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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Police Advisory Panel Joins Morris Death Probe

[PHILADELPHIA, PA] - As the months drag on since the seemingly unsolvable death of transgender person Nizah Morris, yet another group has said it will do an independent investigation into the case.

Citing concerns that there may have been police misconduct, the Police Advisory Commission said yesterday it, too, will investigate.

That brings the total number of probes up to four, including one being done by a local African-American gay and lesbian group.

And still no one seems to know just what happened to Morris, who died after being smashed in the head on a Center City street on Dec. 22.

The Police Advisory Commission, a group of civilians that advises the city and the police commissioner, voted to investigate Morris' death last week.

"The commission has dealt in a small way with cases in the transgender community before," said commission spokesman Kelvyn Anderson. "We're always concerned about how that community interacts with the police."

Police have repeatedly denied that any misconduct happened on the night Morris was injured.

But members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have questioned whether Morris was treated unfairly because she was a transgender person, meaning she was biologically male but lived and dressed as a woman.

In addition to the police homicide division's investigation, the district attorney's Office recently began looking into the Morris case after receiving numerous calls about it.

And earlier this week the Philly African-American gay and lesbian group Racial Unity said it would conduct its own gras-sroots investivation.

Anderson said the commission would wait until the DA's probe was finished before starting work. He said they may do a public hearing on it.

Morris' death, and the subsequent police investigation, has been a source of friction between police and the LGBT community.

Morris suffered a blow to the head in the early hours of Dec. 22 on Walnut Street near 16th.

She had collapsed earlier in the night in front of a bar on Juniper Street near Locust. Police offered Morris a ride home.

Morris lived in West Philly, but cops say she asked to be dropped off in Center City. She was found shortly afterward, at 3:25 a.m., in the middle of Walnut Street, with a head injury.

She died Dec. 24. Her death was ruled a homicide, but so far, no witnesses or clues have been found. Police have said the officer who gave her a ride is not a suspect. As a result of the controversy over Morris' death, police have revived a long-dormant committee designed to advise the commissioner on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

If you know anything about Nizah Morris' death call police at . Or if you want to remain anonymous call the Pennsylvania Crime Commission at 215-546-TIPS.

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