The Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering reopening the Emmett Till case, according to the slain teen’s family members.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions told her “no one gets a pass,” adding that he is supporting legislation which will allow the DOJ to investigate civil rights cold cases occurring before 1980.
Sixty years ago, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam beat and shot Till, 14, in the head after Bryant’s wife, Carolyn Bryant, accused the child of touching her and whistling at her in a Mississippi store.
It took an all-white jury an hour to acquit the pair for the August 1955 murder.
Till’s disfigured body was found three days later tied to a cotton gin floating in the Tallahatchie River. Bryant and Milam, who have since died, later admitted to battering the African-American teen before discarding his body in the river.
The possible reopening of this case comes months after a book disclosed Carolyn supposedly admitted she lied about the story that led to Till’s violent murder. Justice officials are getting involved since Carolyn claimed Till had touched her to the FBI a decade ago, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
Crime Online reported in late January that Carolyn, now 82, revealed in Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till she felt “tender sorrow” for Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, after losing one of her own sons.
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Tyson recalled Carolyn saying.
Till-Mobley, who died in 2003, had an open-casket funeral for her son so that everyone knew what Milam and Roy did to him. Allowing Jet magazine into the ceremony, images of the child’s bloated, mutilated corpse are believed to have sparked the American civil rights movement.
“The Department is currently assessing whether the newly revealed statement could warrant additional investigation,” Acting Assistant Attorney General T.E. Wheeler II wrote US Rep. Bennie Thompson in a letter.
NBC News noted that Till’s case was reexamined in 2004 but a Mississippi grand jury didn’t indict because the statute of limitations had passed.
Similarly, Wheeler highlighted several obstacles which come with taking on a half-century-old case:
“We caution, however, that even with our best efforts, investigations into historic cases are exceptionally difficult, and there may be insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers to bringing federal charges against any remaining living persons.”
Featured Image: Associated Press. J.W. Milam, left, and Roy Bryant, right, sit with their wives in the courtroom in Sumner, MO on September 23, 1955 before the start of the fifth day of their murder trial.