The Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday vacated the murder conviction and sentence of Obina Onyiah, 38, who had been serving a life sentence in connection with the 2010 shooting death of Lawndale jeweler William Glatz.
The incident took place at Glatz’s shop, at 6435 Rising Sun Ave. Kevin Turner, 22, who had escaped from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility nine days earlier, entered the shop with another man to rob the business, which had been in the Glatz family for more than 60 years.
The robbery was captured on store video, as Glatz and three employees were working. Turner and Glatz shot at each other.
Turner died at the scene, while Glatz was pronounced dead at Albert Einstein Medical Center. The other gunman fled west on Passmore Street.
Several weeks later, police arrested Onyiah, who lived on the 5400 block of Akron St. in Frankford, after a tip from a jailhouse informant. A jury later convicted him in the murder.
However, according to the District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, Onyiah was a victim of mistaken identity. Witnesses described Turner’s accomplice as about 5 feet 7 or 5 feet 8 inches tall. Onyiah is 6 feet 3.
As part of the CIU review of Onyiah’s prosecution, multiple forensic experts utilized photogrammetry – a scientific technique used to investigate photographic crime scene images – and corroborated witness testimony that Turner’s accomplice was most likely shorter than 5 feet 11.
Onyiah and his counsel have always claimed that homicide detectives used physical and psychological tactics to coerce his confession.
“Prior to 2018, this office conducted no meaningful review of credible claims regarding unconstitutional or illegal investigations resulting in convictions. In fact, this office was more likely to defend the most problematic convictions every step of the way – no matter how clear the DNA test results or other exculpatory evidence,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner. “By simply granting the CIU the authority and independence to do their work without interference, this office has overseen 20 exonerations in under four years. What Patricia Cummings and the CIU have accomplished in Philly should lead elected officials and residents in other jurisdictions to demand similar accountability and integrity from their criminal justice systems.”
Onyiah was not released from prison despite the murder conviction being vacated. He remains behind bars on a conviction of robbing a Citizens Bank branch on Bustleton Avenue in 2009. ••