Oral arguments set in Morris case
by Timothy Cwiek
Feb 27, 2014 | 787 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oral arguments are scheduled for the spring in a document-access dispute relating to the Nizah Morris case.

Morris was a transgender woman who became a homicide victim in 2002, shortly after entering a police vehicle for a “courtesy ride.” The case remains unsolved.

PGN is seeking a computerized dispatch record relating to the Morris case.

It pertains to a vehicle stop initiated by Officer Elizabeth Skala while her earlier dispatch resulting in the courtesy ride was still pending at the 911 call center.

The ensuing confusion contributed to paperwork by responding officers that recorded the entire Morris incident as a “hospital case,” even during the time period when Morris was a courtesy-ride recipient.

In 2008, PGN received an incomplete copy of the dispatch record from the city’s Police Advisory Commission.

The copy is missing several entries, and one of its entries has a redaction.

Last year, PGN requested a copy of the complete dispatch record from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, citing the state’s Right-to-Know Law.

The D.A.’s Office recently informed PGN that it doesn’t have any dispatch records relating to the Morris case.

That statement, however, conflicts with two letters sent by the D.A.’s Office in 2008, indicating that it has multiple dispatch records relating to the Morris case.

PGN has filed an appeal in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, and oral arguments have been tentatively set for 9 a.m. June 2 in Courtroom 426 of City Hall.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Alice Beck Dubow is scheduled to preside.

The complete dispatch record could help explain why Skala didn’t assist at 16th and Walnut streets — where motorists found Morris with a fractured skull.

Police records indicate that Skala was notified of a “hospital case” in that vicinity, but her vehicle stop took precedence.

The complete dispatch record would detail the level of urgency Skala conveyed to her dispatcher about the vehicle stop, which took place at 13th and Filbert streets.

As it turned out, Morris remained at 16th and Walnut for about 40 minutes, before being transported by medics to Jefferson University Hospital.

She was braindead by the time she arrived there, according to hospital records.

In a related matter, the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia recently voted unanimously to add its name to a growing list of organizations calling for a state probe into the Morris case.

“GALLOP wants to lend its voice to the movement requesting an investigation into this case, with the hopes of finding the justice that is deserved,” said GALLOP chair Angela D. Giampolo. “With the rise of murders of transgender individuals in our city, and the lack of police and investigative efforts into those murders, it is the very least we can do an as organization of concerned LGBT lawyers.”

Other groups that support a state probe include GALAEI, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress, the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization for Women, Project SAFE, Jewish Social Policy Action Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Greater Philadelphia.

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