The family of Emmett Till urged authorities Thursday to move on a recently discovered unserved warrant from 1955 that charges a white woman in the Black teenager’s murder and kidnapping.
Till's cousin Priscilla Sterling pressed District Attorney W. Dewayne Richardson, whose office would handle a potential prosecution, to issue the warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham.
Donham — identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” in the warrant unearthed last month in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse — was married to one of two white men tried and acquitted just weeks after Till was abducted from a relative’s home, killed and dumped into a river.
"The family wants Carolyn Bryant to face justice," Sterling told reporters Thursday. "We want her to at least come here and defend herself."
The DA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks was not immediately available for comment, but he told The Associated Press last month that he had never before heard of the warrant.
"I will see if I can get a copy of the warrant and get with the DA and get their opinion on it,” Banks said, according to the AP.
The warrant, dated Aug. 29, 1955, was inside a file folder that had been placed in a box, said Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill, who certified the document as genuine.
Although the two men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were acquitted, they later admitted to the killing in a magazine interview. Last year, a federal investigation that re-examined the murder ended after the Justice Department failed to find proof that Donham had lied.
Till, 14, of Chicago, was visiting family when he entered the store in Money, Mississippi, where Donham, then 21, was working. She accused Till of making improper advances after he whistled at her, an act considered at the time to be in defiance of the South's racist social codes.
Evidence indicates a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to the men who later killed him.
Her arrest warrant was publicized at the time but was never served because the Leflore County sheriff told reporters he did not want to "bother" Dohman because she had two young children to care for.
Donham, who is now in her 80s and was most recently living in North Carolina, has not commented publicly on the discovery of the warrant. She couldn't be reached Thursday at phone numbers listed for her.
Till’s murder shocked the nation and acted as a catalyst for the civil rights movement. His mother insisted on an open casket to show the brutality of his killing, and thousands attended his funeral.
Malik Shabazz, a lawyer who appeared with the Till family Thursday, said that the effort to bring Donham to justice was worth pursuing, despite Donham's age.
"Emmett Till never got to make it to 87," he said. "Emmett Till never had a day where he could go to a nursing or whatever because his life was taken."