The Conviction of Kitty Dodds” is notable for its honesty, depth of performances and poignancy. The based-on-fact vidpic, scripted by Doug Magee, will add to the debate on the “battered woman” defense as it brings to the forefront once more the victimization of abused women in the domestic arena.
The telefilm chronicles the events of an abused wife and mother of two who arranged to have her husband murdered, and the unsympathetic mentality of Louisiana’s judicial system long before the “battered wife syndrome” became a legal defense.
After a daring escape from prison, Kitty (Veronica Hamel) travels to Peculiar , Mo., where she assumes another name, takes a job as a waitress and meets Chuck Hayes (Kevin Dobson).
Over the ensuing months of dating, Kitty tells Chuck nothing about her past. They marry, but her idyllic life changes when Kitty is taken into custody.
Though they eventually divorce, Chuck vows to help Kitty win her freedom with the help of attorney Ann Williams (Lee Garlington). Williams is successful in having the state board reduce Kitty’s sentence to 30 years — however, Kitty still must fight for parole.
In a powerful scene before the parole board, Kitty — frightened and tearfully inarticulate — fails to express enough remorse. This scene more than any other levies a severe judgment on a system that refuses to understand.
“Conviction” is kept from teetering into melodrama by the nuanced performances of Hamel and Dobson and Michael Tuchner’s direction, which is balanced and restrained. Tuchner is not heavy-handed, nor does he go after the audience’s heartstrings just for the sake of doing so. The result is breathing characterizations with enormous integrity.