DOJ Reopens Investigation of Emmett Till Killing

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The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, the black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi helped inspire the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago, the Associated Press reports. The Justice Department told Congress in a report in March it is reinvestigating Till’s slaying in Money, Ms., in 1955 after receiving “new information.” The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead; a state grand jury didn’t file any new charges. A book published last year, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” says a key figure in the case acknowledged lying about events preceding the slaying of the 14-year-old youth from Chicago. The book, by Timothy Tyson, quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as acknowledging during a 2008 interview that she wasn’t truthful when she testified that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.

Two white men — Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam — were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of Till, who had been staying with relatives in northern Mississippi at the time. The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview, but weren’t retried. Both are now dead. Donham, who turns 84 this month, lives in Raleigh, N.C. A man who came to the door at her residence declined to comment about the FBI reopening the investigation. Paula Johnson, co-director of an academic group that reviews unsolved civil rights slayings, said she can’t think of anything other than Tyson’s book that could have prompted the Justice Department to reopen the investigation.

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