Activists have expressed their disappointment today (December 6) after the U.S. Justice Department stated that it was closing its investigation into the 1955 slaughter of 14-year-old Emmett Till. The young teen was accused of whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in Mississippi all those years ago, and in turn, her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, lynched Till.

Emmett Till was mutilated, tortured, and shot. When his remains were finally recovered, they were beyond recognition. In 2017, it was widely reported that Carolyn Bryant admitted she lied about the encounter with the teen when an author quoted her in a book.

Emmett Till
Scott Olson / Staff / Getty Images

However, relatives of Carolyn deny that she recanted her story but there was a push for the case to be reopened. Back in 1955, an all-white jury found Bryant and Milam not guilty of murdering Till, and due to double jeopardy, the pair later admitted they did indeed kill him. The Department of Justice has closed its current case and there will not be any new charges filed. Carolyn Bryant is still alive and activists believed that she should have her day in court, but an investigation showed that would not happen.

“Today is a day we will never forget,” Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker, said. “For sixty-six years we have suffered pain. … I suffered tremendously.”

J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant, Emmett Till
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images – J.W. Milam, his wife, Carolyn Bryant, Roy Bryant (left to right)

Donham told the FBI that she had never recanted her accusations and there is “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI,” the Justice Department said in a news release Monday. Officials also said that Timothy B. Tyson, the author of 2017′s “The Blood of Emmett Till” was unable to produce any recordings or transcripts in which Donham allegedly admitted to lying about her encounter with the teen.

“In closing this matter without prosecution, the government does not take the position that the state court testimony the woman gave in 1955 was truthful or accurate,” the news release said. “There remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events, which is contradicted by others who were with Till at the time, including the account of a living witness.”

Bryant and Milam have long passed. An investigation in the early 2000s also proved to be futile for the loved ones of Till who continue to seek justice. Three Black witnesses who testified against Bryant and Milam at the initial 1955 trial were relocated for their safety. 

J.W. Milam, roy Bryant
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

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