Morris was found with a fractured skull on a Center City street corner shortly after she received a courtesy ride from Philadelphia police.
She died two days later, on Dec. 24, 2002, and her homicide remains unsolved.
Ten years after the incident, it remains unclear whether responding officers realized Morris was the subject of a 911 call prior to her head injury.
Some records suggest police didn’t think Morris was a 911 target until she was almost brain-dead at 16th and Walnut streets.
Other records suggest that police realized Morris was a 911 target before her head injury, but didn’t convey the information to dispatchers.
In 2006, Officer Elizabeth Skala testified to the PAC that she thought Morris was a 911 target when she gave her the ride.
But a dispatch record indicates that Skala told her dispatcher about 40 minutes after the ride that it didn’t involve a 911 target.
The dispatch record has an unfounded-disposition code for the 911 call that resulted in the ride.
Unfounded-disposition codes are reserved for 911 calls that send police to a location where there’s no person to investigate.
Skala had no explanation for the record as coded, when questioned about it during her 2006 PAC testimony.
Male references to Morris attributed to Skala
Skala and Officer Kenneth Novak were dispatched to investigate a female for possible drugs at Juniper and Chancellor streets, where Morris was staggering outside a bar.
In 2003, Novak indicated that Skala thought Morris was biologically male at that location — which would have been an accurate perception on Skala’s part.
Novak told a detective that Skala went to Jefferson University Hospital later that morning and “identified the male [Morris] as the same one that was at Chancellor and Juniper.”
Similarly, Officer Thomas Berry told a detective that he saw Morris inside Skala’s police vehicle at the end of the ride.
“I asked [Skala] if she needed any help, and she said, ‘No, thanks anyway, [I’m] just dropping him off,’” Berry said.
An earlier PAC faulted Skala for canceling medics and giving the ride — without clarifying Skala’s perceptions of Morris’ gender and 911 status.
In 2011, a new set of PAC members reopened the Morris case and obtained numerous confidential documents from the District Attorney’s office.
At their Jan. 28 meeting, PAC members agreed to review those documents for clarity on the responding officers’ perceptions of Morris’ gender and 911 status.
PAC chair Ronda B. Goldfein said the current PAC has retained the right to quote from the documents.
No frisking of Morris?
If Skala thought Morris was biologically male, it would also explain why she didn’t frisk Morris for drugs.
Novak would have that duty, because drug suspects are supposed to be frisked by officers of the same gender whenever possible.
Frisking Morris might have saved her life, because her home phone number with its West Philadelphia prefix was in her outer clothing — a clear indication that she didn’t live in Center City.
Novak’s movements during the ride remain a mystery, though they may be clarified in the confidential documents.
He told a PAC investigator that he was looking for Morris until he heard Skala place herself back into service for a new assignment.
But Skala said she didn’t place herself back into service until 3:26 a.m. at the earliest, which was after Morris’ head injury.
If Novak was looking for Morris during that time period, his patrol log doesn’t record that activity.
Lack of ride report adds to confusion
Skala told an earlier PAC she didn’t write a report about the ride, since it was given as a courtesy, not as part off her official duty.
But collecting information for a report could have saved Morris’ life, because police reports require the numerical address of a ride recipient, not a street corner.
Skala testified that she never got a numerical address from Morris, but thought she lived in the vicinity of 15th and Walnut streets, because that’s what Morris told her.
Morris actually lived 3 miles away in West Philadelphia, far from the area of where she was transported and subsequently killed.
The PAC is an administrative body; it cannot conduct criminal investigations. But it can evaluate the actions and testimony of police officers, and make recommendations for remedial action, if appropriate.
The PAC’s final report on the Morris case is expected in the coming months.
The PAC’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at a location to be announced.