A Suffolk judge was unmoved by a former Brooklyn man’s claim Tuesday that it was “unfair” that it took 31 years to prosecute him for a murder in 1984 by the side of the Heckscher State Parkway in East Islip.
“Fairness is a relative term,” state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said, shortly before he sentenced Raed Innab, 49, to 22 years to life in prison for killing Darwish Ali Darwish as part of a long-standing feud between their families. “Is it fair for a young mother of three children to learn her husband had been butchered by the side of the road and tossed aside like a bag of garbage?”
The feud between the two Palestinian families dated to long before both settled in Brooklyn. Darwish was stabbed and bludgeoned with a tire iron just weeks after he finished 8 years in prison for shooting Innab’s uncle to death in 1976. Other Innab family members may have taken part in killing Darwish, according to trial testimony, and Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said they may face justice someday too.
Innab and his attorney, Craig McElwee, said the long delay deprived Innab of his right to a speedy trial and compromised his ability to defend himself. McElwee said that will be among the issues raised in an appeal.
Camacho noted that if Innab had led a law-abiding life, he might never have been held responsible for the murder. But because he had a habit of committing credit card fraud, his DNA ended up in a state database and was matched to a spot of blood preserved from Darwish’s sock, the judge said.
“Isn’t that ironic?” Camacho said. “Is it unfair to hold him accountable all these years later?”
Camacho said it’s not.
“You don’t get a benefit” for evading justice, he said. “Justice is patient, and today justice will be served.”
Camacho said he gave Innab less than the maximum sentence of 25 years to life because he took into account that Innab was only 18 at the time and may have been influenced by older family members.
“This conviction is the oldest cold case in the state of New York that’s been tried by a local district attorney’s office,” Biancavilla said of the case.
Before Camacho imposed the sentence, Darwish’s widow, Kahaldeh Darwish, thanked prosecutors and State Police for pursuing the case for so many years.
In the three decades since the killing, she said her Muslim faith kept her strong with the knowledge that she and her husband “will be reunited in paradise.”
Until then, she said, a conviction “that not too long ago was only a mirage” has brought some peace.
Camacho said the case was “fascinating in so many different regards,” including a feud that was the result of a “perverse sense of family loyalty.”