Another miscarriage of Justice?

The conviction and incarceration of the innocent

Wrongful Convictions: What are they?

In many cases of wrongful convictions, there tends to be an underlying cause that leads the court into convicting an innocent defendant("causes of wrongful convictions"Nat.Mich.). In the case of Susan Mellen, a false accusation lead the jury to convict Mellen of 1st degree Murder in the killing of Richard Daly.

The Conviction and Incarceration of Susan Mellen

On August 25, 1997 Susan Marie Mellen was arrested in Gardena, California for the murder of Richard Daly. Daly was found burning in an alley in San Pedro, California after being beat to death in a house in Lawndale, California on July 21st,1997. Informants stated that he was beat to death by gang members Ghost, Wicked, and Payaso. Mellen’s alibi was that she was with her father-in- law and daughter, moving to a Gardena home. The house in which Daly was killed was vacant but was owned by Susan’s mother. Detective Marcella Winn was given this alibi but instead took the word of someone who was not involved in the case at all, or at the crime scene. Anntoinette “June” Patti was known as an unreliable source to the Torrance police department, seeing that she had put in false tips to law enforcement in other cases and her sister, a Torrance police officer, told Winn that June was a liar and a manipulator. Patti lied and told Winn she was a paralegal and claimed Mellen told her she and her boyfriend, Tom had killed Daly. Days before calling Winn and giving her this information, Patti had spoken with Wicked’s mother about the case before he was arrested and charged with Daly’s murder. Winn did not question Ghost and Payaso, as they were already being charged for other cases at the time. Winn gave one of the members a polygraph test and when asked if Mellen was there at the scene, he said no, which was deemed to be a truthful answer by the test. Mellen was not given a poly graph test and not told about the information Patti gave to Winn. Mellen knew Patti from years before, when Patti stabbed the father of her two children. Patti was no friend of Mellen. While on trial, Patti even changed her confession, changing the time in which it happened and how Daly was killed. Winn ignored all of these things, and arrested Mellen in front of her daughter after calling Mellen and saying she wanted to talk with her about the case. On May 15, Mellen was charged with first degree murder, given a sentence of life in prison with no parole. Mellen was not released until February 4th, 2014.

Mellen, Patti, and The Crucible

The Crucible:Justice Theme

In the Crucible, Arthur Miller illustrates the consequences of a society believing that accusers, the people naming names; are innocent , showing the court lack of justice and power of some individuals,over others. An example of this injustice appears when Elizabeth Proctor is summoned to the court after being accused of witchcraft by Abigail williams. John Proctor is bewildered and talks with Hale saying,

HALE: If she is innocent, the court-
PROCTOR If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem-vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!(Miller 1069).Proctor argues that court never questions the accusers,and instead takes in those who are innocent, ignoring all other evidence and taking the word of one person. This also happened in the Mellen case.The court ignores reliable evidence, and instead takes the word of Patti, who's sister, aTorrance police officer told the court, "My sister is probably the biggest liar I ever met in my life..and if I don't see something happening directly that she's involved in, than I don't believe anything she has to say" (O'Connor 14). The sister of the accuser tells the court Patti is a habitual liar, yet and still they take her word and say Susan is guilty.

Another example of this injustice appears in The Crucible, when the accuser, Abigail, threatens the court, when they suspect her story is untrue. Abigail tells Dandforth,"Danforth, weakening: Child, I do not mistrust you -

Abigial, in an open threat: Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it! There is -.."(Miller 1088). When Abigail thought that Danforth didn't trust her, she threatened him, showing the power she held over the court at this time. The court ignored the real evidence because they were scared of the accuser. This is evident in the Mellen case as well, seeing that the accuser Patti, had threatened officials in previous cases she was involved in. A policer reports, " When Patti began to suspect that the officer did not trust her, she made up a story that she was being targeted and threatened the officer to " take care of her or else" (O'conner 49). This shows how much power Patti had, using it to evoke fear into officials, to get the outcome she wanted from the case. The injustice in both cases could have been stopped. In the crucible, when Danforth was asked to pardon the hangings, Danforth says, " you misunderstand sir; I cannot pardon these when 12 are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just" (Miller 1101). Danforth knew these people were innocent but instead of stopping he believed it would be wrong, because people already had been hanged. Danforth could have stopped the injustice then, instead he continued. Also evident in the Mellen case, the investigator Winn claims that "Patti's level of detail could not be ignored"(O'Connor 49). Winn knew that Patti was a "liar and manipulator"(Possely Susan Mellen-exoneration) yet she continued on with the case, having Mellen incarcerated.

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Works Cited


"Causes of Wrongful Convictions." Causes of Wrongful Convictions. University of Michigan Law School-Innocence Clinic, 2008. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Miller, Arthur. "The Crucible." Glencoe Literature. By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Douglas Fisher, Beverly Ann. Chin, and Jacqueline Jones. Royster. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2009. 1026-114. Print.

O'Connor, Deirdre L. "Susan Mellen Petition Habeas Corpus." Latimes.com. LA times, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

Possley, Maurice. "Susan Mellen-Exoneration." Susan Mellen -Exoneration. University of Michigan Law School, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

"Susan Mellen Case." Innocence Matters. Innocence Matters Inc., 16 Aug. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2014.