“Crime after Crime” – Film Review

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“If only he had left me alone.” He didn’t and, as a result, it took 26 years, a dedicated team of pro bono attorneys, a documentary film team, a grassroots media campaign, not to mention the ‘Governator’, to free Deborah “Debbie” Peagler.

He was Debbie’s boyfriend who, after winning her heart, quickly became abusive and forced her into prostitution. Desperate to be left alone, Debbie asked for protection from two men – who ended up killing her abuser. Debbie was charged with first-degree murder and entered a guilty plea to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

26 years later, “Crime after Crime” begins with a shot of Debbie Peagler at the Central Valley Women’s Prison in California – an ominous-looking institution from any angle.  She looks serious, but surprisingly not hardened by her more than more than two decades behind bars.

Nadia Costa and Yoav Potash at a "Crime after Crime" screening sponsored by California Women Lead

The film picks up Debbie’s story just after California becomes the first state in the nation to pass a law that allows victims of abuse who are serving time in prison for killing their abusers a chance to have their cases reopened. Having learned about Debbie’s case from the California Habeas Project, Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran, two young lawyers from Walnut Creek, agree to take on the case pro bono.  The fact that Joshua and Nadia specialize in land use law does not hamper their determination.

What starts as a short-term pro bono project for 2 “baby lawyers” turns into a seven year struggle against the system of justice and, ultimately, time. The case becomes personal for Joshua and Nadia who each have their own reasons for sticking with the case. And stick with it they do.

Through inspired story-telling, Filmmaker Yoav Potash brings Debbie’s struggle to the big screen. With compassion and a brilliant understanding of the facts, Potash weaves a story that compels viewers to care while challenging them to take action. The anguish is palpable as Potash shares the chilling statistic that “80% of the women in American prisons are survivors of some form of domestic violence, rape or abuse.”

While the film shines a glaring light on the injustice suffered by Debbie and countless other women, it is not without hope. The relentless efforts of Joshua and Nadia will not let the viewer give up on the system.

Don’t miss it – the film opens August 5, 2011 at select Bay Area theaters:

For more information, visit www.crimeaftercrime.com

View the trailer:

Filed Under: LifestylePro Bono

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