedly accused the Black teenager of propositioning her at a grocery she operated with her husband.

"It was Carolyn Bryant’s lie that sent Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam into a rage, which resulted in the mutilation of Emmett Till’s body into a[n] unrecognizable condition," the lawsuit, which Oxygen.com obtained, alleged.

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Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, who had armed themselves and abducted the 14-year-old Till from a relative’s home, were ultimately acquitted in Till’s murder by an all-white jury in 1955. They confessed to the murder a year later in a magazine interview. Both have since died.

“Carolyn Bryant’s whereabouts are known," the lawsuit added. "This action is being brought in order to compel the Lelfore County Sheriff to serve the warrant."

Oxygen.com has reached out to the Leflore County Sheriff’s Office for further comment.

“The pain and suffering of the Till family never goes away, particularly because no one has ever been held accountable for the brutal murder of my cousin Emmett Till,” Sterling said in a statement following the filing of the civil lawsuit, per a Law & Crime report

Sterling thanked her lawyers for helping her bring the case forward.

“[W]e shall not rest until Carolyn Bryant is brought to complete justice in Mississippi,” Sterling added. “I want to thank Black Lawyers for Justice because the fight to have Carolyn Bryant arrested and brought to trial continues because of attorney Malik Shabazz’s efforts.”

Notably, in 2008, Donham retracted her accusation that Till had harassed her, according to Axios, however, she later disputed the admission, federal investigators said.

The Department of Justice closed its renewed investigation into Till’s murder in 2021 without bringing any new charges in the case. Last year, however, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which made lynchings a federal hate crime, was passed by Congress and later signed into law by President Biden.

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