How the U.S. Justice System Failed Emmett Till and Frank Morris

© Provided by Guardian News This 1950s photograph provided by William Brown through the Concordia Sentinel shows Frank Morris, fourth from right wearing a visor, and his employees in front of his shoe repair shop in Ferriday, Louisiana. Photograph: AP
© Provided by Guardian News This 1950s photograph provided by William Brown through the Concordia Sentinel shows Frank Morris, fourth from right wearing a visor, and his employees in front of his shoe repair shop in Ferriday, Louisiana. Photograph: AP

The murders of two black men in America’s deep south laid bare the region’s lingering racism – and still stand as shocking examples of the country’s failure to adequately prosecute race crimes.

Emmett Till

It was an image that shocked America. When her 14-year-old son Emmett was killed by white racists while visiting relatives in the Mississippi delta in 1955, Mamie Till Mobley insisted that his coffin be left open so that people could see how his child’s face had been pummeled to a pulp.

The teenager had been said to have had the temerity to talk to a white store keeper, Carolyn Bryant. Her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother JW Milam were so outraged they tortured and drowned him.

They were tried for murder in September 1955, but after the jury deliberated for barely an hour both men were acquitted. In the knowledge that they were protected against further prosecution by the double jeopardy rule, the duo openly admitted to the murder in a magazine interview a year later.

The case was reopened by the FBI in 2004 to see if any accomplices could be brought to justice. But in 2007, a grand jury decided there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

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Source: The Guardian | Ed Pilkington in New York

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