News Roundup

Over the past two weeks there have been several developments related to the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. Till, who was Black, was 14 years old at the time. A White woman named Carolyn Bryant Donham apparently reported that he whistled at her, grabbed her, and propositioned her while she was in a grocery store. Ms. Donham’s then-husband and another White man responded to her allegations by abducting Till from his home at gunpoint and killing him. The men were charged with murder, were acquitted by an all-White jury, and later admitted culpability in media interviews. Durham historian Timothy Tyson wrote about the incident in his 2017 book The Blood of Emmett Till.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported on the discovery of a 1955 kidnapping warrant for Ms. Donham, who is in her 80s and apparently lives here in North Carolina. The arrest warrant is technically still valid but the experts interviewed by the Times say it is unlikely to be served without a current examination of the potential merits of the case.

Speaking of which, the Associated Press reported yesterday on its review of an unpublished 99-page memoir by Ms. Donham. The memoir was provided to the AP by Mr. Tyson, who had obtained the document from Ms. Donham but “placed the manuscript in an archive at the University of North Carolina with the agreement that it not be made public for decades.” He decided to break the agreement after the Times story noted above. According to the AP story, Ms. Donham’s memoir generally portrays herself as attempting to prevent harm from coming to Till, but also contradicts some of her previous statements and is inconsistent with other evidence in the case, raising questions about her credibility. Stay tuned for further developments and keep reading for more news.

New three-digit hotline for mental health crises. WRAL reports here that effective this weekend, “[a]ll someone experiencing a mental health crisis will have to do is call or text 988” to receive 24/7 assistance. This shift is part of a nation-wide transition to making 988 the emergency number for mental health needs.

New Uvalde video shows officers standing in the hallway for an hour. CNN reports here on surveillance video recently released by a Texas newspaper that apparently shows officers responding relatively quickly to the Uvalde school shooting, but retreating when the shooter fires at them through the classroom door, then remaining in the hallway for over an hour before eventually storming the classroom. The decision to release the video has sparked some controversy.

Governor Cooper signs state budget. WUNC reports here that Governor Cooper signed the $27.9 billion budget bill approved by the legislature. If I’m reading the money report correctly, the budget includes raises of between 3.5% and 4.5% for most court system employees, adds 11 new magistrate positions, mainly in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties, and adds 11 new assistant district attorney positions. It also adds a couple of assistant public defender positions and four new analyst positions at the Crime Lab.

Zebra cobra owner admits wrongdoing. Remember the Zebra cobra story of 2021, about the venomous snake on the loose in Raleigh? It made not one, not two, but three prior News Roundups. Let’s make it four! WRAL reports here on a recent interview with the snake’s owner, now 22. The story is full of interesting tidbits including that the owner is a “Tik-Tok famous snake handler” with over half a million online followers; that he faced over 40 misdemeanor charges as a result of the incident; and that he pled guilty and was “ordered to turn over $35,000 worth of snakes to the county and pay $13,162 in restitution for, among other things, the police and EMS response to capture the loose snake.” He also agreed not to possess any other snakes for a year . . . but the year expires next month.