A California woman convicted of murder and imprisoned for 17 years was freed Friday, after her conviction was overturned. Susan Marie Mellen was wrongly convicted over the killing of her ex-boyfriend, Richard Daly, at a Lawndale home in 1997.
A Los Angeles County judge reportedly overturned Mellen’s conviction after an investigation by local attorney Deirdre O'Connor revealed that the key prosecution witness was a "habitual liar." Mellen’s conviction was reportedly based solely on witness testimony. The 59-year-old mother of three was reportedly sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"I believe that not only is Ms. Mellen not guilty, based on what I have read, I believe she is innocent," Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold reportedly said. "For that reason, I believe in this case the justice system failed."
June Patti, the witness who testified that she heard Mellen confess to the murder, died in 2006. According to documents cited by The Associated Press, Patti had a history of giving false information to law enforcement.
Later, three gang members were linked to Daly's killing, and one was convicted for the murder.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Judge Arnold said that Mellen’s attorney failed to properly investigate Patti’s credibility during the 1998 trial.
"I always forgave my enemies," Mellen said, according to the Times. "Even your haters, you have to forgive them and sometimes thank them because they bring you closer to God."
Mellen’s children reportedly said that they were happy after being reunited with their mother.
“My mom wants to drive through McDonalds and get a Happy Meal,” Mellen’s daughter, Jessica Besch, said, according to CBS Los Angeles. “She wants to go to the beach... we’re just going to hang out and get her adjusted to society.”
Mellen’s son Donald Besch reportedly said: “It seems a little unreal right now. I think I’ll believe it when she is in the car.”