Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Marvin Hill

Other Philadelphia Exonerations
Just before 6:30 p.m. on January 7, 2010, a man called 911 and told the dispatcher to send an ambulance to Broad Street and West Cumberland Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “He’s shot in the … chest,” the caller said. Stacey Sharpe, who was 19 years old, died four hours later at a local hospital.

Jamil Frazier, the caller, later told police that he was walking west on Cumberland, toward Broad, when he sensed someone behind him. He turned and saw two Black men, one behind the other. Frazier said he heard a shot and took off running toward a beer store at Broad and Cumberland. He arrived there and heard several more shots. Quickly, the man who had been immediately behind Frazier ran up and said he had been shot. Frazier didn’t believe him, but the man fell to the ground, bleeding from the chest and leg. The second man then came running up to the store. Frazier described him as 16-18 years old, thin, clean-shaven, and wearing a blue hooded jacket.

Jimmie Washington, an employee at the store, called 911 a few seconds after Frazier. He recognized Sharpe from the neighborhood and told police that Sharpe had made a call on his cellphone after he fell.

Katerina Love, who lived about two blocks east of the beer store on Cumberland, said she heard the first shot, then opened the window of her apartment to look outside. Interviewed that night by police officers, Love described the shooter as dark-skinned, just under six feet tall, about 130 pounds. She said that he was wearing black pants, a black jacket with a red “Polo” horse, and a black hat with a similar insignia. Police interviewed her the next day, and she repeated her description. She also said she had seen the man the day of the shooting at the nearby Cumberland Deli, and he was wearing the same clothing.

On January 8, Detective Thorsten Lucke recovered surveillance video from the deli, which was also on Cumberland, about a block east of Love’s apartment. The footage showed 19-year-old Marvin Hill, wearing jeans and a leather jacket and a knit hat, repeatedly entering and leaving the store in the hour before the shooting. At 6:31, another man named Tyree Alston was seen outside the store, pointing at something down the street.

Detective Philip Nordo brought Hill in for questioning in mid-January. Hill was not read his Miranda rights and was held for three days. Notes from the case file say that Hill tried to help the police identify other people in the surveillance video.

On April 28, 2010, Nordo brought Hill in for further questioning. He also brought in Hill’s brother, Michael Hill. According to a statement attributed to Michael Hill, he, his brother, and Alston were at the store at around 6:30 when Sharpe walked past. Alston followed Sharpe, then pulled out a gun and fired. Nordo interviewed Marvin Hill the next day, took a statement, and then released him.

On May 11, 2010, Nordo picked up Love, placed her in a police van, and showed her a photo array that included Marvin Hill. She circled Hill’s photo and signed her name to several documents confirming her selection.

A month later, on May 27, 2010, Alston gave a statement to police. He said that he and the Hill brothers were hanging around the store when Sharpe came by. He said he saw Marvin Hill follow Sharpe and then shoot him. Later, according to the statement, Hill told Alston that he shot Sharpe because “[i]f [he] let him get away with keeping [his] package, then anyone else would do it.”

The next day, Michael Hill gave a second statement. He said that Marvin and Alston had followed Sharpe and that his brother told him later that he and Alston had shot Sharpe. The police issued an arrest warrant for Marvin Hill on May 31, 2010, and arrested him on February 15, 2011. He was charged with third-degree murder and three weapons violations.

Hill opted for a bench trial before Judge Barbara McDermott in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The trial began on January 22, 2013, with Gerald Stein representing Hill.

By now, Alston had recanted his statement. He wrote a letter to Hill in July 2011 that said he was sorry for making the statement, which he called a lie. At trial, Alston said he and Hill could be seen on the video in front of the store at the time of the shooting. He testified that detectives threatened to charge him with homicide if he didn’t sign the statement.

In his testimony, Michael Hill disavowed the contents of his statements and denied that the signatures on the statements were his.

Love testified that she did not remember much about the shooting. She said she signed the photo card “under duress.” Nordo testified that Love had identified Hill. He also testified about his April interview with Marvin Hill, saying that he had asked Hill about inconsistencies between the statements Hill made then and one he was said to have given police the night of the murder. Stein asked to review that prior statement. Nordo testified that he didn’t know where it was. The prosecutor couldn’t find it either.

Separately, Nordo testified that Marvin Hill was brought to the police station on April 28, 2010 but wasn’t questioned until 21 hours later, when Nordo found Hill sitting at his desk. Nordo did not know where Hill had been during that time period, and no one at trial could account for those hours.

Prior to ruling in the case, Judge McDermott excluded Nordo’s testimony about the statements Marvin Hill made while in custody, saying they were involuntary.

Washington and Frazier were not called as witnesses. Vincent Carter, a former Philadelphia police officer, testified that he saw the shooting as he drove down Cumberland. He described the shooter as a Black man with medium complexion, 15-18 years old, about 5’ 9” tall, with a thin build, wearing a dark hoodie, jeans, and a ski cap. During the trial, Carter looked at still photos of Hill pulled from the surveillance video. He testified that the shooter wore a different hat and jacket.

Lucke testified as an expert witness about the surveillance video. He said that the equipment had not been reset to account for daylight savings, and the timestamps were off by “an hour and some seconds.”

The timestamps showed Hill walking into the store at 6:29:15 and remaining there until 6:31:40. Stein introduced a document called “Incident History Details, which he believed was an accurate log of the 911 calls about the shooting. The first call, according to this report, came at 6:30:29. Stein argued that this showed Hill was at the store at the time of the shooting.

The prosecutor said in closing arguments that these 911 reports were not always accurate. She said that Hill shot Sharpe after leaving the store at 6:31:40, then ran north one block on 13th Street to get to his house. This was contrary to Love’s initial statement to police, in which she said the shooter ran south on 13th.

Judge McDermott convicted Hill of third-degree murder and three weapons violations on January 28, 2013, later sentencing him to between 16½ and 43 years in prison.

Hill appealed, arguing that there had been insufficient evidence. He said that the state’s witnesses had recanted prior to trial and that video from the deli showed him wearing different attire than the clothing described by Love and Carter. He also said that Love did not fully sign the photo array documents.

The state argued that the case against Hill was “overwhelming” and noted that Hill had hid from police for nearly nine months. A three-judge panel in Pennsylvania’s Superior Court affirmed the conviction on November 30, 2018. It said Judge McDermott was within her bounds to credit the initial statements by Michael Hill, Alston, and Love over their trial testimony. It also said that Love’s signatures, while incomplete, were sufficient. “Further, the video evidence described by Appellant does not contradict the identification of the witnesses by establishing that Appellant was somewhere else at the time of the shooting; rather, it shows Appellant at a different, nearby location shortly after the shooting,” the court said. (The state had argued the opposite at trial, that Hill shot Sharpe afterwards.)

In November 2017, Nordo was suspended with intent to dismiss after an investigation showed he paid a witness in another case. In February 2019, Nordo was indicted on charges of sexually assaulting witnesses and suspects, including once in an interrogation room. On June 1, 2022, a jury convicted him on two assault charges​, as well as ​obstruction of justice and official oppression. He was sentenced to up to 49 years in prison.

After Nordo’s indictment, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia County District Attorney’s Office began reviewing his cases. Separately, Hill’s new attorney, James Lloyd III, filed a motion for a new trial on October 20, 2020, under the state’s Post-Conviction Relief Act. The motion said that the state concealed exculpatory evidence and that Stein was ineffective in representing Hill.

According to the motion, the state failed to disclose records from Sharpe’s cellphone showing that the last call was at 6:30 p.m. In addition, the state didn’t disclose a more complete dispatch report that clearly showed the first call was received at 6:29:47 but logged into the system nearly a minute later at 6:30:29. The motion said the report Stein used at trial contained these earlier times, with the ambiguous description “REC,” but Stein used the later times without an adequate investigation into the discrepancy.

Judge McDermott held three days of evidentiary hearing in early 2021. At the hearings, Hill testified that Nordo propositioned and threatened him during the three days he was detained in January 2010. Hill testified that when he rebuffed the advances, Nordo became angry and told him that his life would be a “living hell” and that he would be locked up for years.

At the trial, Judge McDermott had convicted Hill in part based on his “consciousness of guilt” because he had fled from the police and avoided capture. Hill said at the hearing that he hid from the police because “basically [I] was just scared. They kept telling me that I’m about to be locked up for something I didn’t know nothing about.”

The state conceded at the hearing that it had failed to disclose impeachment evidence against Nordo, as evidence of his misconduct was known to the district attorney’s office as early as May 2005.

Separately, a woman named Antoinette Bines provided an affidavit that gave greater clarity to the timeframe of events. Bines appeared on the surveillance video, standing with Alston and Hill. At approximately 6:29:30, Bines could be seen pointing down Cumberland Street, in the direction of the shooting. In the affidavit, she described what she saw and heard. Police had interviewed Bines after the shooting, but she never testified at trial or any hearings because she moved away.

At the hearing, Hill’s attorney called the trial prosecutor. She now offered a new theory of the crime. She said that Hill and Alston (who was never charged) had left the deli at 6:27:43, shot Sharpe, and then returned directly to the store, allowing them to be seen on the video at 6:29:15. The prosecutor testified incorrectly that she had made this argument at trial.

After the hearings, both the state and Lloyd filed briefs asking Judge McDermott to grant a new trial. On July 24, 2021, Judge McDermott dismissed the petition. She wrote that Stein had provided proper representation and that the full dispatch report didn’t add sufficient clarity to where Hill was or wasn’t at the time of the shooting. She said that the timestamps on the surveillance video could have been more than a minute off.

Prior to the evidentiary hearing, Judge McDermott and attorneys for the state and Hill visited the crime scene. “During that visit,” she wrote in her ruling, “this [c]ourt noted the distance between where the shooting was said to have taken place, the corner store where [Appellant] was captured on camera, and the length of the alleyway behind the corner store. By this [c]ourt’s estimate, even if the [c]ourt accepted the Commonwealth’s and [Appellant’s] contention that only thirty seconds had elapsed between the time of the shooting and the time of the first 911 call at 6:29:47 p.m., [Appellant] had ample time to navigate the back alleyway and appear on the surveillance camera, approaching from an easterly direction.”

The ruling also dismissed the claim that Nordo’s undisclosed misconduct tainted the conviction. Judge McDermott said that the misconduct or its value as impeachment evidence was offset by her trial ruling barring Nordo’s testimony about Hill’s statement while in custody.

Both the District Attorney’s Office and Hill appealed. In their brief, they said Judge McDermott’s ruling was wrong on the facts and on the law. While the ruling said Hill likely used an alleyway to return to the store, there was no alley in that location. Judge McDermott had also said the video timestamp could have been a minute off, but the testimony at trial was that it was only off by a few seconds.

The appeals also said that Nordo’s misconduct could have infected more than his interview with Hill. Two weeks after Hill rebuffed Nordo, the detective picked up Love, and she identified Hill as the shooter, an identification that was at odds with her two earlier descriptions.

The briefs said that Judge McDermott had erred when considering the claims that the state failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. She had ruled that the full dispatch report wasn’t purposely hidden from the defense and that the evidence didn’t prove that Hill “was absent from the area of the shooting.” The briefs said that the state’s intent was unimportant when evaluating whether the defense received exculpatory evidence and that Judge McDermott had created a level of materiality for this evidence that was unsupported by case law.

On January 4, 2023, a separate three-judge panel from Pennsylvania’s Superior Court reversed Judge McDermott’s ruling and granted Hill a new trial. The ruling said Judge McDermott’s denial was based on a flawed understanding of the facts in the case. Specifically, there was no alley behind the deli for Hill to use, and there was no evidence that the timestamps on the video were off by more than a few seconds.

The decision did not directly address whether the state had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, either about Nordo’s misconduct, the cellphone records, or the complete dispatch report. Instead, the ruling said Stein had been ineffective. He had known about the second, earlier set of times listed on the incident report but chose to use the first set, which he said at an evidentiary hearing was “sufficient.”

At a hearing on January 19, 2023, Judge McDermott ordered Hill’s release from prison. Hill appeared by video, and his sobs of relief could be heard in the background, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was released later that day. The state dismissed the charges on February 21, 2023.

In May 2023, Hill filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and Nordo, seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

By August 2023, investigations into Nordo’s misconduct had led to the exonerations of eight other men: Gerald Camp, Rafiq Dixon, James Frazier, Marvin Hill, Arkel Garcia, Sherman McCoy, Jamaal Simmons, and Neftali Velasquez.

– Ken Otterbourg

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 3/7/2023
Last Updated: 9/1/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Weapon Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:2010
Sentence:16 1/2 to 43 years
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No