Woman exonerated in murder case after 17 years

TORRANCE, Calif. -- A woman who was convicted of murder in the death of her ex-boyfriend has been exonerated after serving 17 years in prison.

A Los Angeles County judge overturned Susan Mellen's conviction Friday morning and she was to be processed and released from the Torrance courthouse. Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said Mellen is innocent and that "in this case the justice system failed."

Mellen had been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the beating death of her ex-boyfriend, Richard Daly.

The group Innocence Matters, which works to get innocent people exonerated, investigated Mellen's case and said that she was convicted in the 1997 killing 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 Mellon 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.

Mellen's children say their mother wants to head straight to McDonald's to get a Happy Meal when she gets out of prison. They also want to take her to Disneyland because they never had a chance to go there with her.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.