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Feb 20, 2007 5:56 pm

Emmett Till Conspiracy Theory Debunked

For more than four years, the news media has publicized a sensational conspiracy theory that fourteen or more people took part in the murder of Emmett Till, and that five are still alive. I have criticized these claims on more than one occasion. The claim that fourteen or more people were involved was first popularized by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp. The late Ed Bradley gave it an uncritical stamp of approval in a hagiographic report for"60 Minutes." The general response of the news media was to accept the theory without question.

Now, both the FBI and a grand jury has no credible basis for the claim that fourteen or more were involved in the crime, much less than five are alive. An article by Jerry Mitchell (one of the few journalists to ask hard questions) in U.S.A. Today , accurately describes the theory as a"legend."

Legend #2:

Up to 14 people were involved in Till's abduction and killing, and five of them are still alive.

This idea surfaced at the time the Justice Department opened its probe in 2004.

Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who made the 2005 documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, said he found this information in his research. Those still living could be charged today, he said.

The FBI was unable to prove this claim, according to the agency's report.

Beito said the most people mentioned in 1955 news accounts were six — four white men and two black men.

In his testimony in 1955, Mose Wright, Emmett Till's uncle, said that in the early morning hours on the day of the killing, Milam and Bryant were not alone. He said someone in the truck with a"lighter" voice identified Till as the one they were looking for.

Wright also described what he believed was a black man standing in the shadows.

The FBI report details an interview with Willie Reed, who testified in the 1955 trial. He said he saw five men with Till the morning of the slaying — three white and two black. He also testified that he heard Till being beaten.

Reed has since told Beito the two black men were Levi"Too Tight" Collins and Joe Willie Hubbard. Collins is now dead, Beito said."Another legend is that Collins committed suicide after this out of remorse," Beito said."That's not true. He died of natural causes."

It is unknown if Hubbard is still alive, Beito said.

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