One of the many advocates who began pushing for answers in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 homicide of Nizah Morris was then-Police Inspector Anthony Boyle.
“At this particular point, there are questions that I want answered,” Boyle told PGN reporter Tim Cwiek, who is still covering the case, in January 2003. “Maybe everything was done correctly, but maybe police could have looked harder.”
Boyle went on to say that the circumstances of Morris’ death “are still under investigation.”
Fifteen years after Morris was killed by a blow to the head, police and affiliated agencies still aren’t offering a definitive conclusion about what happened. Morris was intoxicated after leaving a party at the Key West Bar on Dec. 22, 2002. A 911 call was placed for medics. But a police officer arrived first and said she would take Morris home. However, Morris lived at 50th and Walnut streets. The courtesy ride lasted for only three blocks, with Morris getting out at 15th and Walnut streets. Minutes later, she was found by passerbsy bleeding out in the street from a head injury.
The medical examiner’s report concluded that Morris died of blunt trauma to the head.
Looking back on PGN’s coverage from those initial weeks after the Morris homicide, so few of the questions surrounding her death have been answered. Who struck her in the head? Were police present? Information has trickled out from the city and police authorities over the years, such as city attorneys last week releasing the 46-page Internal Affairs Division investigative file. Key evidence that would help the public understand what actually happened was not included in the IAD file, even though IAD investigators presumably had access to that evidence — including police-log entries specifically about Morris as well as an officer’s report on the incident.
The bottom line: The courtesy ride was interrupted for unknown reasons, Morris got out of the police car intoxicated but not injured, and 20 minutes later was laying in the street with a blow to the head. If the police weren’t involved in her death, why cover it up in so many ways for so long? It is past time to release the records and tell the truth.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s motto is: “Honor, integrity, service.” The suspicious death of Morris and the subsequent cover-up reflect none of those values. When the police fail to act with honor and integrity toward our most vulnerable citizens, we as a society deserve to know about it.