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Man Beats His Girlfriend With a Bullwhip and Molests Her Children -- And She Gets Life in Prison After He Is Killed?

Speaking with Debbie Peagler's lawyers and documentarian about getting her out of prison for a second chance.

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“It was like, oh my God, we’re up against a corrupt sort of L.A. Confidential style system,” Safran said. “ The kind of thing you would expect in Kazakhstan or in L.A. in the '40s, but not in the '00s.” Attending Peagler’s first parole board hearing was when she realized that just uncovering the facts wouldn’t be enough, Costa says. The attorneys had gotten Oliver Wilson’s next of kin, his sister, to testify on Peagler’s behalf, which is permitted in the penal code, but they found out it wouldn’t be so easy.

“When the prison understood the next of kin was there to speak on behalf of the inmate, Joshua and I remember exactly what they said, they said, ‘I’m inclined not to let her in.’” Costa says. “And the bottom line which became very clear to us was they have the power to do that because they control the locks on those doors.”

Another thing that shocked the two was that after Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley made a written deal with them for Peagler’s immediate release after concluding that her sentence should have been for voluntary manslaughter (meaning two to six years in prison), he changed his mind. Costa and Safran submitted petitions and filed a suit against Cooley. Potash held screenings of the movie and released excerpts of the film to news agencies to bring attention to Peagler’s case.

“This project was very eye opening for me,” Potash said. “I’ve tried to create the film in a way that it’s going to be just as eye opening for audiences and trigger them to have some passion about making sure their tax dollars don’t continue to be spent this way- keeping people in prison for no good reason at all.”

Crime After Crime is in theaters now.

Emily Wilson is a freelance writer and teaches basic skills at City College of San Francisco.