Crime After Crime is a documentary that touches on the 2002 law that allows incarcerated domestic violence victims the right to petition the courts to reopen their cases. This film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on July 1, 2011.
Deborah Peagler Wilson was found guilty for assisting with the murder of her husband, Oliver Wilson. When Deborah met Oliver, she was just fifteen years old and a sophomore in high school. He was a charismatic, runway model for men attire and offered her the world, or so she thought. Oliver would buy Deborah whatever she wanted in the beginning of their relationship, but that was short lived. Deborah was soon forced into prostitution by Oliver because he needed money for drugs and his expensive lifestyle.
Zabrina, Oliver’s sister, denied having knowledge about Deborah’s abuse, but never said that she was lying, instead said that she was most likely a closeted victim. Zabrina admitted to being a closeted victim because she was sexually abused for years by her father and uncle.
Deborah goes on to explain in depth about the abuse that she sustained at the hands of Oliver. If she refused to prostitute, he would beat her with a bullwhip. The beatings escalated, when Oliver started using drugs. He tried to ease up on the beatings, when he found out that Deborah was pregnant, but that was only temporary. In 1982, Deborah got her opportunity to leave Oliver, when they were evicted from their apartment. She agreed to take their kids and move in with her mother, while he moved in with his mother. She thought that she was rid of him for good, until he started threatening and harassing her. He would show up at her mother’s house with guns trying to force Deborah to come back to him, but she continued to refuse. The cops were called and Oliver was arrested, but he was released the next day.
Two Crips gang members, Ramone Sibley and Timmy, get word of Oliver and his buddies bringing guns on their turf and threatening one of their people. Ramone and Timmy strangled Oliver to death in an empty field, but Deborah denies being present. In 1983, she is charged with first degree murder and soon pleads guilty to the charges, just to avoid the death penalty. Ramone also plead guilty and was handed down a life sentence, as was Deborah. Timmy refused to admit to his guilt and soon met his fate in prison.
Deborah’s daughter, Natasha, says that her father molested her, when she was just six years old. Deborah had received a seventeen thousand dollar payout from Oliver’s life insurance policy. She says that most of it went for Oliver’s funeral and burial expenses. The courts decided to use this against Deborah and called Oliver’s murder a “murder for hire”.
A former gang member, Tony “deadman”, testified against Deborah. He had fallen in love with her, while she was separated from Oliver even though he had a wife and kids. She rejected him and he scornfully became the prosecution’s main witness. He wanted to back out of the deal, when he found out that Deborah would face the death penalty, but the prosecutors refused.
In 2002, the California Haveas Project got word of Deborah’s case and decided to represent her pro bono. Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran fight to get Deborah freed, but the parole board denies her release in 2003 and 2004. In 2009, she is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Joshua and Nadia continue to fight for her release, but the requests are still denied.
Will Deborah survive her fight for release from prison and her fight for her life or will she be forced to spend the rest of her days behind bars?
Crime After Crime is a very touching film that focuses on one woman’s fight for freedom, after being handed down a life sentence for first degree murder. This film does very well exposing the American “injustice” system. I am a big fan of exoneration documentaries and found this one, just as interesting. Although it did drag out a bit, everyone should take the time to watch it, but only if you are willing to admit that our justice system needs a complete overhaul.
It is difficult to see someone fighting for his or her life behind bars and separated from their families, but it is a common occurrence in our penal system. Many prisons now have nursing home type facilities setup for the ailing prisoners and their caretakers are none other than prisoners themselves. I feel that Crime After Crime deserves a 7 out of 10.