PGN last week filed an appeal in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, continuing its quest for 911 recordings pertaining to the Nizah Morris incident believed to be at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
In February, the D.A.'s Office submitted an affidavit stating that it doesn't have the requested recordings. However, PGN challenges the wording of the affidavit.
The state Office of Open Records determined the D.A.'s affidavit passed legal muster. But PGN wants a Philadelphia judge to review the matter.
In the affidavit, a D.A. staffer wrote “I personally searching,” rather than “I personally searched” — referring to a search for Morris 911 recordings at the D.A.’s Office. According to PGN, the wording demonstrates an “ongoing” search for Morris 911 recordings, rather than a completed search.
PGN also contends the wording of the affidavit indicates an informal search was conducted "personally" by a staffer, rather than an official open-records search of agency records.
The affidavit's language is “particularly unsettling” because the office is believed to have at least nine pages of Morris 911 recordings, according to PGN.
In 2009, PGN gave the recordings to the D.A.’s Office, but they haven't been certified. The paper received the recordings from a private individual after Morris’ death.
Morris was an African-American trans woman found with a fatal head wound in 2002, shortly after a police “courtesy ride” in the Gayborhood. The D.A.'s Office has an "open" investigation of her homicide.
A complete set of Morris 911 recordings could clarify why Morris wasn’t given prompt medical attention after 911 calls were placed on her behalf, why detectives weren’t summoned to investigate and why a police report assigned two genders to Morris.
Julie Chovanes, a member of the Justice for Nizah (J4N) committee, reiterated her plea for transparency in the Morris case.
"I hope the candidates for District Attorney will commit to reversing this opposition [to transparency] and let us know what happened that night and afterwards,” Chovanes said. “We need this city to be a shining example of freedom — offering shelter and safety and growth for all, especially for its poorest and most disadvantaged. We can't do that if we don't know the truth about what happened to Nizah."
In a related open-records case, the D.A.’s Office acknowledged it discarded a Morris dispatch record provided to the office by PGN in 2009. However, PGN provided another copy of the record to the office in 2013. That case remains pending in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
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