Relatives of Emmett Till are asking the Department of Justice to re-open an investigation into the 1955 lynching of the teen and to prosecute Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who falsely accused Till of whistling at her. 

According to the Associated Press, Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till stated that time is of the essence and if they are to bring Donham to justice it must happen now.

“Time is not on our side,” she said during a news conference.

Donham who is in her 80s, is currently living in North Carolina and Watts believes if authorities do not act now time may run out. 

Till’s relatives handed over a petition with 250 thousand signatures to Mississippi authorities asking them to reverse a decision to close the investigation into Till’s death. 

In 1955, Till, 14, was kidnapped, tortured and killed after being accused of whistling at Donham in a Mississippi store where she worked. 

A month after the lynching, Donham’s husband at the time, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with murdering Till. They were then acquitted of all wrongdoing by an all-white Mississippi jury, however months later they admitted to killing the teen.

The DOJ estimated that at least six others helped Bryant and Milam and played a role in killing Till. 

According to the Associated Press, the case was reinvestigated after a 2017 book quoted Donham confessing that she lied about the ordeal. However, Donham told the DOJ her story had not changed and her relatives publicly denied that she rescinded the allegations. 

Till’s case was closed in Dec. 2021 because the DOJ could not find evidence supporting that Donham falsely accused the teen of whistling at her, the Washington Post reported.

Michelle Williams, chief of staff for Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch believes it is unlikely the department will re-examine Till’s case.

“This is a tragic and horrible crime, but the FBI, which has far greater resources than our office, has investigated this matter twice and determined that there is nothing more to prosecute” she said.

This comes just days after the Senate passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act to make lynching a federal hate crime, CNN reported.

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