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Emmett Till Murder

Emmett Till Murder Trial Summary
The victim: (15yr old)
Emmett Louis Till
The co-perpetrators (the defendants):
Roy Bryant & J. W. Milam
The Sheriff of the County:
H. G. Strider
What happened?
Date: August 28, 1955
Location: a dirt road near the Tallahatchie River Bridge
Suspects (perpetrators): Roy Bryant & J. W. Milam
Emmett Louis Till was abducted from the home of his great-uncle, Mose Wright, near Money,
Mississippi. He was abducted because Bryant’s wife, Carolyn Bryant, claimed that Emmett
“asked her for a date”, “grabbed her hand”, and “whistled at her”. Her husband, Roy Bryant,
came back from work and heard the story; he then became angry and decided to abduct Till and
later they decided to kill him. ​However, Carolyn later claimed that her claims on Emmett Till
were false; Till was killed without doing anything inappropriate.​ After a few days, Emmett’s
body was found murdered in the Tallahatchie River by Robert Hodges, a boy who was fishing.
The suspects for killing Emmett Till were Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam.
Till’s body was found on August 31, 1955; three days after he was killed.
How was the trial?
Date: September 7, 1955 - September 23, 1955
Location: A small courtroom in Sumner, Mississippi
Participants: a jury with 12 white males, Sheriff Strider, Roy Bryant, J. W. Milam, the
Witnesses for the state and defence
After Emmett disappeared, Bryant and Milam were arrested for abduction. Before the jury
was going to charge Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam with both abduction and murder, the Sheriff of
the Tallahatchie County, H. G. Strider, justified that “the body looked more like a grown man
instead of a young boy” and had probably been in the river for “four or five days” (saying that his
body had stayed in water for too long to be Till based on the result provided by Otken, the
doctor); therefore, Strider personally suggested that the body was not the body of Till. Despite
the statements of the sheriff, Till’s body was badly beaten and bloated to an extent that it was
almost impossible to identify the person’s original facial appearance. As a result, the jury, which
consisted of 12 white men, decided that the accused were “not guilty” and released them from
According to Dr. L. B. Otken (who examined the body), Till’s Body was badly swollen and
bloated; The skin and the flesh was beginning to slip on it. The head was badly mutilated. The
right eye was protruding. The tongue was protruding from the mouth.
What were the issues?
Clearly, there were some controversies and issues. For instance, the testimony of Carolyn
Bryant may not be entirely true; in fact, her testimonies were denied by herself. It can be
suggested that the murder of Till was a result of racism and ​Jim Chow segregation​ existed in
the southern United States. The jury did not ensure that the murderer(s) was captured, which
was also an unjust aspect of this case since human rights were violated. Despite the fact that
there was little doubt that Bryant and Milam were the murderers, the sheriff of the County
personally judged that the body as “not the body of Till”, without scientific proof, which should
not be permitted by the States; he completely ignored and neglected the witnesses of the victim
and supported the defendants. The trial was​ unfair​ because the outcome was mainly controlled
by the sheriff; consequently, the verdict was more likely influenced by his personal prejudice
towards black people. The justice of law was completely neglected in this trial. The jury's verdict
provoked both angry editorials and calls for federal legislation to protect the civil rights of black
Americans. Protest rallies, drawing thousands in some cases, were held in several cities. The
following could also be some problems:
Without disapproving Mens Rea and Actus Rea, the accused were released. The way that
the jury argued was very “childish”.
Forensic science was not used to determine the time of Till’s death; instead, it was judged
by the doctor (he claimed that he “did not make any pathological examination”).
The testimonies of the witnesses of the victim were neglected.
The human rights were violated; the perpetrators who were responsible for the murder were
not punished.
A retrial was not held. Both of the killers died before a retrial was held.
The jury failed to carry out the investigative thinking process; they did not properly analyze
the information collected, develop theories of what happened, the way an event occurred, and
establish reasonable grounds to believe which leads to the final arrest and accusation.
Civil Rights Movement
Took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for blacks to gain equal rights under the law
in the United States.
The death of Emmett Till and the inequality and the prejudices towards the black community
accumulated and finally burst.
Result (changed U.S. legal history):
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned
employment discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin