The federal government has reopened its investigation of Emmett Till’s lynching.
According to The Associated Press, the Department of Justice announced the move in March after it received “new information” regarding the case. It isn’t clear what the new information is, but this decision came after the publication of Timothy Tyson's The Blood of Emmett Till.
The book contains quotes from Carolyn Bryant Dunham, the woman whose accusations led to Till’s death. In a 2008 interview, Dunham admitted she lied when she claimed Till had grabbed her and made sexual advances.
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” the book quotes her as saying.
She was singing a different tune in 1955.
The 14-year-old was kidnapped from his relatives’ home in Money, Mississippi, beaten, shot and thrown in the Tallahatchie River after Dunham accused him of sexually harassing her. A cotton gin fan was attached to his body with barbed wire to weigh him down.
Dunham’s former husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were charged with Till’s death a month after local authorities pulled his mutilated body from the river. Dunham testified at Milam and Bryant’s trial. Without the jury present, she told the court Till squeezed her hand when she handed him two cents' worth of bubble gum, and “He said, ‘How about a date, baby?’”
Dunham said Till later “caught me at the cash register” and grabbed her by the waist.
“He said, ’What’s the matter baby, can’t you take it?’” she told the court. Dunham said Till also told her, "You needn't be afraid o' me, baby. I been with white girls before."
The testimony was deemed inadmissible, and an all-white jury later acquited the men. They later admitted to the killing in a magazine interview but could not be retried due to double jeopardy. They’re both dead. Dunham is still alive and living in Raleigh, North Carolina. When an AP reporter showed up to her doorstep, a man answered the door and told them “we don’t want to talk to you.”
The Justice Department also declined to speak on the case.
This is the first development in the case since 2007, reports The Washington Post. In 2004, the Justice Department was asked to consider trying others who might have been involved in the slaying but declined because the statute of limitations was up. The case was taken to Mississippi’s 4th Judicial District in 2007, but a grand jury refused to recommend new charges.
Deborah Watts, Till’s cousin and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, was unaware of the reopening but said it's "wonderful," the AP reported.
“None of us wants to do anything that jeopardizes any investigation or impedes, but we are also very interested in justice being done,” she said.
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