Two days after a courtesy ride by Philadelphia police on December 22, 2002 transgender woman Nizah Morris died at a Philadelphia hospital of a subdural hematoma, the result traumatic blows to her head. Her family believes that police murdered her and have received a $250,000 dollar settlement in civil court where it is easier to fix blame, but her murder remains unsolved today.
What happened that December 2002 night as best as we can figure:
A concerned individual called an ambulance for an inebriated Morris at the front of the Key West bar where she had been drinking. Morris declined the hospital visit instead accepting a courtesy ride from Philly officer Elizabeth Skala. According to witnesses who helped her into the squad car, she asked to be taken her home
Skala gave her a courtesy ride because of her inebriated state but denied she needed help getting Morris into her car and made no mention of injuries in her report.
Morris never arrived at her home.
Officer Skala testified that Morris asked to be dropped off at Chancellor St and S. Juniper St, two minutes distant driving from the bar and 45-minute walking distance from her home. One minute after being dropped off at 3:30am a motorist testified he called 911 reporting a woman she was laying on the street naked from the waist up, bleeding from her head.
The DA has refused to release the 911 records.
Another wittiness testified he saw her body laying in the street at 3:45am. He later said one officer placed a jacket over her face as she was being loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance attendants said they loaded her at 3:30am. The officer on the scene testified the ambulance didn’t depart until 3:45am.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital records state that Morris didn’t arrive at the emergency room a mile distant, until 4:13 am.
The Philadelphia police advisory commission second report released 2013 is highly critical of the police actions and obfuscation even putting into quotation marks “lost” while talking about the eight year period the police report couldn’t be ‘found’.
The police report wasn’t made public until 2011 and then only after ordered to do so by the court after the Philadelphia Gay News filed a right know request.
While the commission report doesn’t place blame police for Morris’s death directly or indirectly, it acknowledges that it can’t because the ‘highly redacted’ information the DA previously allowed them to see was under the condition they wouldn’t make it public.
The Police Commission advisory second report surmises:
These are the problems that we know. What we do not know may be more problematic. The
Police Advisory Commission cannot state with certitude if this was a purposeful course of activity to obfuscate the facts of the Nizah Morris homicide, or just simple human error. The Police Advisory Commission cannot state with certitude if there was a purposeful course of activity to erase the existence of the “courtesy ride.” We have reached our procedural and legal limitations. We therefore intend to forward a copy of this advisory opinion to both the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the federal Department of Justice, and urge both agencies to review the facts and the Police Department’s investigation in the Nizah Morris homicide. The passage of time may well prove fatal to any realistic investigation, but that does not mean it should not be attempted lest we fulfill the ominous prediction of Edmund Burke:
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
It is just coming to light after reading the second Commission report that the police officers ‘were aware of Morris’s anatomical sex before they had indicated on their reports”.
Without breaking the first commission’s review where they agreed not to disclose the DA’s finding the second Commission’s report is making it clear the officers reacted differently than had Morris been a cisgender female.
Did the police murder Morris? Why did an officer cover Morris’s face as if he knew she was already dead, when she was loaded into the ambulance? Did the officers hold the ambulance up making sure that any treatment Morris might have received if she arrived in a timely manner would be ineffectual?
What is the Philadelphia DA scared of? Obviously something because the District attorney of Philidelphia has begun a twitter conversation with me, a practacly unhearlded blogger, on the Sunday racheting it up a notch.
— Seth Williams (@DASethWilliams) February 2, 2014
Mr District Attorney,
I never said the DA didn’t help in the initial investigation, I said you have not released your full unredacted files to the Police advisory commission unhindered by a non disclosure agreement.
I asked why would the DA submited this report, and only after public awareness demanded it, to the police in the form it was.
I said that without the complete unconditional release of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s files to the Police Advisory Commision, the murder of transgender woman Nizah Morris and understanding circumstances that led to her death will have lost a crucial opportunity to be resolved.
In essence, the second reconstructed Police Advisory Board agrees with this assessment by writing:
We therefore intend to forward a copy of this advisory opinion to both the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the federal Department of Justice, and urge both agencies to review the facts and the Police Department’s investigation in the Nizah Morris homicide.
I am asking that Mayor Nutter takes a personal interest in this case. I am hoping that once more that increased public awareness will help nudge the wheels of justice to turn.
Finally, I am curious why the Philadelphia District Attorney feels compelled to ratchet up this conversation with a practically unknown blogger like myself, insinuating that I lied, on the weekend?
The PGN and other groups are now asking for the state DA to investigate.
I would also like to ask that Mayor Nutter whom I recorded last year at the LGBT Journalist Convo. to throw his considerable political might into solving the Nizah Morris cold case.