Of the three reported violent acts against trans people in 2020 in Philadelphia, all of the apprehended suspects were civilians. But in the case of Nizah Morris, all the information we currently have points to a Philadelphia Police Officer, who gave Morris a “courtesy ride” on December 22, 2002, as the last person to see Morris before she sustained a fatal head wound. Further information shows that police patrol logs documented Morris solely within the context of being a “hospital case,” which would allow officers to avoid documenting neither the courtesy ride nor the fatal head wound.
There is information that could help shed light on what happened to Nizah Morris, including an interview with the officer who gave Morris the courtesy ride. The interview was conducted by the District Attorney’s Office as part of an investigation into Morris’ death. The District Attorney’s Office continually refuses to release it to the public, citing the Criminal History Record Information Act. The refusal comes despite DA Krasner expressing a desire for transparency in the Morris case at a March 2021 Liberty City event.
The Philadelphia Police Department still has an open investigation into the death of Nizah Morris. Yet as far as we know, they have made no efforts to obtain that interview, which is currently in the sole possession of the District Attorney’s Office. It begs the question: if the investigation is still ongoing, is any work actively being done to solve the case? It seems like requesting that interview would be an important step.
Let’s summarize this: an interview with the most likely last person to see Nizah Morris before her fatal head wound is currently in the possession of the District Attorney’s Office. The DAO refuses to share that interview (along with about 30 other files related to the case) with the public. And the Philadelphia Police Department has an open investigation into the death of Nizah Morris, but they have not requested any of the DAO records, including the aforementioned interview.
An important note: If the DAO records were to become part of the PPD case file on Nizah Morris, the PPD would have to provide those records to PGN due to a 2008 court order for transparency in the case.
Two questions, then. One: does the PPD have a specific reason for not requesting the DAO files on Nizah Morris, including the interview with the PPD officer who gave Morris the courtesy ride? Two: aside from citing the Criminal History Record Information Act, does the District Attorney’s Office have another reason for not sharing their Morris files with PGN or the public, when said files could help shed light on what happened?
For more details on the events leading up to Nizah Morris’ death, I’d suggest reading reporter Tim Cwiek’s 18 years of thorough reporting. In the meantime, we at the Philadelphia Gay News will continue to work to see justice served for Nizah’s family, and we’ll continue to work to point out the need for change in policies and procedures that allow investigations of trans deaths to go unsolved.