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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The title can be misleading, because she wasn't thinking about
murdering someone, she had someone else's murder on her mind.
Annabeth Gish is Sally Linden who, 15 years earlier, had been on a jury of a murder trial. At that time she was married to a slacker and, with a small daughter, was unavoidably late for deliberations on the final day of the trial. The jury ended up convicting the woman for first degree murder, based solely on the testimony of her husband, who already had a criminal record.
So this movie is really about Sally's quest to recall those days and see if she can do anything, once she found the woman was still in prison. In the present time she is re-married to a nice man, and her daughter is going off to college.
There isn't much exciting in the movie, but it is well-acted.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie begins with Sally's nightmare. Theresa is dancing with a man
at a club. Then she is on the beach. Someone kills the man, but we
can't tell who.
In another scene early in the movie, Sally is a published author and attending a book-signing, where her current husband (not her first) is reading from her latest book.
Sally's daughter Aimee is preparing to leave for college, and she needs a big old trunk. Sally discovers a notebook in that trunk--the notebook she used years ago as a juror in Theresa's trial.
Through flashbacks, we learn of Sally's experiences years earlier. As Sally gets called for jury duty, her abusive husband is having trouble making ends meet and he has yet another scheme in mind. Sally is approved as a juror but the judge doesn't like the idea of her taking notes.
One day Sally's husband has to leave but Sally has to go to court. Who will take care of Aimee? Her father doesn't seem to care, and Sally packs up Aimee and leaves. But not soon enough for the judge, who replaces her with an alternate. Only Sally seemed sympathetic to Theresa, so Theresa ends up in prison.
Feeling guilty all these years later, Sally visits Theresa in prison, seeking to write about her case and hoping to get her conviction reversed somehow. Theresa doesn't seem bitter, and the two become friends because they have so much in common. For example, Theresa was abused by her husband Vincent, who had quite a past. The two keep in contact.
Can Theresa be exonerated? This is a really good mystery, with some interesting twists, some involving the different laws in the states Theresa and Vincent lived in, and the challenges lawyers face.
Annabeth Gish does a good job, but so does Chandra West. In her early scenes, West seems so flat and emotionless, even clueless, but that's just because her character has to put up a front in hopes of being found innocent. The prisoner Theresa has a lot more range and more determination to accomplish something.
It's worth seeing.
Though saddled with some of the usual Lifetime quirks a ridiculously generic title and a couple of sappy soft-rock songs towards the end "Murder on Her Mind" is actually a quite good thriller. Its real theme, told vividly, is what makes good women fall for bad men and why do some such women escape their abusive partners while others let their men lead them into depravity and crime. The script by Semi Chellas is expert at paralleling the life experiences of Sally and Theresa, and showing that Sally's commitment to reopening Theresa's case is motivated by a feeling of "there but for the grace of God go I." It's a powerful film that triumphs through minor glitches in the execution, and David Wellington's direction is quiet, understated and fully worthy of the story. I especially liked the fact that he was able to get his actors to suggest that they were 15 years older in the modern scenes than in the flashbacks without having them slathered in makeup, just by getting them to change their facial expressions and move more slowly and heavily. Whether this film stays true to the details of the real story on which it's based is irrelevant; the point is that on its own terms it's powerful, moving and emotionally credible drama, the sort of diamond in the rough that makes Lifetime worth watching.
Sally Linden (Annabeth Gish) is an author living with boyfriend Leonard
(Callum Keith Rennie) in Canada. Her daughter Aimee (Kristen Hager) is
going to college. She is haunted by an old case from 1993 in Hawaii
when she was on the jury. The defendant was Theresa Nichol (Chandra
West) accused of robbing and killing a man with her husband Vincent
(Hugh Dillon). Vincent testifies against her. The judge is skewed
against her. Sally was living with her boorish, abusive husband Danny
(Gabriel Hogan) at the time. She found parallels between her life and
Theresa. She was inclined to acquit but she is kicked off the jury for
arriving 5 minutes late. Theresa is sentenced to 30 years and still
imprisoned in California. Sally endeavors to reopen the case with the
help of lawyer John Emory (Maury Chaykin).
This movie tries a little too hard dealing with guilt and innocence. This story should be a lot more murkier dealing with why she stayed. It should not be an easy answer. At least, it touches on some interesting ideas but it needs to stay within the complexity of the situations. That is where the truly fascinating emotions lie. This movie struggles to rise above its Lifetime TV movie genes. This is a bigger problem in this movie because it is based on a real case. This would be a better movie simply about the murders and the Nichols. All the stuff about the trials, the convictions, and the appeals are better left as post scripts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Inspired by the story of Maryann Acker from the book "Who Named the
Knife" by Linda Spalding, this dramatization is followed by the fine
print: "All characters, locations and events have been fictionalized."
This makes it difficult to pin down what laws are being followed. A
defendant is led into the courtroom wearing handcuffs and leg-irons -
in full view of the jury. Then, they are removed. Being a juror in
California, my experience was quite different. We were not allowed to
see the defendant walk in and be bound to a chair; moreover, the judge
instructed us to ignore the leg irons...
You are allowed to take notes, but may not take them out of court for personal use - such as writing a fictionalized story based on the trial. This juror should have been fined, at least. People do not bring their pre-teen children to sit with them in the jury box. They would not get past security. Herein, the lawyers and judge do not appear to know much about the law. The defendant wears a blouse unbuttoned down the front on the day she testifies - and, nobody seems notice she hasn't buttoned her shirt. A very beautiful woman, she apparently also keeps a good make-up supply in her prison cell...
The story is about how the dismissed juror (played by Annabeth Gish) is haunted by the old trial which sent the defendant (played by Chandra West) to prison for murder. Juror #11 was excused right before deliberations and was the only one who identified with the accused. Through flashbacks, we witness what really happened as Ms. Gish investigates the trial and puts her past in order. The cast and crew do the best they can, but it's not believable. Probably the most important fact about the case is that the defendant could have been convicted of murder even if she sat in the car - for each one.
**** Of Murder and Memory (10/10/08) David Wellington ~ Annabeth Gish, Chandra West, Hugh Dillon, Gabriel Hogan
11 out of 12 Jurors found her guilty. She may not have pulled the trigger, but she was an accomplice. Guitly, Guilty Guilty.. What about Larry and his family? What do you suppose this is doing to them right now having this come up again? And this Author is making money off her book and TV movie on the crime. Will the movie focus on what kind of family the Haskers had or will it focus on what a terrible break the killing couple had, that they got caught. Haven't you heard? All the convicts in prison are innocent and they will tell you that if you ask them. maybe we should let all of them out? What about donating this money to the victims family and not spend time buttering up to a criminal. I read part of the book, what a crock of Sh--.
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