Mississippi prosecutor who worked on reopened Emmett Till case dies aged 67

A Mississippi prosecutor who worked on the reopened investigation into Emmett Till’s 1955 killing has died.

Joyce Chiles died at age 67 after a battle with lung cancer. Ms Chiles was the first Black person and woman to become a prosecutor in the three Mississippi Delta counties of Leflore, Washington and Sunflower when she was elected in 2003, the Associated Press reported.

In 2007, Ms Chiles presented a grand jury with evidence obtained in the years-long reopened investigation into Till’s death. The attempt to issue indictments against anyone was unfruitful, but Ms Chiles commended the jury for not rushing to file charges “based solely on the emotion and rage that they felt.”

″We are justice seekers and not head hunters,″ Ms Chiles told the AP at the time.

Ms Chiles died at a hospital in Ruleville on 22 September. Her funeral services were held on Monday in the city of Itta Bena.

In the years after Till was killed and dismembered by a white man whose wife alleged the teen had made sexual advances on her in 1955, three attempts to bring charges in the case have been made by the FBI and the Department of Justice — all of them unsuccessful.

Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam we acquitted of murder merely weeks after the killing by a white jury, but later told a magazine they had murdered the boy.

The teen’s body was thrown in the Tallahatchie River and a picture of his severely beaten body was published in Jet magazine, sparking the outrage of the Black community in Mississippi and across the country.

Caroline Donham, the woman who accused Emmett of sexual indecency, was later quoted in a 2017 book saying she had lied about her exchange with the teenager.

In a 2007 interview with the AP, Ms Chiles said she had felt uneasy about Ms Donham while working the case.

″I didn’t feel good toward her; I still don’t feel good toward her,” she said.

 (Shakeya Leflore-Johnson/Facebook)
(Shakeya Leflore-Johnson/Facebook)

Loved ones of Ms Chiles fondly remembered her and posted tributes to the veteran attorney after her passing.

“My dear, dear friend. My mentor on so many things. The stories I could tell about me and Joyce Chiles!! This lady [w]as a legend, a fighter - and all in high heels with the matching suit,” Mississippi Fourth Circuit Court Judge Carol White-Richard wrote in a heartfelt Facebook post.

“The reason I was a prosecutor and some of my absolute favorite sayings, I stole from her. She definitely had a way with words! Rest Easy Joyce Chiles. You will never be forgotten.”