March 16, 2006
No prosecution in grisly Mississippi murder
MIAMI (Reuters) - The FBI has ended its investigation into
the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a killing that helped spark the
U.S. civil rights movement, without filing charges but had
passed its findings to local authorities who are still
investigating the crime.
Till, aged 14, lived in Chicago but was visiting relatives
in Mississippi, then the heart of the segregated U.S. South,
when he was kidnapped and killed in 1955 for allegedly
whistling at and talking to a white woman in a store.
His body turned up in the Tallahatchie River near Money,
Mississippi. He appeared to have been tortured and shot and his
body was weighted down by a cotton processing machine tied with
barbed wire to his neck.
Two white men were charged with the killing and acquitted
by an all-white Mississippi jury. They later described in a
magazine interview how they had beaten Till, but they could not
be tried again because they were cleared by a jury.
The two are dead, but a documentary film, "The Untold Story
of Emmett Louis Till," alleged that others were involved in the
crime. The director, Keith Beauchamp, said he thought as many
as 14 people played a role.
Then in May 2004, the U.S. Justice Department announced in
it had received new information and was reopening the Till case
to determine if prosecution was still possible in Mississippi.
The FBI exhumed Till's body from a suburban cemetery near
Chicago last June in a bid to shed new light on the killing.
Till's death came to symbolize the brutality of lynchings
in the south, and along with a subsequent bus boycott in
Montgomery, Alabama, triggered by Rosa Parks' refusal to give
up her seat, helped spur the U.S. civil rights movement.