L.A. to pay $12 million in wrongful-conviction case against former LAPD detective

TORRANCE, CA, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2014 - Susan Mellen, 59, is greeted by family, friends and media o
The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $12 million to Susan Mellen, who was freed from prison in 2014.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $12 million to Susan Mellen, who spent 17 years behind bars for a murder she didn’t commit.

After being released in 2014, Mellen and her three children sued former Los Angeles Police Det. Marcella Winn. They contended the detective had been told a witness against Mellen was “a habitual liar,” but failed to disclose that to the defense.

Through numerous legal proceedings, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in August that the suit against Winn should go to trial.

A judge ruled Winn withheld the evidence and “acted with deliberate indifference or reckless disregard.”


Winn and Mellen could not be immediately reached for comment.

The LAPD declined to comment. Innocence Matters, a nonprofit legal organization that helped win Mellen’s release, did not responded to request for comment.

In June 2015, the state of California awarded Mellen $597,200 in compensation for the 1998 conviction.

The $12-million settlement isn’t the first one involving Winn. She also was the lead detective in the prosecution of Obie Anthony, who was declared innocent after spending 17 years behind bars for a killing outside a brothel in South Los Angeles. The city of Los Angeles paid Anthony $8.3 million in compensation.


Meanwhile, the 9th Circuit said Mellen was convicted “based solely” on the testimony of June Patti, who claimed that Mellen had confessed to her that she killed Richard Daly. The body of the 30-year-old transient and father of two was found near a trash bin in San Pedro.

Patti’s sister, Laura Patti, a police officer in Torrance at the time, said she told Winn that June was a habitual liar, the court said.

Laura Patti said in a deposition that her conversation with Winn was brief, and that the detective did not ask why she believed June Patti was a liar.

“But it turned out that Laura was right about her sister,” the 9th Circuit said.

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