Feds close Emmett Till investigation, with no new charges. The U.S. Justice Department on Monday told relatives of Emmett Till it is ending its latest investigation into the 1955 lynching of the Black teenager from Chicago, who was abducted, tortured and killed after witnesses said he whistled at a white woman in Mississippi.
Till’s family members said they were disappointed that there will continue to be no accountability for the killing, with no charges being filed against Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman accused of lying about whether Till touched her.
“Today is a day we will never forget,” Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker, said during a news conference in Chicago. “For 66 years we have suffered pain. … I suffered tremendously.”
The killing galvanized the civil rights movement after Till’s mother insisted on an open casket, and Jet magazine published photos of his brutalized body.
The Justice Department reopened the investigation after a 2017 book quoted Donham as saying she lied when she claimed that 14-year-old Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances while she was working in a store in the community of Money. Relatives have publicly denied that Donham, who is in her 80s, recanted her allegations about Till.
Donham told the FBI she had never recanted her accusations, and there is “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI,” the Justice Department said in a news release Monday. Officials also said that Timothy B. Tyson, author of 2017’s “The Blood of Emmett Till,” was unable to produce any recordings or transcripts in which Donham admitted to lying about her encounter with the teen.
“In closing this matter without prosecution, the government does not take the position that the state court testimony the woman gave in 1955 was truthful or accurate,” the news release said. “There remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events, which is contradicted by others who were with Till at the time, including the account of a living witness.”
Days after Till was killed, his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where it was tossed after being weighted down with a cotton gin fan.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were tried on murder charges about a month after Till was killed; an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. Months later, they confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant was married to Donham in 1955.
The Justice Department in 2004 opened an investigation into Till’s killing after it received inquiries about whether charges could be brought against anyone still living. The department said the statute of limitations had run out on any potential federal crime, but the FBI worked with state investigators to determine if state charges could be brought. In February 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict anyone, and the Justice Department announced that it was closing the case.
Bryant and Milam were not brought to trial again; both have since died. Donham has been living in Raleigh, N.C.
The FBI in 2006 began a cold case initiative to investigate racially motivated killings from decades earlier. A federal law named after Till allows a review of killings that had not been solved or prosecuted to the point of a conviction.
The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act requires the Justice Department to make an annual report to Congress. No report was filed in 2020, but a report filed in June of this year indicated that the department was still investigating Till’s abduction and killing.
The FBI investigation included a talk with Parker, who previously told the Associated Press in an interview that he heard his cousin whistle at the woman in a store in Money, but the teen did nothing to warrant being killed.
Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people this holiday season, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theaters and museums starting Monday to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and encourage vaccine skeptics to get their shots.
Italian police have been empowered to check whether diners in restaurants or bars have a “super” green health pass certifying that they are either vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus. Smart phone applications that verify people’s health pass status have been updated to prevent entry to concerts, movies or performances to those who have merely tested negative in recent days. The measures run through Jan. 15.
Authorities also imposed a requirement that at least a “basic” health pass, which can be obtained with a negative test, must be used to get on local transport and to check into hotels.
In the capital, Rome, dozens of police were out at transportation hubs checking both green passes and personal identification, finding a cooperative mood among commuters. Still, a 50-year-old Roman became the first to receive a $450 fine after getting off the bus at the northern Flaminio station without the “basic” health pass, said Stefano Napoli, deputy chief of Rome’s municipal police force.
“It was about time that they checked it,’’ said Sara Ben, a Rome commuter, noting the absence of controls on the often-packed local transportation system throughout the pandemic.
Milanese were enjoying the first long weekend of the season, including Tuesday’s celebration for the patron saint of Saint Ambrose and Wednesday’s national holiday, leaving commuter routes more empty than usual. But few checks were evident around the main Central Station, either for regional trains or local buses and subways.
Commuter Veronica Bianchi said her health pass wasn’t checked on a regional train arriving in Milan. “But they didn’t check the ticket either,” she said.
She favors the government’s moves to encourage more people to get vaccinated, and said she noted that people in their 20s like her are more apt to get the vaccine.
”Frankly, I think we are tired of being locked down. I work in a young company, and it was a race to get the vaccine,’’ Bianchi said.
The number of new coronavirus infections in Italy has been on a gradual rise for the past six weeks, even before concerns arose about the new Omicron variant. That’s a worrying trend as Italians look forward to holiday parties and getaways to spend time with friends and family, after being deprived of such festivities last year.
While both neighboring Germany and Austria are moving toward making vaccines obligatory for certain groups, Italy is instead tightening free-time restrictions on the unvaccinated at the most convivial time of the year — while allowing those who are vaccinated go about life more or less as usual.
European nations have found varying formulas to try to reduce infections during peak times.
With an eye on the holidays, Switzerland on Monday began allowing — but not requiring — event organizers to bar anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated or hasn’t recovered from COVID-19. Sweden introduced a vaccination requirement for indoor events with more than 100 people starting Dec. 1.
On Monday, the Netherlands reversed itself on plans to open indoor venues to vaccinated people only, sticking instead with a 5 p.m. closure for restaurants, cinemas and other public sites.
Italy’s vaccination rate is higher than many of its neighbors, at 85% of the eligible population age 12 and older and 77% of the total population. But people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have proved the most reluctant to get vaccinated, with nearly 3.5 million still not having received their first dose.
They are also the same age range that is now being hardest hit by the virus, according to Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s National Health Institute.
So far the Delta variant remains prevalent, with only seven confirmed cases of Omicron In Italy, related to two businessmen returning from southern Africa.
With the holiday shopping season heating up, many cities, including Rome and Milan, have ordered mask mandates even outdoors.
Public health officials say vaccinations, along with prudent public behavior including wearing masks in crowds indoors or out, are key to reducing infection levels as winter weather pushes more activities indoors. They credit Italy’s relatively high level of immunization as one reason that the infection curve is not as steep as last winter, when broad restrictions were imposed with the spread of the Delta variant.
“It is clear that after two years of the pandemic, we cannot easily close schools to physical classes and shut down economic activity,’’ said Gianni Rezza, the health ministry’s director of prevention.