02-19-2017  3:29 pm      •     

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) -- The half-century search for justice in the murder of Emmett Till petered out last February when a Leflore County grand jury declined to indict Carolyn Donham on criminal charges.
``There is nobody left to indict,'' said Greg Watkins, one of 19 members from the grand jury. ``It will be debated forever probably, but there is no one left living to send to jail.''
Donham, 73 and living in Greenville, was the centerpiece of the investigation conducted by federal and state authorities into the 1955 murder.
Members of the grand jury say that no one on the panel last February thought an indictment was in order.
``We all realized that this lady is 70 years old-plus, and no one really knows for sure how much she was involved,'' said Gary Woody. ``I think (Donham) knows, but there is so much that we just don't know for sure.''
Donham is the white shopkeeper at whom Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was in Mississippi visiting Delta relatives, wolf-whistled outside of Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market.
Some grand jury members said that they even heard evidence suggesting that the whistle came from an excited group of children playing checkers on the store's front porch. Whatever transpired at the store in Money on Aug. 24, 1955, Till paid for it with his life four days later.
His brutal murder helped galvanize the American civil rights movement and has been a subject of constant fascination for journalists, filmmakers and historians. But despite the U.S. Justice Department's reopening of the Till case in 2004, the many cries for legal reckoning go unsatisfied.
``That's 50 to 55 years ago. It's hard to put something together when it was that long ago,'' said George Smith III, another member of the jury. ``You can sit and 'what-if' all day long, but when you stick to the facts, there was just nothing there.''
Roy Bryant, Donham's then-husband, and his half brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted of murdering Till less than a month after his mutilated body _ wrists broken, teeth and eyes missing, a bullet wound in his skull _ was pulled out of the Tallahatchie River. The body had been weighted down with a cotton gin fan, attached by barbed wire.
Roughly four months after the duo's acquittal, doled out by a jury of 12 white males in Tallahatchie County, Bryant and Milam admitted to the slaying in a Look magazine article.
Neither one ever spent a night in jail in connection with the murder. They have both since died of cancer: Milam in 1981, Bryant in 1994.
``They did show us proof that Bryant and Milam were involved,'' said Smith, who is the warehouse manager at Upchurch Plumbing. ``They had found evidence of Till's blood somewhere that proved their involvement. But proof that (Donham) was involved was just not there.''
The grand jury _ seven men, 12 women, divided almost evenly along racial lines _ was asked to consider charges against Donham of murder, manslaughter or kidnapping.
Speaking now, with the mandatory six-month gag order passed, jurors say the accusation against Donham _ that she identified Till the night he was murdered _ was heavy on hearsay, but light on hard facts and physical evidence.
``She didn't murder Till. That's understood,'' said Watkins. ``And they couldn't prove that she was even there'' the night Till was kidnapped.
During the FBI probe, reports surfaced that Henry Lee Loggins, one of Milam's black farmhands, was also being investigated for his possible role in the murder. Watkins said, however, that the grand jury was not asked to consider charges against Loggins, who at 84 lives in Ohio with a sister.
``The only real possibility of indictment was with Carolyn Donham,'' Watkins said.
Till was abducted in the dead of night from the home of his great-uncle, Mose Wright, a Leflore County sharecropper. The crux of the claim that Donham was somehow involved spun around a report that when Till was rustled out of bed, a ``small voice'' was heard coming from inside the vehicle that took Till away.
``According to the uncle he was staying with, there was another voice coming out of the truck that said, 'He's the one,''' said Otis Johnson, another member of the jury. ``That's where it all was coming from.''
``We asked one another, 'Did y'all hear anything that would put her in that truck?'' said Smith. ``No one really did.''
Almeda Luckey, 55, was also a member of the jury.
``Working with just the facts that they gave us, I couldn't go on and indict (Donham),'' said Luckey. ``They said a soft voice came out of the truck. But they didn't prove to me that she was there when he was taken away.''
Grand jury members said they were unaware until breaking for lunch on Feb. 22 that they were going to be presented with the Till case. They listened to prosecutors lay out the evidence for most of an afternoon, then chewed on their decision for just over an hour.
Woody said that the closest the group ever came to a tiff was when a black female juror said, ``Somebody should pay.''
``I said, 'Not just anybody.' I mean you don't just send whoever to jail so you can say that someone is paying,'' said Woody, a white businessman. ``The fact is, there is no way to know for sure if she was in that car. And if she was, the question is, was she there on her own free will?''
Luckey said that the group was presented with facts proving that Donham was not at the scene of the actual murder.
``With that, I felt like there was nothing we could do.''
Johnson said that when Leflore County District Attorney Joyce Chiles, with the help of two or three investigators, began presenting the case, he felt as if there would be enough evidence to indict Donham.
``But the way they presented it, the further they went along, everything it seemed that pointed to her crumbled,'' Johnson said.
The 47-year-old black stockhandler said that Chiles was under pressure to ``go through the motions'' of seeking an indictment.
``I'll say this. I feel like the district attorney used us as scapegoats. To me it seems like they just wanted to put on a show and go through the process to make people happy.''
Luckey, though, does not agree. He said Chiles simply presented the facts, and let the chips fall.
``We just didn't have any evidence that put (Donham) at the scene when they picked (Till) up,'' she said. ``That was the bottom line.''
Chiles, the outgoing district attorney, denies that she or any of the investigators tried to sway the jury not to indict.
``As a matter of fact, if anything, I feel like the investigator tried to persuade them toward an indictment,'' she said.
Grand jurors were presented with several possible charges, said Chiles, the first black to serve as district attorney in the county from which Till was abducted.
``Manslaughter certainly was an option,'' said Chiles, 53. ``We tried everything, from felony manslaughter, to manslaughter in the heat of passion, to criminal negligence manslaughter. But no matter what we tried, there was always one or more elements of the crime which were not met.''
Watkins, 38, who works for the Mississippi State Tax Commission, said that the jury made the correct call in opting not to indict.
``We got it right,'' he said. ``Anybody who sat in there with us would have reached the same conclusion _ no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.''
The Greenwood Commonwealth said it was able to contact 13 of the 19 grand jury members. Eight declined to be interviewed.
``I'd rather not,'' said Denise Denton. ``It was painful enough having to sit in there and hear all of that.''

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all
Oregon Lottery
Carpentry Professionals


Reed College Jobs
His Eye is on the Sparrow