documentary; directed by Yoav Potash
by Alex Jackson From 1983 to 2009, Deborah Peagler was incarcerated at the Central California Women's Facility for the murder of her boyfriend, Oliver Wilson. Wilson battered Peagler, forced her into prostitution, and molested her daughter from a previous relationship, but because he took out an insurance policy before his death naming Peagler as a beneficiary, and because the actual murder was carried out by two Crips she went to for protection, the district attorney at the time presented this as a hired killing. All evidence of abuse at the hands of Wilson was suppressed. In 2002, encouraged by a new California law giving battered women a second chance for a hearing if the original court did not consider evidence relating to the abuse, land-use lawyers Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran took Peagler's case pro bono and spent the next seven years fighting for her release. Crime After Crime rather preciously argues that battered women who kill their abusers are victims, too. I mean, no shit, right? The case of Deborah Peagler is a pretty easy one to get indignant about. Accordingly, Crime After Crime is neither incredibly intelligent nor particularly challenging. It is, however, wonderfully entertaining. Director Yoav Potash was there from the very beginning, and the intimacy he developed with his three subjects during that time lends the picture genuine warmth that cuts through the sermonizing. And I like how Wilson kind of fades from memory as the film progresses. This is not at all a depressing documentary and only superficially an angry one. Twenty-six years is a long time (Peagler ends up spending more of her life in prison than she did as a free woman)--much too long to stay angry or resentful and much too long to go without establishing some sort of personal identity and purpose. While incarcerated, Peagler directed the prison gospel choir and earned two associate's degrees. Potash additionally includes the testimony of a former drug addict who credits Peagler with helping her to earn her bachelor's degree. The last thing you could feel while watching Crime After Crime is pity for a wasted life.