Crime After Crime (2011) - full transcript

The story of the battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of brutal domestic violence. Over 26 years in prison cannot crush the spirit of this determined African-American woman, despite the injustices she has experienced, first at the hands of a duplicitous boyfriend who beat her and forced her into prostitution, and later by prosecutors who cornered her into a life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser. Her story takes an unexpected turn two decades later when a pair of rookie land-use attorneys cut their teeth on her case -- and attract global attention to the troubled intersection of domestic violence and criminal justice.

- Hello, Miss Deborah.
- Hi!

Good to see you!

Hi Joshua!

- You knew we were coming, didn't you?

- My name is Deborah Peagler,
and I was convicted of

first degree murder,
sentenced to 25 years to life.

- We have bad news and we have good news.

Nadia Costa and I began
representing Deborah Peagler

shortly after California
became the first state in the

nation to adopt a law,
specifically designed to

help incarcerated survivors of

domestic violence win their freedom.

It's a huge problem, a
national problem, probably an

international problem and this
law is just the first step.

Debbie was connected to the
murder of the man that abused

her, but the evidence of that abuse was

never presented to the court.

And if she had been charged
appropriately she would have

served a maximum of six years in prison.

Instead by the time we
took her case, she had

already been in for 20
years and been denied

release by the parole board twice.

- This isn't a case where
Debbie Peagler didn't have

anything to do with the crime,
but when you look at all the

facts and circumstances
surrounding what occurred,

any reasonable court, any
reasonable parole board

and any reasonable person,
would conclude that she has

served enough time and she
should be released from prison.

♪ Jesus can work it out ♪

♪ If you let him ♪

♪ Jesus can work it out ♪

♪ That habit that I had I had ♪

♪ I just couldn't seem to break. ♪

♪ To break ♪

♪ I prayed and I prayed I prayed ♪

♪ Lord don't let it be too late. ♪

♪ Too late ♪

♪ Then I turned it over to Jesus ♪

♪ Jesus ♪

♪ And I stopped worryin' about it ♪

♪ About it ♪

♪ I stopped worryin' about it ♪

♪ About it ♪

♪ I stopped worryin' about it ♪

♪ About it ♪

♪ I gave it over to the
Lord and He worked it out ♪

♪ Yeah ♪

Debbie Peagler was fifteen when
she first met Oliver Wilson.

In fact, her mother
introduced her to Oliver.

And y'know at first he came across as

very charismatic and quite charming.

- My mother met Oliver at an
ABC market where she used to

do her grocery shopping.

I guess they interacted there.

And she began to really like him.

- He seemed to know that, the way to

my heart is through my children.

And that's how he won me
over, by being good to

Debbie at the very beginning,

and accepting my granddaughter
like she was his child.

- The day I came home from school,

and he was there playing with my daughter.

And I thought, "He's kinda cute!"

- My brother was one of the
most charismatic people ever

to walk this earth, but
Oliver was the type of

person, if you said "Tell me
something about yourself,"

'bout an hour and a half
later you would say to him,

"Hold that thought, I'll be
right back," because he would

still be talking about himself.

He used to model clothes
because he was tall and slender.

And I don't think he ever knew when

he was not on the walkway.

- As we spent time around
each other and talked to each

other, he was easy to talk
to, and I saw that he really

took to my daughter, that
was a big thing with me.

- He used to buy me a lot
of things, designer clothes,

toys, anything a little
kid could wish for, I had.

- His mother would cook big, big meals.

And I would go over and
help her prepare the meals

and interact with her and I began to

adopt his family as mine, because
mine was so dysfunctional.

If she was being abused or
battered, it was a secret.

Because at that point in time,

I was being abused, and it was a secret.

I was molested as a child,
by my father and my uncle.

What if that wasn't the
example of manhood that he had?

What if he didn't think that
was acceptable behavior?

- We'd go out to eat, or
he'd take me to the mall,

shopping, and just buy
me anything I wanted.

Money was like never an object,
never a problem with him.

It never dawned on me that
he is not making this money

from working at ABC Market,
but I was young and kinda naive

and didn't know anything about it.


Until one night.

He said I wanna take you
somewhere, somewhere special.

I was like "Okay."

I'm thinking it's gonna be
a really nice restaurant, or

another concert, because he's
taken me to a concert before.

- He was always tryin' to be like me.

I tried pimping.

And I found out that I
wasn't made out for pimping.

Because, pimping, you can pimp your momma,

you can pimp your sister,
you can pimp your daughter,

you can't have no
sympathy towards anybody.

- On the way there he was
telling me that he had came

into some financial problems

and he was about to lose his
car, and he was having some

money problems and he
needed me to help him.

And I was like, "Okay, sure, no problem."

And that was like the
end of that conversation.

Who knew, I'm thinking, "Okay, he's gonna

"take me to a job interview
and get me a normal job,"

and I can help him like that.

But no, he took me to that
place on Prairie and Century,

I'll never forget.

Because there was a donut
shop on that corner.

And he introduced me to the
two women, and then he left.

And then they told me where to
go, what room to take men to,

how long to be in there, what
to let the man do and what

not to let him do and how
much to charge him, and all

this stuff and I am like freaking out.

"What do you mean?

"I am not going to have sex with that man,

"I don't know that man."

And they said, "Baby, yes you are.

"Yes you are.

"You're gonna make your man some money."

And then he's getting
undressed and I'm like on the

bed cryin' like, "I cannot do this.

"I don't wanna do this,

"I don't wanna do this,
I don't wanna do this,

"and I can't do this and no."

And the man's like

"Don't you know what is going to

"happen if you don't do this?"

"Nothing's gonna happen."

"No your pimp is going to beat you.

"He's gonna do this."

and he's describing all
this horrendous stuff.

And I'm like "No, Oliver
would never do that to me.


Little did I know, yes he would.

And yes he did, because I
didn't go through with it.

And when he came back
to get me he was like,

"How much money did you make?"

And I was like, "None."

"What do you mean none?"

I said, "I'm not gonna do that.

"I don't wanna do that.

"No, no."

"Okay," like nothing was wrong.

And we went to his mother's house.

Next thing I knew, he hauled off

and slapped the crap outta me.

I just balled up on a floor in a ball.

I'll never forget he was

just kicking me and
kicking me and kicking me.

And I was like, "Okay, okay,
I promise, I promise, I'll do

"it, I promise, I'll do
it next time, I promise, I

"promise, just don't, please
please don't hit me no more,

"please don't hit me no more.

"Please just stop hitting
me, stop hitting me."

- Oliver continued to
abuse and force Debbie

to prostitute herself throughout her

sophomore, junior and
senior years of high school.

- And it's amazing that
throughout all that I still

maintained my good grades,
I still was an honor roll

still was an honor roll
student, still loved school.

- She was acting different,
you know she wasn't laughing or

being the same Debbie that
we'd always known her to be.

Whenever he came around, or
she even heard his voice,

she just totally changed.

- Not only was his abuse
significant and severe, but

he constrained every other
aspect of her life, he

controlled who she saw,
who she spoke with,

she couldn't have friends.

- It had got to the point
where he had stopped hitting me

with his fists, he would make
me lay on the floor or the

couch or whatever, beat
me with a bullwhip.

And so I'd have whips all on my body.

He would never, never hit me on my face.

He didn't want to mess up the
face because I had to be his

perfect hostess for his
friends, but I could easily

where long sleeves or whatever
to cover up the bruises.

- Debbie tried to escape
Oliver on numerous occasions,

but he kept bringing her back
by force or by death threats.

And eventually Debbie ended up

having a daughter with Oliver.

And he eased up on the abuse
when he saw that she was

pregnant with his kid, and
there was sort of a honeymoon

period that followed, and
part of that was he purchased

life insurance, to tell
Debbie "If anything happens

"to me, you will still be
able to raise my daughter."

But that was short lived.

And Oliver began dealing drugs in

a big way and began using the
drugs and Oliver became more

abusive than ever before.

- I know how my child
felt, cause I lived in it.

So until you've experienced
it you don't know,

until you've walked in
my shoes, you don't know.

Until you've walked in
her shoes, you don't know.

Until you've gone through
the abuse and the humiliation

that they made us feel,
you don't know how we feel.

And my heart hurts for my
child because I love her.

And I didn't want her to go through

the things I went through with.

And I know how she felt.

- So after Oliver's drug abuse
really took off in a big way,

Debbie and Oliver got an eviction notice.

- That was my way out.

And I convinced him, for him to go

to his mother's house and
for me to go to my mother's

house, until we could get
back on our feet and, be okay.

And then I was, at that point I'm like,

"I am so outta here, I
am so not going back."

Because the violence was, it
was horrendous at that time.

- Debbie had finally left
Oliver and moved her and the

children into her mother's home.

- Oliver shows up with a
couple of friends, they're all

heavily armed with shotguns and pistols.

- We were all in the house and
you hear the adults screaming

for all the kids to "Get
down, get in the closets, lay

"on the floor, don't get up
until we come and get you."

You know and finding out,
y'know, that it was him and

two of his friends outside
of our house with guns

y'know, threatening to kill
whoever was in the house.

- And the only reason that
didn't happen is cause

someone called the Sheriff's.

- The police did arrest Oliver

and he spent the night
in jail, but right after

that he was released
and out on the streets.

So she knew that the police
were not going to help

her, were not going to
protect her family, and that

Oliver was furious because
the police had been called.

- Most people of color do
not trust law enforcement.

Having her perpetrator
arrested, having the perpetrator

released the next day, this
was common for many women.

- It seemed as though the
police looked at it like,

"It's another black woman
getting her ass whupped, by

"her boyfriend, so be it."

It was almost like it was a

waste of their time,
I guess you could say.

- Even though I left him,
and I was gone, there was no

escaping him, there was
no getting away from him.

- I called the law with
him and he has a gun,

and they still let him out!

So what was she to think, how was she to

live, but fear for her life?

- Debbie's mother suggested to
Debbie she let Ramone Sibley

and Little Timmy Lively
make Oliver leave her alone.

- Sibley and Lively were Crips
gang members that controlled

the area where Debbie's mom
lived, it was their turf.

And when Oliver showed up with a group of

armed guys, threatening
to kill everyone in their

neighborhood, that was the last straw.

That wasn't gonna happen on their watch.

- And my mother was like
"Why don't you just let, let

"Ramone, Timmy and Ramone,
you guys can take care of him.

"Why don't you just take care
of him, why don't you make

"him leave her alone,
I know you guys could."

- Remain seated at all times.

- The extreme I used to see him go to,

grabbing her, choking her, socking her.

He used to beat on her like she was a guy.

You know?

So two or three times I had to beat on

him like he was a guy.

You know, and just to, one,

to try to protect her, and
two, just to show dude that,

this is what you're doing to her.

He thought he was above
ghetto law, street law.

That these things you don't do.

And I guess, you know, he thought since

the Constitution say you
can do what you want in the

United States he figured
he could do whatever the

fuck he wanted and there
was no consequences.

- But I didn't want nobody
to kill him, but I wanted

somebody to beat the hell out of him.

And I thought maybe if he got
his behind whipped he'd go on

about his business and
leave my child alone.

- And I was like, "You guys
can make him leave me alone?

"Can you make him leave me alone?"

And it was like "Yeah, let us handle it,

"we'll take care of it.

"We'll take care of it."


- So this is the Sheriff's Office Report.

Oliver Wilson was listed
as John Doe number 191.

There was dried blood around
and coming from the victim's

nose, mouth, and right ear.

They were from the point of view of where

the camera's shooting from
now, and they scaled this

fence and they came down,
and they crawled down here,

and they attacked Oliver.

And the moment that happened, Debbie left.

And Sibley and Lively
continued to strangle Oliver.

There was some discrepancies

from their statements to
the police of who did what.

I don't know, obviously,
and no one will know

exactly what happened, but what we do know

at that time that Debbie was not here.

She had left, although
she did bring Oliver

here and we know that and
she has expressed remorse

about that, and has paid
her dues for that act.

- And even though I hated
him and I was mad at him,

I still didn't want him dead.

I just wanted him to leave me alone.

And that's all I keep
saying, 20 years later.

If only he woulda just left me alone.

- After Oliver Wilson was
killed, Debbie did receive

about $17,000 in life insurance proceeds,

most of which went to
Oliver's mother and to pay

for a very elaborate funeral for Oliver.

And the Los Angeles County
District Attorney's office

took this evidence of life
insurance as proof that this

was a conspiracy and
that Debbie had Oliver

killed for financial gain.

So Debbie was swept up into
this prosecution and she was

prosecuted by a group known
as Operation Hard Core, which

was this hard core gang task
force because there were

Crips gang members involved.

This group had a hundred
percent conviction rate

Debbie was charged with
first-degree murder by the

District Attorney's Office,
and they sought the death

penalty against her.

- They basically came
to Debbie and said that

"Unless you plead guilty, we will pursue

"and get the death penalty against you."

And they said the same to Ramone Sibley.

But for Lively, he was
a minor at the time.

- Lively was sort of offered
a deal, that if he testified

against Debbie and against
Ramone, he would be given a

short sentence, if the case
ever went to trial, which of

course it didn't go to trial,
and Lively in fact went in

and out very quickly and
went on to kill other people.

But Debbie and Ramone
Sibley took a plea deal

to save their lives ended
up going to prison for life.

- And now I sit in prison,
wondering was there a better way?

Was there a different way?

Like today I know there is,
there's shelters, and people

out there available now.

Where were those people back then?

- In 1983 when Debbie Peagler
went to prison, the battered

women's movement was still in its infancy.

There were just starting to
be battered women's shelters.

It was the very beginning of
having restraining orders.

- Over time with committed
activists, they started

bringing victims out of
the shadows to share their

stories, and police became
educated, and the general

public became educated about this issue.

- After being
sentenced and going to prison.

Five years pass, 10 years
passed, people started

talking about the
Battered Women's Syndrome.

They even started a
domestic violence program at

the prison and group therapy.

- They're always talking about the victim

that died in our case
but we're a victim too.

- He used to beat me in
front of his friends.

Beat me until I was black
and blue, and this was

the only way I could
ever get away from him.

- And it took me being
in prison almost, 15,

17 years before I even realized
that I was a battered woman.

And it's so funny that somebody
else had to tell me I was.

- When Debbie Peagler was
sent to prison, the number of

incarcerated women nationwide
was less than 20,000

In the years since, that
number has just plain

skyrocketed, so that today
there has been a more than

sixfold increase in the
number of women in prison,

in less than 30 years.

Many of these women,
especially those who are

serving life sentences like
Debbie, are incarcerated for

a crime that is directly
related to that abuse.

- We need to put ourselves in the position

of that individual, under
those circumstances,

faced with the choices they had.

- After decades of advocacy,
battered women in prison and

their supporters on the
outside were finally

successful in getting this
habeas law passed in California.

It's the first law in
the nation that allows

domestic violence survivors
to present their evidence,

have their stories be heard,
and finally have a real

chance at winning their freedom.

- I think it's astounding
that California is

the only state that is
actually allowing cases

to be reopened, because
there are thousands

and thousands of Debbies
across the United States.

- Even in California, the state
is not providing these women

with attorneys, and so the
Habeas Project formed to

connect women with attorneys who

could take on these cases for free.

That's how we found Nadia
and Joshua for Debbie

and they have been amazing.

- Y'know, we're
volunteer attorneys

in Debbie's case, and
besides that, I'm a Dad.

I'm an Orthodox Jew.

And I'm an attorney.

That's my order of preference.

Although, in reality I'm probably an

attorney first and everything else second.

- I'm a mom, of a little
boy named Cole, and I was

pregnant with him when I
would go to prison to see

Debbie or to see other
witnesses like Ramone.

But being a mom is the
best thing I'll ever do.

Before I was a lawyer I
was a social worker for

children's protective
services and basically worked

with families dealing with
the kind of violence that

Debbie and her girls suffered.

I'm also a runner.

I'm not fast but I like to go far.

Usually with distances
longer than a marathon, what

they call ultra-runs or ultra-marathons.

- Y'know, I've never run
a marathon, I don't really

believe in running unless
there's like a group of

people chasing me.

But this case is starting to feel like

a marathon, and it's all uphill.

But you know, Debbie keeps us going.

You know, in Judaism we have
this prayer, matir ha asurim,

to free those who are bound.

It's one of our core
principals that if someone is

wrongfully imprisoned, we
have an obligation to fight

to free them, to liberate them.

- When I met Nadia, and we
began discussing the violence

I'd been subjected to, and I
remember telling her some of

the details of the beatings,
and I remember thinking,

"She's looking at me
like I'm a human being,

"like she understands.

"She isn't, looking at me in judgment."

And then on one of her visits,

Nadia brought another
attorney with her, Joshua.

And she introduced us.

I looked at him and I
was thinking to myself,

"Okay, he's Jewish.

This shall be interesting."

Being that I'm a Christian.

But then we sat down and started talking.

At first I was apprehensive,
not because of anything else

besides the fact that he was a male.

And to talk about the things
that Oliver did to me,

in front of a man was difficult.

But then I watched him
and he made eye contact

with me, and his eyes
told me that, "It's okay."

- Whenever I talk to Debbie,
or I'm getting into Debbie's

mind about why she reacted
the way she did to Oliver,

and the way that she would
become around him, it's so

familiar, it's so personal to me.

And that's obviously
because of my mother's

experience and my experience.

When I was about nine, she met
a refugee who was on the run.

My Mom fell for him,
and I remember they got

into an argument and they were arguing,

and I was upstairs in my little room.

And I could just feel
the anger and intensity

in the room increasing
below me until suddenly,

there were bottles being smashed

and he was just beating
the hell out of my Mom.

And I remember being this kid
and wanting so desperately

to go down and help my
Mom, and at the same

time being so afraid that
I was gonna be killed.

And then feeling guilty that my fear

for my own safety was
trumping helping my mother.

And just feeling the shame
and of course total panic and

fear that my mother was gonna be killed.

I feel in a certain sense, in
those moments that she and my

mother kind of metaphorically connect.

Debbie's experience is in some way is an

extension of what could
have or would have happened,

had my mother and I not escaped.

- Like Joshua I also have
experience with abuse.

Unlike Joshua, I have not
wanted to speak about this

publicly and I still don't
want to share details with it

because of, it being a very
private experience for me.

However, it's been
important for me to summon

the courage to discuss what
I can as part of this film

in order to let people know
that abuse doesn't just

happen in South Central
LA to young black women.

It happens everywhere.

It happened to me as a child
and also as a young adult,

all the time while I was
living in affluent communities,

and it was never stopped.

It's one of the reasons that
I became involved in Debbie's

case and why we work
for her freedom today.

- They don't have to do it.

They're not getting a dime.

And they don't know me.

I was a stranger.

And they're spending so much of their

time and money and efforts
to get me out of here.

- Okay, so this is Debbie free.

Where she wants to be,
where we want her to be.

And when she gets out of prison
she wants to hear the sound

of the Pacific Ocean and
that's where we want her to be.

Sadly, she's still here.

She's in prison.

You go to the parole board and you say,

"Hey, I may have done some bad things,

"but I've been a great
prisoner since I've been on the

"inside, I'm rehabilitated,
I'm ready to rejoin society."

Parole board typically
says, "No you're not."

And the D.A.'s Office, the
prosecutors who put you in

in the first place,
usually chime in and says

"No, they're not, send 'em back."

But even if the parole board
finds you suitable, it then

goes to the governor, and the
governor nine times outta ten

says "No, send her back to prison."

The other route which is
also remote is to go back to

court, the court that sent
Debbie to prison in the first

place and say we want to
file a habeas petition,

a petition for writ of
habeas corpus which says,

something about the way Debbie
was put in prison in the

first place wasn't right
and she should be released.

So we would file this habeas
petition to the court.

Nine time out of ten the
court just sends it back and

says, "Nope, you're not getting out."

The D.A. usually chimes in and
says "Nope, send 'em back."

So, it's a pretty bleak process
to be able to, to get out.

It's pretty impossible

Now, fortunately for Debbie,
and for untold number of

women like her, there's
a new law that says,

"Hey, if you can provide evidence of

"abuse, of battering, and you
can show that that evidence

"of battering is related to
the reason you were put in

"prison in the first place,
you should be able to present

"that to the court, and the
court, for the first time,

"should take you seriously."

The other thing that the new
law says is, if you present

that evidence to the parole
board, the parole board has

to consider that evidence,
side by side with what

they're supposed to be
looking at, which is

has Debbie been a model inmate?

And I'm hopeful that through
what we've been able to

document, that we should
be able to show that she is

suitable for release and
that's certainly going to

be bolstered by the
footage that you obtained.

- So, here we go, a six person
film crew, four cameras,

eight lights, all of this has been

approved to come into the prison.

There's a reason why you
don't hear about stories

like Debbie's, the
Department of Corrections

in this state and in many
states does not allow the

media to film the stories
of specific inmates.

Fortunately, Joshua and
Nadia have decided that it's

in Debbie's legal interest for
her story to be documented,

and so I've been brought in
as her legal videographer.

But that's not what's happening today.

Today, we're making a separate documentary

about inmates who rehabilitate themselves

through various programs at
the prison, so there's a arts

and crafts program, there's a
firefighter training program,

we've even filmed the first
ever behind bars bat-mitzvah.

If it happens that Debbie
Peagler is involved in some

of the activities we film, so be it.

♪ Some say he is the great
one the prophets spoke of ♪

♪ Some even say that he's the
man who was the son of God ♪

♪ He the stranger, stranger,
stranger from Galilee ♪

♪ Hey the man from Galilee ♪

- As she's there, since she's
been there, she's taking a

negative situation and made
it into a positive situation.

- She works in an electronics
manufacturing company, she's

one of the highest paid
employees in the prison system.

- I'm in charge of everything
that they build here,

including the PC boards,
those kits, all the harnesses,

transformers, everything that
they build in here, it's my

job to identify those parts,
make sure they're accurate,

they're correct, and that
it ships out on its date.

- I met Deborah in prison,
I was a heroin addict, in my

addiction, really in
it, that's all I knew.

And she used to talk to me
and talk to me and talk to me.

She seen something in me, she told me I

would overcome that addiction.

- Dear heavenly father we just
come together on this morning

thanking you first of all, waking us up.

Clothing our right mind, Lord.

Father God, we thank you that we have the

activities of our limbs,
Father God, that we can use

our hands and our feet.

And we just continue to give
you the honor, the glory!

And the praise!

- Today, I'm a drug and alcohol
counselor, and I'm about to

get my bachelor's degree,
and I owe that to Deborah.

- She's been a church leader
for 15 years, she's taken

sign language and actually
interprets for the deaf

inmates at the church services.

- Receiving her Associate's
Degree, Deborah Peagler.

- I'm very proud of myself,
my tenacity, my resilience.

I try to be everyday an example, a mentor.

I am a tutor of a few of
the ladies that are getting

ready to take their GEDs,
and have taken their GEDs.

So it's one of the things I really enjoy

is helping someone else learn.

- She has a lot of wisdom, not
from God only, but I told her

"I wanna to go to school,
I can't read and write."

And she's very intelligent,

she is a very smart
person, Deborah Peagler is.

- I was able to help her
learn to read and write.

Eventually even acquire her GED.

- She told me to go to school,
and they'll take care of me.

She told me that God
has a plan for my life.

- One more time, "Anointing."

- Another thing Debbie has going
for her at least in theory,

for the parole board, are the

sentiments of Oliver Wilson's family.

- I don't believe I'm
supposed to identify with her,

somewhere in me, I'm not
supposed to accept what has

been done and I'm caught in the catch-22

because maybe I shouldn't
even be able to identify with

it, maybe I shouldn't be able
to understand it, but I do.

And that's a terrible thing
I think, for me to say.

If it were not my brother, if it was

some man that didn't have a
face, that didn't really have

a name, but I knew that he was
doing these terrible things,

then I would say, put me at
the head of the fan club.

I'd fight for you.

I'd do what I could do to get you out.

- Debbie has been up for parole.

That hearing is very biased
in favor of the prosecution.

- I went before parole board,

and here I sat, as Oliver's sister.

And in my mind, the closest one to him,

by way of age and growing up together.

I poured my heart out to these people.

And after pouring my heart
out, they still said no,

and refused to let Debbie go.

- It seems to me they should
have taken the family's

opinion into consideration.

Enough is enough.

She's served a life.

She doesn't have to suffer
anymore, as far as I'm concerned.

- She has been denied
three separate times.

- I've met parole board
battered women's investigators,

and why they can't find
out the things that we

find out so easily is a mystery to me.

They have all the powers to go
do that and yet they seem to

not see some of the obvious things.

It feels like they're
trying to find reasons to

deny it rather than
trying to find reasons to

support information that
may be readily available.

- So until the parole board
acknowledges that she was a

battered woman, she was abused,
she's never gonna get out.

- She winds up leaving
that parole hearing just in

disbelief, and not knowing where to turn.

- If life happens to deliver
a situation to you that you

cannot handle, do not
attempt to resolve it.

Kindly put it in the something
for God to do box, amen.

- Initially, it was always,
you know "I hope my Mom is

"doing okay, and I wish she
could come home and be with me."

And then, you know, as I
got older, it was like well,

"Thank you Jesus that I have
her to talk to on the phone."

At least she's there for me
in some other way, y'know.

- Despite being behind
bars, Debbie has really done

everything in her power to be
a good mother to both of her

daughters, her oldest daughter
Tikisha, who's currently

serving in the Air Force
in the Iraq War, and her

younger daughter Natasha,
whose father was Oliver Wilson.

- My relationship with my
Mom is very, very, very good.

I think that due to the circumstances,

it's the best that it can be.

- Lord prepare.

♪ Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary ♪

- Pure and holy.

♪ Pure and holy ♪

- Tried and true.

♪ Tried and true ♪

- With thanksgiving.

♪ With thanksgiving ♪

- I'll be a living.

♪ I'll be a living. ♪

- Sanctuary.

♪ Sanctuary for you ♪

- It's hard, because I try to have such

a strong relationship with her.

But you can't.

If I had to compare my
Mom's and my Dad's loss,

to figure out which one
is harder, it's my Mom.

Because it's a everyday
pain you're dealing with.

It's a everyday thing.

It's constant.

It's not something that, "He died.

"Let's grieve, and move on."

It's a grieving process that never ends.

♪ Seek me, and ye shall find ♪

♪ They gonna give you a hard time ♪

♪ Been waiting my whole life ♪

♪ For someone to make it right ♪

- Debbie's case has been
almost a full time job

in addition to our regular legal practice.

This is a private law office,

this is not what we normally do.

We do land use and
real-estate, development law,

you know, if you come to
me I can get you zoned

to be an airport if that's what you want.

But I don't represent inmates,
people charged with crimes,

criminals, this is a whole
new experience for us.

- Joshua and I were almost paralyzed

at the beginning of this case.

How do you go about
finding hospital records,

police records, witnesses
from 25 years ago?

But then I realized that Debbie
is in fact the key to this

case, because as soon as
you meet Debbie you want to

help her and you want to
be involved in getting

her out of prison, and
that's how we got Bobby.

- It's Bobby
Buechler, Debbie Peagler's

investigator, and we spoke a few days ago.

I'm in LA.

We're all really different people

Nadia she's this long distance runner,

Joshua's this Orthodox Jew,

and I'm the old man of
the group I would say.

I've been an investigator
for approximately 25 years.

Also I've worked as a
journalist for New York Times,

Vanity Fair, CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes,

but primarily I'm a private investigator.

- Before we hired Bobby
we had a couple of other

investigators on the case who
were unable to find anything.

We got Bobby, within 24
hours, documents started

flowing in, and from those
documents we began to get a

sense of the real deficiencies
in the D.A.'s case.

- You know, we had heard from
Debbie for a long time that

Tikisha may have been molested by Oliver.

But we were shocked when we
learned that there was actual

evidence of this in the police
report that had been ignored.

For so long this killing had
been framed as simply about

life insurance proceeds and to learn

that the police knew also that he may have

molested her was obviously
very disturbing to us.

- We knew that we had to talk to Tikisha

about the alleged abuse, so
when was rotated back to the

United States between tours
of duty, we went to see her.

- I sat with Tikisha and
asked her the very difficult

question of whether she recalled
Oliver ever molesting her.

And she just looked off into the distance

and tears welled up in her
eyes, and then she shared

with me very vivid
recollections of what Oliver

had done in terms of abuse
to her as a young child.

- The hearing transcript from
Deborah's preliminary hearing

in 1983 shows that the prosecution
had only had one witness.

- The judge characterized
this witness' testimony

as "pretty poor" and
"extremely ambiguous."

- What was fishy about
this guy who called in

Oliver Wilson's murder to the police was

that he was initially only
identified as "Deadman,"

which is a pretty weird name.

We subsequently found out
this was a nickname because

used to drive dead bodies
for the county coroner.

- He was a drug customer of Oliver's,

he was a friend of Oliver's.

- But he waited many months to contact the

police to tell them
what he claimed he knew

about the murder of Oliver Wilson.

So when Bobby tracked him
down he was in and out of

the hospital with a
life threatening illness

and we thought, y'know,
what better time to confront

him and say, "What's the truth?"

- I have cancer now.

I don't know how much time I have left.

So I just want the truth to be known.

Debbie deserves to be free,

she deserves the truth to be known

I never volunteered that
she was being beat up.

Y'know, where he had whupping
her with that bullwhip.

Y'know, didn't let her answer the door,

wouldn't open the door for nobody.

Y'know, so it was rough for her, so.

And I know, if that was
rough for her in there,

for 20-some years, her whole
life is destroyed, man.

- The other thing that we
began to get from Tony was an

explanation as to why he
waited so long to contact the

police, and apparently, for
all the years that Debbie

and Oliver were together,
Tony had been deeply

and secretly in love with Debbie.

- Deborah was a beautiful, beautiful girl.

I really loved her.

I fell for her like Kennedy
fell for Marilyn Monroe.

- I didn't think he
even liked me like that.

Because I knew he had a wife,
he had a wife and children.

- Tony was trying to court
Debbie, he wanted to be with

her, but now that she was free of Oliver,

Debbie went back to Tikisha's father.

- I got jealous, and I told everything.

Ripped my heart apart, so
I'd rip her heart apart.

I called Sheriff's.


I told 'em every thing that I knew,

and I mighta added something to it.

I tell you, whatever I told them,

it worked because they
had her within two days.

- As bad as it was, what Tony
did, what was even worse was

for the D.A. to know that he was lying,

and to put him on the stand anyway.

- When he heard that
they were gonna prosecute

Debbie for the death
penalty, he tried to back

out but the D.A. wouldn't let him.

In fact, he was arrested,
and he was told that

unless he testified
against Debbie Peagler,

they would vigorously
prosecute him for an old

felony charge that had
basically been dormant.

- They kept pushing, wanted me
to say, that Deborah told me,

after Oliver was killed,
that she had pre-planned

for him to be killed, that it was a murder

for hire, and, no it wasn't.

The regret is mostly that
I didn't think about her

being beat up or held hostage, being a ho.

I didn't look at all that, for
what she was going through.

But I did it and I have to live with it.

- I believe a tremendous
injustice has occurred.

- David Guthman is a recently
retired prosecutor from the

L.A. D.A.'s Office, and while
he didn't have anything to do

with Debbie's prosecution, he
has significant experience in

prosecuting death penalty
cases in that office.

So we gathered our materials up showed

them to him and we asked him.

- Was Deborah's level of
culpability truly reflected

with a conviction of 1st degree murder?

Absolutely not.

- In evaluating Debbie's case,
David Guthman went to speak

to the prosecutor at the
LA D.A.'s office who is in

charge of the parole unit that
has custody of Debbie's file.

He said "Come down and I'll
let you look at the file."

When I actually met with
the prosecutor, he said,

"I can't let you look at the file, but

"I can tell you what's in the file."

In the file there a
memo, which typically is

referred to as, an alibi memo.

- An alibi memo is actually the
prosecutor's own alibi as to

why they are not pursuing
death penalty where they had

attempted to get the death
penalty, and where they'd

gotten approval for the death penalty

from higher ups in the D.A.'s office.

So it was shocking to us to discover

that there was this alibi
memo saying that the D.A.

couldn't and shouldn't seek
the death penalty because the

D.A. did seek the death penalty.

They threatened Debbie with the death

penalty, and it was because
of the death penalty threat

that she took a plea to life in prison.

- I'm sitting there hopefully
with a poker face realizing

that that memo was dynamite.

And when I left that meeting
I immediately called Deborah's

attorneys and told them what
was contained in that memo.

- So according to David
Guthman, this memo says, way

back in 1983, the D.A.'s
office had concluded that

Oliver Wilson had molested
Debbie's daughter, which is

something we'd suspected
but have never been able to

prove, the D.A.'s office
concluded that Debbie's

motivation wasn't financial
gain, which was their whole

basis for prosecution back
then, and the memo concludes

that they had "veracity
concerns" with the witness or

witnesses required to prosecute Debbie.

So back in 1983, they didn't even have a

case against her, they had no evidence.

So going into this big
meeting with Steve Cooley

and his top brass today,
where we have all this

documentation that Debbie was battered,

I'm feeling really confident that this

is gonna move them to do the right thing.

- Getting the prosecutors to
agree that Debbie should be

released did not happen overnight.

It took more than three years to get them,

to see the light and it was
at time that we were able to

walk into that prison and
give Debbie that letter.

- Hello, Ms. Deborah.
- Hi!

Good to see you!

Hi Joshua!

- You knew we were coming, didn't you?

- Yeah.

- We have bad news and we have good news.

The bad news is that you have

apparently been incarcerated illegally.

The good news is, the D.A. has agreed that

your crime was voluntary
manslaughter, which means

your maximum sentence would
have been six years, under

the guideline, the penal
code section which was in

effect at the time.

We're gonna work with you
to explain what it means.

- My God.

- What the next
steps are, and help you.

- So this is from the
LA District Attorney's Office.

"You presented significant
issues which were unknown or

"unavailable at the time of trial.

"Once the matter has been returned to the

"jurisdiction of the Los
Angeles Superior Court, this

"office would be willing to
offer a plea to one count of

"voluntary manslaughter,
in violation of penal code

"section 1-92-A, with
credit for the years of

"imprisonment served thus far.

"Such disposition satisfies
our office policy of

"requiring a plea to the
charge which most accurately

"describes the defendant's
criminal conduct.

"In context, it also serves
the interests of justice."

- My God!

This is really happening.

It's like, you knew it could happen,

but it's really happening.

- I remember reading it,
y'know, tears coming in my

eyes, it was just this
overwhelming sense of

relief, that we are finally

helping Debbie unlock
that, unlock that gate.

- My goodness!

I still cannot, I am so
ecstatically happy, but I'm

so trying to contain it,

cause I so just wanna scream
and run around the building.

- When she told me that,
y'know I was like, y'know,

"Finally God, you answered my prayers"

Y'know, this is what I really,
really needed in my life.

And I know that's,
y'know, that's what she's

been praying for and
hoping for all these years.

So it was just a sigh of relief.

- It was just almost too
much to take in at one time,

because it was just so unbelievable

that my sister is finally coming home.

- I had absolute faith that
that letter meant the D.A.

would do the right thing, and that

we would see our client
released very shortly.

I had no doubt that it would happen.

- We filed our habeas
petition based on that deal,

and a few weeks after
filing our habeas petition,

we received a letter
from someone else in the

District Attorney's office
who we never met before,

saying "The deal is hereby withdrawn."

- God, this just, it's so
disheartening to have this letter,

and then someone else
come along, and says,

"That letter means nothing."

And someone that really doesn't have the

authority or the power to say that.

I don't get how that happened.

- Our case has seriously
called into question

the judgment of District
Attorney Steve Cooley.

He broke a written plea agreement with us

in order to instead align
himself with prosecutors

who have a well-established
record of misconduct.

- And while we don't know exactly what

happened in the LA
District Attorney's office,

we do have several indicators.

- One is, the D.A.'s office
asked us to have Debbie waive

all her claims against LA
County because they knew of all

the misconduct the D.A.'s
Office had been involved in.

We declined to do that.

- And there's a woman named
Lael Rubin who is the head of

the Appellate Division, and
she apparently became quite

upset when we supposedly went
quote "over her head" and

directly went to Steve Cooley
instead, because she thought

it should go through her department.

- Lael Rubin is best know for
her embarrassing witch hunt

of a trial called the McMartin Preschool

prosecution in which Rubin
relied on all kinds of false

evidence and false testimony,
and turned out to be one of

the largest failed
prosecutions in history.

- All right, look, just because we are

having some trouble
with some evidence that

doesn't make these
people suddenly innocent.

- Lael Rubin's participation
in that case led HBO to make a

made-for-TV movie called "Indictment."

The Lael Rubin character is played by

Mercedes Reuhl and she
is clearly the villain.

- There is a smoking gun out there.

I know it, we just gotta find it!

- Meanwhile, the letter that
we received from the D.A.'s

office purporting to withdraw
the plea agreement that we

had with the District
Attorney's office was sent by

a man named Curtis Hazel, the
number three guy in the LA

County District Attorney's
office, who is purported to be

an old fraternity buddy of
District Attorney Steve Cooley.

And his claim to fame
was that he slept with a

murder witness, who was a
stripper, and the D.A.'s

office kept Hazell's affair secret.

The fact that Cooley has
hand selected this group of

misfits is so dispiriting.

But we are going to fight it,
we don't care how powerful

they are in the D.A.'s office.

We are not going to let
them rip up our plea deal

and keep Debbie in prison forever.

- When we heard this news,
and we began researching the

issue, I never felt that
kind of pervasive sense of

hopelessness as I had before.

Not only are we right, and so
we can feel confident in the

fact that "You guys know you
did something wrong here,"

we have a case law that supports
our position and I feel,

it's not kind of this, often
times, y'know how lawyers are.

They don't have any kind
of legal position at all,

but they think if they argue effectively

enough they can get around that.

That's often what we do.

- That's often what we do.

- But here we actually have case law that

says this is not acceptable.

Obviously, y'know, we never
know what's gonna happen,

but what we will tell
you is that we're here,

and we can work through
the process with you,

and we have confidence in our
abilities, and the fact that

this is the just result
it'll ultimately come

to the fact that you will
walk out of this prison.

I walk through the front door
past our receptionist and she

stopped me and said, "I've
been holding this for you."

- The judge denied our habeas petition.

The judge never heard from D.A.'s office,

and the judge didn't even
really appear to understand the

new law that we filed it
under or even read our papers.

- When I found out that the
D.A. reneged on his offer and

that my sister would not be coming home,

to be honest with you
I got physically ill.

Because how can you get
someone's hopes up so high,

after serving 20-plus
years in jail, and then to

say, "Okay, well no, we changed our mind."

It was one of the biggest
let downs of my life.

- But then, that's like
the story of my life.

I go to board, I come back,
I go tell people I got denied

and they're like hysterical
and I have to comfort them.

I never really get a chance to

"Okay, wait hey, this should
be the other way around."

I am not a robot, I'm a
human being with feelings

and just because I don't
wear my problems on my sleeve

or tell everybody about everything I feel

and go through doesn't mean it's not real.

That I don't feel.

I don't hurt.

Leave me alone!

Just let me be disappointed.

And I'm gonna be all right

I'll bounce back, don't I always?

- At most, Deborah should
have been in, at most, for six

years, which was the maximum
for manslaughter in 1983.

Having been in for 24, 25
years, most of her time,

she's been illegally incarcerated.

If anyone's breaking the law,
the biggest lawbreaker has

been the D.A., the court
system, the prison system.

It's really a crime after
crime, that she's been

subjected to the bigger crime
here, the bigger injustice in

this case is that to the
extent that she was culpable

for anything at all, she
served her time, decades ago,

and yet she's still in there,
and it's just not right.

- All of this, the hundreds
of thousands of dollars,

the three years of time,
this will all be for

naught if we give up now.

- Yup.
- That's it.

- Y'know?

I mean there is no other
option at this point.

- I mean, the one thing I wanna say is,

we lost at the trial court,
we get two more shots,

they get more and more remote.

We get one at the court of
appeals, original jurisdiction,

boom, we lose there, we get one more

at the Supreme Court, boom, we lose there.

We possibly have some federal claim,

but forget it, there's no chance.

So, we only have two shots.

Because we're fighters,
I think we have to fight,

I mean, assuming the D.A.
tells us to screw ourselves,

there's nothing that says we
can't go ahead and file some

suit against Los Angeles
Superior Court, seeking specific

performance to force them
to do their plea deal.

- The only way this is
gonna work, is if we,

literally think of this as,
at least in my own mind,

y'know, one step at a
time, one step at a time.

I have to break it down, I
just have to get distance,

away from this office and away
from this case for a moment,

'cause otherwise I'll just lose it.

♪ Being double-crossed ain't nothing new ♪

♪ Look around, child that's how they do ♪

It's funny how running
a marathon can really

teach you a lot of lessons, and help train

you for bigger things than a race.

Regardless of how painful,
regardless of how much you

want to stop, as long as
you keep moving, ultimately,

you're gonna get to that
finish line, it's a fact.

And so that's kind of our
strategy right now, is to

understand that this is a
huge endeavor that we're

undertaking right now and.


- You asked me, one of
the last times you were

talking to me, about matir ha asurim,

this Hebrew prayer of
releasing the prisoners.

And then I went up to services

two weeks ago and hit that line.

It totally brought this wave
of emotion over me as I was

thinking about Deborah in that
moment and what that meant.

And in my mind I always had
it, like a cold rainy day at

Chowchilla with like Nadia
and I and you with a camera,

and in this vision that
popped into my head, my family

was there with me, and I
was saying to my daughter

"This is what I do, this is my job."

And she would get it, she would see this,

woman coming out, probably
crying and her family there.

She would understand, y'know, why I

spend the late nights doing
this, and, and for me what it

means to be an attorney, cause she knows

intellectually, y'know, she
knows that I'm an attorney

and that I help people.

She doesn't know that I
usually help people get their

land entitled to build
multi-family residential

units, but, y'know she would

be there to know that,

y'know that this what my
job is, and this is, and

hopefully it'd be a memory
that she'd take with her her

whole life to see this event.


After I had that vision
I kinda thought well

maybe, this portends what's to come.

- Hello?

Okay, that was Peter
Hong from The LA Times.

They like the story.

- She was convicted of murder
more than 20 years ago,

but tonight attorneys
fighting for a battered

woman's freedom say there is
a lot we haven't heard about

her story of abuse and desperation.

- In hand, we have a civil
complaint that we're gonna

file, and it tells the whole
story, and CBS News has a

two-minute slot on your story,

footage from Yoav is on the news.

- Tonight her attorneys charge
that LA County prosecutors

went back on their word
by backing out of a plea

agreement, and they have the
correspondence to prove it.

It's right there in black and white.

The LA County District
Attorney's Office told

Deborah Peagler's attorneys
last summer, it's willing to

let her out of jail after 23 years.

The letter includes the name of

District Attorney Steve
Cooley, and it's signed

by then Chief Deputy D.A. Curt Livesay.

- So, we're back to the drawing board.

The parole board has denied us.

The court, Superior Court has denied us.

The D.A. hates us.

- The prosecutors office refused comment

citing pending litigation,

that litigation filed today
by Peagler's attorneys.

- We have asked parole board

to reconsider their last finding.

The D.A.'s Office, we're
suing them to force

them to stick to their deal.

And we're appealing the
Superior Court's denial, all

the way up to the Court of
Appeal, in the hope that

they're gonna direct the
court to do the right thing.

- Coming up here, we're going
to meet two Bay Area attorneys

who decided to help out a
domestic violence victim.

They thought it would just
be a couple of months.

Five years later, they're
still on the case.

- There's a reason that
your case is going to draw

attention to this remedy.

- 25 years for a crime,
unjustly put in prison

I want everybody who cares
about something like this to

remember what I'm about to say right here.

W-W-W Free Debbie dot org.

For us, as outsiders coming
in to help, coming in to help

bring awareness to the situation,

it inspires me to be dealing
with people who, against all

odds, are pushing forward,
against all odds are striving

to believe in miracles,
striving to believe in truth.

- Nice to meet you, thank
you so much for coming.

I'm so excited!
- We are too!

- None of us are free.

While one of us are chained,
none of us are free.

My case should matter to
people outside of California

because my case isn't about me anymore.

It's about so many other people.

I represent the larger part of

the women's prison population.

♪ You better listen my
sisters my brothers ♪

♪ Cause if you do, then you can hear ♪

♪ There are voices still
calling across the years ♪

♪ And they're crying across the ocean ♪

♪ And they're cryin across the land ♪

♪ And they will till we
all come to understand ♪

♪ Understand ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ If one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

- Y'know, you have to
applaud Deborah for strength.

When you've been locked
up for that many years,

and then you're promised to be free.

And then you get your mind
set ready, you get your heart

ready, and you get excited
about the new world you're

about to travel and
then they renege on it.

And everything changes.

Not only could it break you, but it

could totally change your
viewpoint about justice,

what is the word?

It could change your viewpoint about God,

who is he, what is he doing?

It could break most human beings.

- Because I went through
all this, all this pain,

and all this stuff is not in vain.

It's gonna be great for someone else.

- Since California is the only
state that has this habeas

petition law on its books,
if other states look at

California and the attention
this case has in the media,

and the legal attention that
the case would get if it's

decided at that level, then
hopefully other states will

look at these cases, pass
legislation in their states,

and use California as a model.

- There's a new law in
California that will allow

some domestic abuse evidence
in court that would have not

been allowed before, correct?

- That's right, in.

- And so that's what you
wanna do is get this.

- In 1983 it wasn't relevant
whether you were battered, it

wasn't even legally admissible.

- This document is the 1983 memo

written by the District Attorney.

- So Bobby finally got his
hands on the D.A.'s alibi

memo from 1983 and we were amazed.

- Bobby won't say how he got it.

As he always likes to say,
part of being a private

investigator is being an investigator,

and part of it is being private.

But I will tell you that the memo is

shocking and the information
in that memo itself

could probably exonerate Debbie.

- It says that Deadman perjured
himself on the stand, he

lied, that's their word, he
perjured himself on the stand.

- This is certainly the
smoking gun that supports the

position that we've already alleged.

- There's an enormous
difference between saying

"There are veracity concerns
with the witness or witnesses"

and saying "Anthony Reedburg committed

"perjury at the preliminary hearing."

- These people, to give
her a life-top sentence,

did it, lied to her, for a win.

How fucked that is?

- And the memo goes on to
say that he's an informant.

It turns out Deadman has
been a paid informant for law

enforcement in Los Angeles
County for decades.

These were facts that the D.A.
was obligated to disclose in

1983, an obligation disclosure
that has continued everyday

for 25 years, and the D.A.'s
Office has kept it secret.

- Ms. Lopez an you
make a statement as to why

the Los Angeles District
Attorney's Office withdrew its

own offer made in writing
to free Deborah Peagler?

- No, I think that all of the evidence

has been presented on that.

- Tracey, we've got a
meeting to go to, excuse me.

- Excuse me.

- Ms. Rubin, do you
have any comment as to why

the District Attorney withdrew the

offer for Deborah Peagler?

Do you have any comment as to why.

- I said we have a meeting to go to.

Why don't you try making an appointment

at a time that we can speak with you?

Thank you.

- I would love to do that.

Will you agree to an appointment?

It's almost as if they
didn't want to talk to us.

- We need some ruling that
the District Attorney is not a

party to argue on the other
side of this, you know,

because they've withheld this information.

- They've got disqualifying
interests all over this thing.

- Right.

It took us a year and a half,

but we finally won at the court of appeal.

They sent Debbie's case
back down to lower court.

They ordered the court
to give her her day in

court, and the first thing
that we're doing is we're

moving to disqualify the
entire L.A. D.A.'s office,

because of all the misconduct
that they've been involved in,

going all the way back to 1983
and involving everyone all

the way up to the District
Attorney, Steve Cooley himself.

These motions are very rarely granted, in

US history maybe a handful of
times has a court thrown out

an entire D.A.'s office, in
this case a thousand attorneys.

But we believe that
the facts of misconduct

are so compelling that we've
got a pretty good shot of

knocking the D.A.'s office out.

- So you want tell her the.

- We should probably start

with the best news first.

- The big news!

- In a 12-page written
decision, Judge Ryan has

disqualified the entire
District Attorney's Office,

all one thousand attorneys.

- Yay!

- And held that they're recused for

disqualifying conflicts of interest.

- Yay!

- And held that all of the
senior D.A.s, including

Steve Cooley, Lael Rubin,
John Spillane, Curtis Hazell,

Curt Livesay, they're
all circling the wagons

to protect their professional reputations.

So that's, the big good
news is that D.A. is off.

- Yay.

- Ryan's a great
judge, the bad news is.

- Answered prayer.

- That the D.A. has an independent right

to appeal the decision, if they want.

- Which they probably will.

You think they will?

- A rational approach, for
the D.A.'s perspective,

from the D.A.'s perspective
is not to appeal because.

- But we're not dealing
with rational people.

- Well, that's true.

- How are you?

- I'm okay.

About five months ago
I started to feel ill,

like I had a cold or a flu.

And I went to the doctor,
that was in November.

I went back in December, still

treated for cold, flu-like
symptoms, nothing helped,

none of the medicine they gave me helped.

So I went back in January,

finally got a chest x-ray ordered.

Was diagnosed with pneumonia,
and treated with antibiotics.

Still cough persisted,
still didn't feel well.

See a doctor again,
beginning of February, got

transferred out to the hospital,
Madera Community Hospital,

series of tests ran,
and, within, I'd say a

two-week period of time, was
diagnosed with lung cancer.

- We don't know whether she
got it from smoking cigarettes

20 years ago, or whether
it's, as many of the inmates

believe, she was exposed to
hazardous materials in prison.

Whatever the case, we
probably never know, and it's

terminal, and we're in
a race against time.

- I always worry that
her last breath would be

inside those walls, instead of with us.

I feel like the least, there's
no way I would have peace,

I can get peace outta this,
if it happens that way.

- Everyone that we talk to are

praying for you, are supporting you.

We're getting phone calls
from people we've never met,

who are calling and saying
"what can we do," and.

- Wow.

- Your strength and perseverance
in this is remarkable.

- I didn't really have a choice.

- Yeah.

I am privileged to work on your case.

Y'know it's maybe the most
important thing I have ever done.

Every day I think about you
and this case and what to do.

And I speak to Nadia and
Joshua and Yoav and we are

constantly working and thinking.

All of a sudden this thing,
you know this medical health

thing, this cancer sort of
upped the ante enormously.

So now we are in like another
gear and in some way we are

praying for some way that, you
know, for that it works out.

- It's got to, I just
do not want to die here.

I don't want to die here.

- The medical care that inmates receive in

California prisons is reprehensible.

And in fact a federal judge has determined

that it is actually unconstitutional.

So at this point in time
we are driving down to get

Debbie's records but most
importantly to be with Debbie

as she endures her first
chemotherapy, which can be

horrifically painful even in
the best hospital setting.

- It's kind of overwhelming
sometimes cause here it is

y'know, we're attorney-client.

But we're really not
attorney-client, we're like family.

They make me feel like
they're my family, and

they don't make me feel like I'm a client.

And them being there
with me during my first

chemo meant the world to me.

I don't know how I'm
ever gonna repay them,

how I'm ever show them how
much I appreciate them.

It's been horrible.

It's the worst thing anybody
could possibly go through.

I still can't believe it.


But I'm just so weak.

I don't have any energy,
and it drives me crazy.

Cause y'know I'm used to being busy

and having a life, and it's
like now I don't have a life,

all I do is watch T.V. and sleep.

- Hey Natasha.

- Hi Joshua, how are you?

How you doin'?

- I want you to know that we're

not going to give up on your Mom.

I'm hopeful that, you know,
we'll try to put together

the biggest and best package
that we can on parole.

But also, as you know, she's
been denied three times before

and they never really seem
to give much of a reason.

So, it's kind of a shot in the dark.

- We appreciate the fight,
the effort, the love,

we appreciate it all.

I know you'll fight as hard as we will,

if not harder to get us on board to get us

to where we want to be
where she'll be home.

I think it'll be worth it,
even if it's a day or a hour,

I think it will be worth it.

Lord, this is hard.

We've been fighting 27 years.

- What we need to do is to
tell your story, and have faith

that in the end, you're gonna
find peace no matter what.

You're gonna find peace no
matter what because we're

telling a story that's
accurate, and we're telling a

story that deserves to be heard.

- I feel like I'm suitable
for parole because

I have a understanding of
my crime, I know what I did.

I know what I did was horrible,

I can't take it back, I wish I could.

I know the impact that my actions have

had on not only my family, but his family.

I've made amends with the
majority of his family.

I've reached out to them and

have received forgiveness
and understanding.

I think because of that.

And the fact that my victim's family

does not oppose my release.

- The evidence before you
shows that Ms. Peagler,

starting at the age of fifteen
and continuing for years,

was subjected to horrific abuse

at the hands of Oliver Wilson.

And note that, that this evidence comes,

not primarily from Debbie
Peagler, but from numerous

percipient witnesses who were present

and saw what she endured,

many of whom were Oliver
Wilson's friends and family.

- For the record my
name is Natasha Wilson.

I am the daughter of both the
inmate as well as the victim.

I'm pleading and begging
in the release of my Mom.

She's already given all that she can give.

She's done all that she can do to state

she's sorry, to right the wrong.

It's nothing else she can do or say.

It's hard sitting by the phone just

waiting for the answer, the solution.

This is the solution,
it comes to this day.

I haven't had a relationship
with my Mom that

I need to have because
of her being in prison.

I just want one night with no
limitations, one night where

I can do whatever, say
whatever, hug her, talk to

her, just the basic, simplest
stuff, eat dinner with her,

just, in my home, before she die.

Please don't let my Mom
die inside this prison, I'm

just beggin' and pleadin'
for just one day.


- Despite the negative
circumstances, and like

we say, we've fully considered those

circumstances, and after weighing all the

considerations provided in
Title Fifteen, the panel

finds you are suitable for
parole because the positive

aspects of your case outweigh
the other considerations.

Specifically, we find
you suitable for parole,

based on the fact that you
were were suffering from

intimate partner battering at the time.

We also have acknowledged your,

support in the community
and in the institution.

- Well, in a bizarre narrative
twist which is now typical of

this case, Debbie's fate
rests in the hands of all

people, of a man who before
he became governor, was best

known for portraying a
merciless, robotic, killing

machine from the future.

Governor Schwarzenegger has
received thousands of letters

in support of Debbie's
release and only one letter

in opposition from D.A. Steve Cooley,

and we don't know what he's gonna do.

- If after all of the evidence
that we have been able to

produce, that proves the
abuse that she suffered, and

all of the evidence we have
been able to present that

proves the amount of
misconduct that occurred in

this case, combine that with
the fact that she now has

stage IV lung cancer, if we
are not able to take all of

that information and get for
her that one day of freedom,

then to me I think the
criminal justice system is

not only broken but
perhaps, beyond repair.

But on the other hand, if we are able to

secure her freedom and give
her, even just that one day,

with her family outside of
those prison gates, then

what it says to me, is that there is hope.

- A controversial and long running

case regains the spotlight today.

- She's only been given
days or months to live.

Deborah Peagler has served
27 years of a 25-to-life

sentence in prison for killing a man even

authorities acknowledge
brutalized her and her daughters.

♪ Am I gonna make the news tonight ♪

♪ Make an example of my life ♪

♪ Are you gonna leave me here to die ♪

♪ Or are you gonna save my life ♪

- Free Debbie now!

- The victim's family,
the Wilson family has no

objection to her comin'
home, they even went to every

parole hearing for the last
probably six or seven years

pleading with you all to let
her come home, so if they

have no objection to it, who
are you to keep her in there?

I mean she can do no harm, so
please Governor Schwarzenegger

please, allow my sister to come home and

spend her last days
with her family, please.

- The District Attorney
himself Steve Cooley said,

"Well that's right," and,
had agreed to a deal to

let her out, so for him
to renege on his deal

is the first thing that
really stinks here.

♪ Am I gonna make the news tonight ♪

♪ Make an example of my life ♪

♪ Are you gonna leave me here to die ♪

♪ Or are you gonna save my life ♪

- Can you count to five for me?

- One, two, three, four, six.

- Steve Cooley, can you
answer for me, why you changed

your stance on the case
of Deborah Peagler?

- You know that, that matter's
under civil litigation,

we're not gonna discuss that.

Tonight's my night for attorney
general, and, after all

it was a, assassination
killing for insurance purposes.

- I'm sorry to belabor the
point, but there's one piece

of evidence your office held on to for

25 years in the Deborah Peagler case.

Can you explain why that was

never turned over to her attorneys?

- Quite frankly, I don't know
what you're talking about.

And if that's your only issue

then this interview is probably over.

We did appropriately.

Thank you very much.

- And here's Natasha.

- Hi.

- How was your flight?
- It was good.

- Okay, so we're gonna go down here.

- Carla and Nadia is calling me.

- We have a little bit of change of plans.

I have an email from Nadia that I wanted.

- Yeah, she's calling me
and my aunt's called me.

- And she did?

And did you speak to them?

- No, I haven't spoken to anyone yet.

- Okay, so this is a note, from Nadia.

It says, "The governor
is declining to review,

"she is getting out."

- My God.

- And then there's an
attachment letter which I'm

gonna get on this funky
phone and I'll read it to

you, but basically,
sometime in the next day,

two, three, she will be out.

Out, she will walk out
the door of the prison.

- Thank you so much.
- I'm so happy for you.

- Thank you so so so much.

Thank you so much.

- It's Saturday night,
after the Sabbath, and a

few days before Debbie is
supposed to be released.

And I just, I'm coming back
online after my sabbatical,

my 25 hour sabbatical, and I'm
just wanna check in and see

what I've missed over the last
twenty-five hours and see if

we can get a more precise read
on when Debbie's getting out.

Well, I just wanted to
check in with you, I've been

offline for about 24
hours, and wanted to see if

you heard anything from
Debbie or from the prison.

Who there with you?

Wow, that's fantastic news.

Okay, no problem.

Hi, how ya doin?

I'm fantastic!

Did they tell you what they
were doing or did they?

I can't believe that they
snuck you out like that.

I know, the only thing is,
the sooner the better, but

we certainly would have
liked to have been there,

but how did it go for ya?

You came to freedom in
a Denny's parking lot?


Y'know I, this is, well,
God works in mysterious ways.

I guess I just didn't.

That's amazing.

It makes it all worth it.

- Lookie here, we did it!

- We did it.
- We did it!

- Welcome home.

- Thank you so much.

A lot better yes.

Beautiful sunset, look at the clouds.

It's beautiful!

We went and walked on the beach.

What made the experience even more special

to me, was the fact that
Joshua brought his daughter.

She was born, right when
Joshua took my case.

I'll treasure that in my mind, forever.

I feel such amazement right now.

That's all I thought about was coming

to the ocean while I was in prison.

Woah, woah, woah!

Whoa, got me!

- Personally I would love for Debbie to

continue to sue Steve
Cooley and the D.A.'s office

for all their misdeeds and for the false

imprisonment and the
malicious prosecution.

But after all we have been
through Debbie feels like she

is done with legal battles
and she wants to devote the

rest of her days to being with family

and friends and helping others.

And Debbie believes that God
will take care of Steve Cooley.

- This was Los
Angeles District Attorney

Steve Cooley on election
night, declaring victory

in the race for state Attorney General.

- Although my highly paid
trusted advisors say it may

be a little too early,
I am declaring victory.

- Oops, he should
have listened to his advisors.

This morning Steve Cooley conceded the

Attorney General's race
to Democrat Kamela Harris.

- Harris will
become the first woman and the

first minority to serve as
California Attorney General.

Experts are saying it
is an important step to

restoring faith in the
criminal justice system.

- They imprisoned her body,
but they did not imprison her

mind, or her soul, Deborah Peagler.

- I take every opportunity
I can to share my story in

hopes that no one, no one,
would ever have to suffer and

go through the things I've been through.

Nothing is going to stop
me, not even this cancer.

And even after I pass,
this film will continue on.

Telling my story.

Telling the story of others.

The kindness of strangers,
people who did not even know

me, for the pursuit of justice.

I'll never stop.

- Everybody say Deborah!

- Deborah!

- I'm home. I have so
much to be thankful for.

Since my release from prison,

just amazing things have happened.

Things I can't call
anything else but miracles.

Number one, my health.

I have more good days than bad days.

What are you doin'?


What else?

The second thing is forgiveness.

I've experienced forgiveness
from Oliver's family,

I've had the opportunity to
be embraced by his mother.

And spending time with her,

such a spirit of peace was upon me.

His sister Zabrina.

And I can't even tell you how that feels.


- I get to sit down and watch

Granny play with her grandkids.

What a joy!

I know, it's wonderful.

It's a wonderful feeling to have her here.

It really is.

Everything about it, and everything about

her is a dream come true.

♪ There are people still in darkness ♪

♪ And they can't see the
light see the light ♪

♪ If you don't stay its
wrong that says it's right ♪

♪ We've got to try to
feel for each other ♪

♪ Let our brothers know that we care ♪

♪ Got to get the message ♪

♪ Send it out loud and
clear, loud and clear ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ If one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ It's the simple truth ♪

♪ We all need to just hear and to sing ♪

♪ None of us are free if
one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ No no no ♪

♪ Now I swear this salvation
isn't hard to find ♪

♪ None of us as can find
it on our own, on our own ♪

♪ We've got to join together ♪

♪ In spirit, heart and mind ♪

♪ So that every soul that's suffering ♪

♪ Will known they're not alone ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free if
one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free if
one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ If you just look
around you, look around ♪

♪ You're gonna see what I see ♪

♪ There's a world that's getting
smaller each passing day ♪

♪ Passing day ♪

♪ Now it's time to start
making changes, changes ♪

♪ And it's time for us all to realize ♪

♪ That the truth is shining bright ♪

♪ Right before our eyes, before our eyes ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free if
one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us, none of us ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪

♪ None of us are free if
one of us is chained ♪

♪ None of us are free ♪