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U.S. Justice Department reopens 63-year-old Emmett Till murder investigation

The U.S. Justice Department has reopened the case of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black teen who was reportedly brutally murdered by two white males in Mississippi in 1955. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Justice is reopening the 63-year-old Emmett Till case after acquiring "new information" about the case.

What's the history of the case?

Emmett, a 14-year-old Chicago boy visiting family in Mississippi in 1955, was brutally murdered after reportedly flirting with a white woman in a country store.

The woman — Carolyn Bryant — reportedly told her husband and brother that Emmett had groped her, made crude remarks, and wolf-whistled at Carolyn.

Four days after the alleged incident, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam visited the home where Emmett had been staying and demanded to speak with the teen.

Despite the pleas of his Mississippi family, Roy Bryant and Milam reportedly forced Emmett into their waiting vehicle and drove him down to the Tallahatchie River, where they reportedly forced the teen to carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan.

When they arrived at the river's bank, Bryant and Milam reportedly told Emmett to disrobe, and they purportedly began to beat him profusely and gouged out one of Emmett's eyes. After they finished reportedly assaulting him, the two shot Emmett in the head and threw the teen's body — which had been tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire — into the river.

Emmett's body was reportedly recovered from the river three days later, disfigured beyond recognition.

The only identifying item on Emmett's body was a monogrammed ring.

Emmett's mother demanded that her son's body be returned to Chicago, where he was put on public display for a viewing.

Was anybody charged?

After Emmett's burial, Roy Bryant and Milam were charged with murder and went to trial in a white-segregated Mississippi courthouse. Mose Wright, Emmett's Mississippi-based great-uncle, positively identified Bryant and Milam as his great-nephew's killers.

The jurists deliberated for less than an hour and went on to issue a "not guilty" verdict, acquitting the two men in Emmett's slaying. The jury based their decision on the notion that the state failed to prove the identity of the body discovered in the river.

According to History, author Tim Tyson — who wrote 2017's "The Blood of Emmett Till" — wrote that Carolyn Bryant later recanted her testimony, and said that young Emmett had never touched, harassed, or threatened her at all.

“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she reportedly said during a 2008 interview.

According to The Associated Press, the two men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview. They were not retried.

The case was closed in 2007 after authorities said that the suspects in question had died, and a state grand jury did not file new charges.

What is happening now?

An Associated Press report Thursday revealed that the Justice Department had reopened the case, and notified Congress in a March report that it was reinvestigating Till's brutal murder after receiving what the department called "new information."

The Associated Press reported that the federal report did not indicate details about the new information.

Mississippi District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, whose circuit oversees the community in which Emmett was abducted, offered his opinion on the development.

"It's probably always an open case until all the parties have passed away," Richardson said, noting that if any relevant cases were to move forward, he and the district attorney of the area in which Emmett's body was found would decide who would prosecute it.

According to the Associated Press, Carolyn Bryant — who will turn 84 years old this month and goes by Carolyn Donham — lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Associated Press's Jay Reeves wrote, "A man who came to the door at [Carolyn's] residence declined to comment about the FBI reopening the investigation."

"'We don’t want to talk to you,'" the man said before going back inside," Reeves wrote.



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