“I’m not going to speak about the particular details of a case that I’m not familiar with,” said police spokesperson Lt. John Stanford last week.
His predecessor, Capt. Ray Evers, has emphatically denied the redactions. He claimed that Officer Thomas Berry wrote two reports about the Morris incident that were never redacted.
Stanford stopped short of denying the redactions.
“I can’t speak for my predecessor,” he said.
Morris was a transwoman found with a fatal head injury in Center City at 3:25 a.m. Dec. 22, 2002, shortly after she received a courtesy ride from police. The homicide remains unsolved.
The unredacted version of Berry’s report didn’t surface until 2011, when police located the homicide file in a city-archives unit.
The city’s Police Advisory Commission is reviewing the incident.
Berry’s uredacted police report has conflicting male/female references to Morris. It also has investigation-control numbers.
Berry’s redacted report has no male references to Morris or any investigation-control numbers.
Aside from the redactions, the two reports appear to be identical.
If the reports were identical, it would indicate Berry delayed writing a report until another officer could take control of the investigation and revise its starting point.
Enter Novak and Skala
Officers Kenneth Novak and Elizabeth Skala were dispatched to investigate Morris at Key West Bar at 3:10 a.m., where she was staggering out front, severely intoxicated.
Skala arrived at the location first, and says she transported Morris to 15th and Walnut streets, where she thought Morris lived.
Berry says he first spotted Morris when she was inside Skala’s vehicle near Broad and Walnut streets, near the ride’s conclusion.
Then, he looped around Rittenhouse Square and returned to the area of 16th and Walnut, where he spotted Morris again, this time lying in the street, bleeding and unconscious.
Berry indicated to a dispatcher that a drunk female was being transported by medics to Jefferson University Hospital, and he would write a report.
Novak was summoned to Jefferson about two hours later because Jefferson was his assigned facility. Doctors thought Morris was an assault victim, and no one realized Morris was Berry’s job.
Novak eventually summoned Berry and Skala to Jefferson and explained that Morris was biologically male.
Neither Skala nor Novak had filled in the Key West entries of their patrol logs at that point. So Novak reopened the initial “investigation” of Morris at Key West.
Then, their patrol logs were filled in to reflect that they had some type of earlier involvement with Berry’s hospital case due to an unfounded 911 call at Key West.
But the courtesy ride was never specified in their logs.
If Berry were in control at Jefferson, the logs couldn’t be filled in that way, because Key West wasn’t in Berry’s district — and Berry couldn’t extend the starting point of his hospital case into another police district.
Only Novak could extend Morris’ hospital-case status to Key West, after he took control at Jefferson and reopened the Key West investigation.
Then, Berry wrote a report reflecting he thought the person was a drunken female at Walnut, but was later informed at Jefferson the person was biologically male.
In the past, police have denied that Berry delayed writing a report until Novak could take control at Jefferson and reopen the Key West investigation.
They said Berry wrote a report at Walnut, but it wasn’t needed for investigative purposes because it had a wrong gender for Morris.
Police say Berry’s “first report” doesn’t have investigation-control numbers and reposes in a “miscellaneous” folder in the department’s Morris homicide file.
But police have never explained why Berry felt the need to refer to Morris as a female in his “second report,” if his “first report” already noted that he thought Morris was a female.
Nor have police explained why a copy of Berry’s “first report” without investigation-control numbers was faxed to a homicide detective, if it wasn’t needed for investigative purposes.
Were officers supervised?
Advocates for Morris have long questioned why Berry described Morris’ fractured skull as a mere “cut on head” in his report.
But, Berry was limited in his ability to document Morris’ injuries because Novak was in charge of the investigation at Jefferson.
In response to concerns of a cover-up, police have noted that Sgt. Michael Dougherty, Skala and Novak’s supervisor that morning, was kept fully apprised of the ride and its aftermath.
But if Dougherty was kept fully apprised, it remains unclear why he signed off on potentially questionable paperwork.
An earlier set of PAC commissioners never knew about Berry’s unredacted report and never explored the possibility that Berry delayed writing a report until Novak could take control at Jefferson.
The earlier PAC issued a report about the Morris case in 2007 that never considered those issues.
A new set of PAC members continues to review the Morris case, and their final opinion is expected in the coming weeks.