Exonerated woman released from prison after 17 years

ByABC7.com staff via KABC logo
Saturday, October 11, 2014
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A woman exonerated for the murder of a homeless man was released Friday evening after serving 17 years in prison.

TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- A woman who was convicted of murder in the death of a homeless man has been exonerated after serving 17 years in prison. She was released Friday evening.

"I've always forgave my enemies. Even your haters, you have to forgive them, and sometimes you have to thank them because they bring you closer to God," said Susan Mellen Friday night. "I went through a lot and it was cruel punishment."

A Los Angeles County judge overturned Susan Mellen's conviction Friday morning. Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said Mellen is innocent and that "in this case, the justice system failed."

"I do not want her spending any more time in custody," Arnold said.

Mellen had been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in the killing of transient Richard Daly in Lawndale in 1997. The body had been dumped in an alley in San Pedro.

The group Innocence Matters, which works to get innocent people exonerated, investigated Mellen's case and said that she was convicted based solely on the testimony of a notorious liar. The group noticed several inconsistencies with the testimony of June Patti, who claimed to have heard Mellen confess to the murder.

Innocence Matters investigators found out that Patti was known to police as a habitual liar, but that information was never made public. Patti died in 2006.

Three gang members subsequently were linked to the crime, and one was convicted of the killing. Another took a polygraph test and said he was present at the bludgeon killing of Daly, and Mellen was not there.

Mellen's children, who were ages 7, 9 and 22 at the time of her arrest, said they are happy their mother is coming home.

"I think it's been a miserable road. Knowing that my mom has been innocent since day one was the hardest part," said daughter Jessica Besch.

Mellen's eldest daughter, Julie Carroll, raised her two younger siblings while their mother was incarcerated.

The family says they are contemplating filing a lawsuit for the wrongful conviction.

CORRECTION: It was earlier reported the murdered man was the boyfriend of Mellen. The murdered man was a transient unconnected to Mellen.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.