TORRANCE ( — A woman who was wrongfully convicted of murder, and spent 17 years in prison, was released from jail late Friday afternoon.

Susan Marie Mellen, 59, was ordered to be released from custody as soon as possible after Judge Mark Arnold overturned the conviction Friday morning. Her release was delayed, however, due to paperwork issues, until about 5:45 p.m.

Mellen was wrongly convicted of first-degree murder in the 1997 beating death of her ex-boyfriend in Lawndale.

The body of Richard James Daly was found burning in an alley. He was bound, gagged and had been beaten with a hammer.

Mellen, who is a mother of three, was freed thanks to Innocence Matters, which worked on her behalf.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” Mellen said after leaving the courthouse Friday evening. “It’s just so amazing, it’s just huge.”

Mellen said she never gave up faith that the conviction would be overturned.

“I told the judge the day I got sentenced, I said ‘One day God will bring the truth to the light,” she said. “I never gave up. . ..  My kids kept me strong because I knew they were doing good.”

Judge Arnold said Mellen’s conviction was based on the false testimony of a woman named June Patti, who told authorities that Mellen had confessed to the murder.

Patti was known to make up stories and her own sister, a police officer, called her, “probably the biggest liar I’ve ever met in my life.”

Patti’s testimony was also contradicted by the coroner’s report, yet these issues did not come up at trial.

“In this rare instance of the criminal justice system, it failed,” Arnold said.

Mellen spent her first night of freedom going shopping and having dinner with family and friends in Torrance. CBS2’s Laurie Perez spent part of the evening with the group.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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