The family of Emmett Till is demanding the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who was accused of kidnapping the Black teen before he was tortured and lynched.
According to Associated Press, members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation are urging authorities to charge Donham in connection to Till’s 1955 murder. The calls were reignited this week, after the organization discovered an unserved arrest warrant for the woman, who claimed a 14-year-old Till had grabbed and propositioned her at a Mississippi grocery store. One of Till’s cousins, who was reportedly with Till at the time, said the Chicago teen simply whistled at Donham, which was considered a violation of the region’s racist societal codes.
Days after the alleged encounter, Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam kidnapped and killed the teen before dumping his body Tallahatchie River. The two men were tried and ultimately acquitted by an all-male, all-white jury. Donham, however, was never prosecuted.
The unearthed arrest warrant—dated Aug. 29, 1955—charges Donham with Till’s kidnapping. The foundation said they found the document in a Mississippi courthouse basement and had it certified by a local county clerk. Though the warrant was reportedly publicized in 1955, the Leflore County sheriff reportedly told the public he didn’t want to keep Donham from fulfilling her mother duties.
“Serve it and charge her,” said Till’s second cousin Teri Watts. “This is what the state of Mississippi needs to go ahead.”
Though the arrest warrant is nearly 70 years old, Ronald J. Rychlak—a law professor at the University of Mississippi—told the AP there’s still a chance that it could lead to Donham’s prosecution.
“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 explained.
Donham is now in her 80s and most recently resided in North Carolina.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks, who was 7 when Till was murdered, said he will review the warrant and consult with the district attorney.
“This is the first time I’ve known about a warrant.” Banks told the AP, adding the warrant can possibly still be served. “I will see if I can get a copy of the warrant and get with the DA and get their opinion on it.”