LA to pay $12 million to innocent woman convicted of murder

Susan Mellen, sentenced to life in prison without parole, was released in 2014 with the help of a nonprofit legal organization.

Sara Rubenstein ,

Illustrative picture of prison.
Illustrative picture of prison.
Thinkstock

The Los Angeles City Council will pay $12 million to a former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective who served 17 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted for murder, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Susan Mellen, sentenced to life in prison without parole, was released in 2014 with the help of a nonprofit legal organization, Innocence Matters. Following her release, she and her three children filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, claiming that the lead detective was aware that her case against Mellen was based on the testimony of a "pathological liar" but failed to report that fact to the defense.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in August that the suit against former Detective Marcella Winn should go to trial.

“The record demonstrates as a matter of law that Detective Winn withheld material impeachment evidence,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court, according to the L.A. Times.

Mellen was convicted of murdering Richard Daly, a 30-year old man transient man, on the sole testimony of June Patti who claimed that Mellen confessed the murder to her. However, Laura Patti, June's sister, told Detective Winn that June was "a habitual liar."

Additionally, Judge Wardlaw said that June Patti had been noted as an "unreliable informant" by the Torrance Police Department five years before Mellen was convicted.

"In a fourteen-year span between 1988 and 2002, Patti had more than 800 contacts with law enforcement, where she was known to exaggerate or outright lie to police officers to protect or advance her own interests,” Wardlaw wrote.

According to the court, Mellen was convicted with no evidence linking her to the crime, such as fingerprints, DNA, or eyewitness testimony, and despite that fact that June Patti's report of Mellen's confession was inconsistent over the duration of the prosecution.

Innocence Matters spoke with Laura Patti and also interviewed two men who confessed to the killing and vehemently denied Mellen's involvement, the L.A. Times said

Winn also served as the lead detective prior to the conviction of Obie Anthony, who was also wrongfully jailed for murder for 17 years. He received $8.3 million in compensation from the city of Los Angeles.




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