On Friday, Susan Marie Mellen, 59, was released after serving 17 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. In 1997, she was convicted of the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Richard Daly.
A Los Angeles County judge overturned Mellen’s conviction, after results from an investigation by a local attorney revealed that the prosecution witness was a habitual liar who had a history of giving false statements to authorities. June Patti, who died in 2006, testified in court that she heard Mellen confess to the crime.
Mellen was convicted of the crime based only on Patti’s witness testimony, and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After more investigation, three gang members were connected to the killing of Daly, and one of them was convicted of the crime, IB Times reports.
Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said, “I believe she is innocent. For that reason I believe in this case the justice system failed. Not only do I believe Ms. Mellen is not guilty, I believe, based on what I’ve read, she’s innocent.”
After the conviction was overturned, the court burst into applause. After her release, she hugged her three children and her 19-month-old grandson.
“First time I held him. I’m a free woman now. Let me do the running man.”
Deirdre O’Connor was the one responsible for investigating Mellen’s case. She is the head of the Innocence Matters project, which aims to free convicted felons who are wrongfully accused. During the investigation, O’Connor found out that one of the police detectives who arrested Mellen was also involved in a 1994 case where two men were wrongfully convicted. Furthermore, one of the gang members linked to the crime stated during a polygraph test that he was present during Daly’s killing, and that Mellen was not there at that time, according to Yahoo News.
Even after spending several years in prison for a crime that she did not commit, Mellen says that she forgives her haters, and even thanks them because they brought her closer to God. One of her wishes is to share a McDonald’s Happy Meal with her daughter.
“Me and her were at McDonald’s when I got arrested and we didn’t have a Happy Meal that day. It’s a happy ending right now… We’re going to have a new beginning.”
[Image via Brad Graverson/ABC News]