Carolyn Bryant has admitted she lied when she testified in 1955 that Emmett Till touched her — a lie she repeated to the FBI a decade ago.
Lying to the FBI is a crime. So is obstruction of justice.
Both carry up to five years in prison.
But prosecuting the 82-year-old woman now would be difficult if not impossible because the five-year statute of limitations has run out, experts say.
“It appears that time has once again robbed us of justice in the Emmett Till case,” said former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan’s 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls.
Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till helped inspire the FBI to reopen the case in 2004, said he would like to see the FBI investigate this new revelation.
“There must be some accountability here,” he said. “This is the murder of a 14-year-old boy that sparked the American civil-rights movement. At least we should pursue the truth.”
Now that Bryant “has started talking, we’ll see if we can keep her credibly talking,” said Alvin Sykes, president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. His work also helped inspire the FBI to reopen the case.
Sykes, a civil-rights activist who was architect of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act that President George W. Bush signed in October 2008, said he has opened lines of communication with authorities “to determine if we have one best chance to find out the whole truth by prosecutorial or alternative non-prosecutorial methods.”
In the end, “the truth must rule,” he said.
In 1955, an all-white jury acquitted Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, of murdering Till — only for them to confess months later to Look magazine that they had beaten and killed the 14-year-old from Chicago.
Before that trial ended, Carolyn Bryant, 21 at the time of the crime, took the witness stand for her husband and testified outside the presence of the Tallahatchie County jury.
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SOURCE: USA Today; The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, Jerry Mitchell