Jul 7, 2014
Crime after Crime tells the story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence. She was convicted of the murder of her abusive boyfriend and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Debbie Peagler, an African-American, suffered mountains of abuse first at the hands of a boyfriend who brutally beat her and forced her into prostitution, and later by prosecutors who cornered her into a life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser.
Peagler began a relationship with Oliver Wilson when she was 15 years old and pregnant. A year later, Wilson asked Peagler to help him “earn some money.” Only when she was sent in the room with a “john” did she finally realize that Wilson was attempting to pimp her. When she refused, he beat her and berated her. Eventually, she began to prostitute herself for Wilson’s gain.
Peagler finally managed to separate from Wilson. Wilson and two armed accomplices attacked Peagler and threatened to kill her and her family. Wilson was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but was released the following day.
Fearing for her daughter’s life, Debbie’s mother asked some neighborhood gang members to get Debbie’s boyfriend to stop abusing her. They agreed. And Debbie introduced Wilson to them. Trying to teach him a lesson, they ended up beating him to death.
Peagler was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Facing the death penalty, she pleaded guilty in order to save her life and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Debbie Peagler’s story took an unexpected turn two decades later when two rookie land-use attorneys, Joshua Safran and Nadia Costa stepped forward and took her case pro bono. Through their perseverance, they brought to light long-lost witnesses, new testimonies from the men who committed the murder, and proof of perjured evidence.
The documentary detailed every corruption and all the politically driven resistance that the lawyers and Peagler encountered. Every twist and turn an added outrage on top of a huge pile of outrages. Paroles denied. Retrial denied. Deals were reneged on. Request for compassionate release DENIED.
Denied parole on several occasions, Peagler was finally granted parole. She had spent more than half her life in prison. Ten months after her release from prison, Debbie Peagler died at the age of 50.
As the documentary points out, there are thousands of Peaglers who never receive any justice. It would be an outrageous claim to say Peagler herself got even a drop of justice.