For the fifth time, the trial testimony of Officer Elizabeth Skala in a pending DUI case has been postponed.
Prosecutors requested the latest postponement on Dec. 1, citing the need for more time to investigate the case.
In May 2002, Skala arrested Richard Patterson for allegedly driving in Center City while under the influence of alcohol.
Seven months later, Skala gave Nizah Morris a Center City courtesy ride. Shortly after the ride, Morris was found by passing motorists with a fatal head wound.
Michael L. Doyle, an attorney for Patterson, recently gave prosecutors two Police Advisory Commission reports about the Morris incident, along with Skala’s 2006 PAC testimony.
He contends the materials raise serious questions about Skala’s credibility.
Municipal Court Judge Gerard A. Kosinski set a new trial date for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 5 in Courtroom 903 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St.
Skala quietly left the courtroom after the new court date was announced.
Last month, Doyle issued a subpoena for the Police Internal Affairs investigation file pertaining to the Morris incident.
“It’s common to request this type of information when there have been prior allegations of dishonesty on the part of an arresting officer,” Doyle said outside the courtroom.
Doyle said he hadn’t yet received the Morris Internal Affairs file from local authorities, and he didn’t know whether they’d comply with his subpoena.
If Doyle receives the Morris Internal Affairs file, he said he’ll consider releasing it to the public, upon request.
“If I can release it, I don’t see why not,” he said.
The city Law Department recently denied a request by PGN for a copy of the complete Morris Internal Affairs file.
In 2011, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order, opening Internal Affairs files to the public. But city attorneys say Nutter’s executive order doesn’t apply to the Morris Internal Affairs investigation, which took place from 2004-05.
Patterson faces significant jail time if convicted. But outside the courtroom, he expressed optimism about the case, without elaborating.
Patterson failed to show up for a court proceeding in 2002, which resulted in the issuance of a bench warrant for his arrest. This past July, he attended a social event in South Philadelphia that became disorderly. When police arrived and asked Patterson for proof of his identity, he was arrested.
Patterson remains free after posting $5,000 bail.
If Patterson isn’t satisfied with the outcome of his municipal court trial, he’s permitted to appeal in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
Morris, who was transgender, died two days after Skala’s courtesy ride. Her homicide remains unsolved, and advocates continue to push for a state probe. But so far, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane hasn’t agreed to review the matter.
Skala has denied any culpability in Morris’ homicide. But the PAC’s 2013 report raised multiple questions about her credibility.
For example, onlookers told the PAC they helped Morris get into Skala’s vehicle, because Morris was too inebriated to stand or walk unassisted. Yet Skala testified that nobody was at the scene except her and Morris, and that Morris could enter and exit her vehicle without assistance.
A few years after the Morris incident, Skala was removed from street patrol. She reportedly works in the police commissioner’s office.
From our media partner PGN