I was recently looking for a good movie to watch at my local library and stumbled upon this documentary. Not knowing anything more than what I read on the DVD jacket, I decided to to a chance on this. I'm glad I did.
"Crime After Crime" (2011 release; 93 min.) brings the case of Debbie Peagler, an African-American woman convicted in 1983 of murdering her abusive boyfriend. She was sentenced to 25 years-to-life. As the movie starts, we meet two lawyers who take her case pro-bono almost 20 years later to re-examine the facts of the case. Pretty soon it is clear that Peagler was the victim of "women battered syndrome" and should never have been prosecuted for murder, and furthermore that the Los Angeles District Attorney's office made some horrendous mistakes and probably (likely) violated her rights as a defender by withholding evidence. When presented with those facts by the pro-bono lawyers, the DA sends a letter to the attorneys, offering to reduce the crime to voluntary manslaughter (which carries a 6 year prison term), effectively freeing Peagler when the deal is sealed. At that point we are just half-way into the movie, so what more can be told for the second half of the movie? To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: this movie was shot, produced and directed over a 5+ year period by Yoav Potash and his crew, and what a labor of love and endurance it became. I must admit that during the first 45 min. of the movie, this looked to be a very "TV-like" 20/20 story, but the second half of the movie is just riveting and will equally enrage and move you. Kudos to the two California pro-bono lawyers who spent countless hours, days, months and years taking up Peagler's case. This movie opened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and in the DVD extras we see the director and the two lawyers doing a Q&A session with the audience, which you don't want to miss. This is an important movie about an important cause, not just about Peagler but for women battered syndrome victims. "Crime After Crime" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!