Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association president Larry Flowers has been appointed to the Independent Review Panel, the three-member body that advises District Attorney Timothy Sini on cases presented to an integrity board.
Sini created the Conviction Integrity Bureau in 2018 to investigate claims of innocence, remedy past wrongful convictions and prevent future wrongful convictions. The IRP’s three independent legal experts review cases investigated by the CIB and advise Sini to join or deny petitions to vacate convictions filed by defendants who believe they were wrongfully proseucted.
"My goal is to make sure the right thing is being done," said Flowers, whose law practice is based in Huntington. "My belief is that the role of the district attorney is not convictions, but justice."
Sini said the Conviction Integrity Bureau has received 168 applications since its creation. The CIB spent a year investigating the conviction of Keith Bush, who spent 33 years in prison after he was convicted of murdering another high school student in 1975. Sini’s office joined Bush’s attorneys in filing a motion to vacate the conviction, and a Suffok judge exonerated Bush in 2019.
Sini said it is important to have legal experts who are not prosecutors serve on the IRP. In addition to Flowers, the panel also includes former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, an ethics expert and a founding member of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s IRP, and Laura Solinger, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney who worked for the Legal Aid Society before opening her own firm in Southold.
"They won’t pull punches, that is for sure," Sini said. "That is what we need, independent eyes on these cases."
Sini also appointed Craig McElwee, previously the deputy chief of the offices’ District Court Bureau and a violent crime prosecutor, as acting bureau chief of the CIB. McElwee is also a former criminal defense lawyer.
"Mr. McElwee brings a unique and valuable perspective to the role, having proven himself as both a successful prosecutor and defense attorney," Sini said.
Sini also said Laurie Korenbaum, a longtime federal prosecutor, would serve as Special Assistant District Attorney to the CIB. Korenbaum served as the chief of the Violent Crimes and Organized Crime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She served for two years as special assistant to the US Attorney, specializing in wrongful conviction cases and cold case murders.