2011 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 4 of 5 yaps
Crime After Crime
“Crime After Crime” is a prime example of the problems that plague our judicial system and how our system sometimes works against us rather than for us.
Debbie Peagler was a young woman when she was sentenced to a 25-to-life prison sentence for her connection to the murder of her husband — a man who continually abused her and forced her into prostitution. Her connection to the crime should have warranted her only a 6-year sentence in prison. Now, fast forward 20 years later and two pro bono attorneys, Joshua Safran and Nadia Costa, have taken Debbie’s case and after a 7-year, uphill battle, Debbie was freed from prison.
“Crime After Crime” is Yoav Potash’s beautiful and heartbreaking story of Peagler’s attempts to be freed from prison and finally achieving that goal. It’s obviously, and exceptionally, personal to Potash because of the great detail he puts into this project. He never once skews any of the details in the favor of his subject. Potash doesn’t set out to create a story but just plainly bring one to light.
On the surface, the documentary seems to be about a woman unjustly incarcerated and fighting to be free, but it is really the story of a legal system that sometimes is more harmful than it is helpful. Peagler was incarcerated for allegedly helping orchestrate her abusive husband’s murder. In reality, Peagler lured her husband to an area where a few of her friends were going to “teach” him a lesson. After she left, her husband was unintentionally beaten to death. When Peagler was put on trial, the DAs bullied her into choosing her life sentence over the death penalty.
“Crime After Crime” is a huge eye-opener to our penal system. Potash informs us 80 percent of the women in prison are survivors of domestic abuse or rape. When Peagler was on trial in the ’80s, evidence of her continued abuse wasn’t even a factor in the case. Each time that she went up for parole, the evidence that she was abused wasn’t even acknowledged. The sad fact is that DAs at the time had knowledge of a testimony being falsified and they used it anyway to put Peagler away.
Peagler’s story is sad but uplifting at the same time. To see a woman who has owned up to her mistakes and served more than her fair share of time is inspiring. Peagler did everything that she could to put a positive spin on her situation, and I highly recommend seeing this documentary because it will definitely open your eyes.