May 24, 2005
From the Daily Southtown (Tinley Park, IL)
This letter to the editor was written by Robert J. Garrity, Jr., Jackson, Mississippi FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the Emmett Till murder. I am posting it on my site because it is important in clarifying the motive behind the FBIís need to exhume Tillís body as a part of their investigation.
Emmett Till exhumation is crucial to a just resolution of his case
The planned exhumation and medical examination of the body of Emmett Till has provoked controversy, misinformation and allegations of an ulterior motive on the part of the FBI that I cannot allow to go unaddressed.
The vicious murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, in 1955, is among the most barbarous unresolved civil rights cases in United States history. Last year, Joyce Chiles, the district attorney for the Fourth Judicial District in Mississippi, where the kidnapping of Emmett Till from his great uncle's home occurred, requested the assistance of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate this crime. There had never been an FBI investigation of this crime, as the FBI never had investigative jurisdiction. This crime occurred nine years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which first empowered the FBI with the authority to investigate conspiracies of those who would deprive others of the exercise of their constitutionally protected rights. The sole purpose of this investigation is to determine if individuals who conspired in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till, or who intentionally aided and abetted the murderers, are still alive, and to bring those individuals to justice, if possible.
The men and women of the FBI are conducting a painstakingly thorough criminal investigation, not a historical exercise, and it is offensive to their professional reputation to hear the irresponsible statements of those who allege the FBI is grandstanding, posturing or viewing Emmett Till as a "trophy." This investigation, as all FBI criminal investigations, is being conducted with the objective of identifying the facts and unwaveringly following them to their logical conclusion. The exhumation of a body is a delicate issue, and we are sensitive to the emotions that are naturally evoked as a result. However, it is the FBI's absolute obligation to pursue justice wherever the facts may lead, even in the face of dissension. To do any less would be an abdication of our duty, and would doubtless result in accusations of a sloppy investigation or cover-up. This investigation is being conducted under the authority of a 1994 statute that authorizes the FBI to provide assistance to state and local authorities, when requested, under certain conditions. Any prosecution of this matter will be at the sole discretion of District Attorney Chiles and the state of Mississippi.
The investigation has now progressed to a point where the exhumation and examination of Till's remains are essential. This decision was not reached lightly, or in ignorance of the potential consequences. In any homicide investigation, it is essential to establish the identity of the victim and the cause of death. Following Emmett Till's death, no autopsy or medical examination of his body was conducted and, therefore, no cause of death was conclusively established. The examination of Till's body will also reveal details about his death that will corroborate or disprove statements made by various persons. Physical evidence, such as bullet fragments or other evidence my be recovered. Lastly, DNA can be recovered that will scientifically and conclusively prove Till's identity.
Reckless allegations that the FBI is trying to prove a "nut theory," that the body is not that of Till's are ignorant and ill-informed at best and, at worst, dishonest. Those educated in the law know the rules of evidence demand conclusive proof as to the identity of a victim to homicide. The advancements of science now allow us to prove the identity of an individual to a near certainty. Unfortunately, Mrs. Till-Mobley, Emmett's mother, is no longer alive and able to provide her testimony as to his identity. This leaves us no other option than to conclusively identify the remains interred in Emmett Till's grave.
During the exhumation and examination, Emmett Till's remains will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. At the conclusion of the pathological examinations, his body will be made available to the family so they may pay their respects in whatever manner they deem appropriate prior to re-interment.
Robert J. Garrity, Jr.