JACKSON, Miss. – The FBI said Thursday that no federal charges will be filed in the grisly 1955 killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a case that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
After a reopened investigation that included the exhumation of Till's body for an autopsy last June, FBI agent John G. Raucci said in a statement that the five-year statute of limitations on federal civil rights violations had expired.
The FBI gave its long-awaited report to District Attorney Joyce L. Chiles, who will decide on any state charges. Chiles did not immediately return a call.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said that he can only hope for state charges to be brought.
"It's painfully consistent there was no federal pursuit of the killers 50 years ago and now there is no federal charges against those they did not pursue," Jackson said. "We can only hope that justice will not continue to sleepwalk through one of the most publicized lynchings in the history of our country."
Till, a black teenager from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi in August 1955 when he was beaten and shot, purportedly for whistling at a white woman. His battered body, weighted down with a cotton-gin fan around his neck, was pulled from the Tallahatchie River a few days later.
The boy's mother held an open-casket funeral, and a photo of Till's disfigured face let the world see what was happening in the South.
In 1955, an all-white jury acquitted two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milan, who later confessed to the killing in a magazine interview. They have since died.
The Justice Department reopened the case last year, prompted in part by a documentary that found investigative errors and concluded that some people still living were involved in the crime.
The FBI's Raucci said the bureau would have no further comment on what is now a state case.
Till's family said it had not expected any federal charges, so the news did not come as a disappointment.
"It's up to Mrs. Chiles now and the state of Mississippi that's been given a rare chance to redeem themselves," said Till's cousin Simeon Wright, who was with the teen the night of the murder. "They claim that they have changed. We're going to see. We're going to stand back and watch what happens."
In recent years, law enforcement authorities have been trying to complete unfinished business from the civil rights era.
In 1994, Mississippi won the conviction of Byron de la Beckwith for the 1963 sniper killing of NAACP leader Medgar Evers.
In Alabama, Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted in 2002 of killing four black girls in the bombing of a Birmingham church in 1963. In 2001, Thomas Blanton was convicted.
And Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman, was convicted last June of manslaughter in the killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.