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Published On: Thu, Oct 16th, 2014

California murder case: Susan Mellen free after 17 years in prison

A woman who has served seventeen years in prison for the death of a homeless man was found innocent of murder and set free.

A Los Angeles County judge overturned her conviction, saying that her attorney failed to properly represent her and that a woman who claimed she heard Mellen confess was a “habitual liar.”

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“I believe she is innocent,” Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said. “For that reason I believe in this case the justice system failed.”

This prompted applause from those in the courtroom.

“I always knew that one day God would bring the truth to the light,” Susan Marie Mellen, 59, told reporters just after she was released from a Torrance courthouse.

Mellen was convicted on witness testimony alone, no tangible evidence, for the beating death of Richard Daly at a Lawndale home where Mellen and others lived.

The mother of three was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

“I’m a free woman now. Let me do the running man,” she said, and did a few jogging dance steps before the microphones.

She joked and beamed but also described her imprisonment as “cruel punishment.”

“I would cry every night” in prison, Mellen said, but never lost faith and even wrote “freedom” on the bottom of her tennis shoes “because I knew I was going to walk free one day.”

Mellen’s case was investigated by Deirdre O’Connor, head of a project known as Innocence Matters that seeks to free people who are wrongly convicted.

The witness who claimed she heard Mellen confess was June Patti, who had a long history of giving false tips to law enforcement, according to documents in the case. She 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 Daly’s killing, and Mellen was not there.

In a habeas corpus petition, O’Connor said the police detective who arrested Mellen was also responsible for a case in 1994 that resulted in the convictions of two men ultimately exonerated by innocence projects.

Mellen said she held no ill will against those who put her behind bars.

“No, no, I always forgave my enemies,” she said. “Even your haters, you have to forgive them and sometimes you have to thank them because they bring you closer to God.”

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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