Los Angeles, CA-Compton
A battered women who spent 27 years of a 25 to life sentence in prison for the beating and strangulation of her partner and daughter's father, Oliver Wilson. Wilson was a proven criminal, pimp, drug dealer and addict and all out creep who forced Deborah into prostitution and molested her daughter. The authorities were contacted during one of Oliver's many vicious beatings but he was released the next day and this only worsened Deborah's situation. Finally, after Oliver along with armed men threatened her family and upon learning of her daughter's molestation, a very desperate Deborah turned to friends of her mother. Her mother knew the men, known Crips members, from her neighborhood. Deborah asked them to scare Oliver and stop his abuse, and that's when he met his maker.
Lavaca County, Texas, 2012- Unnamed man catches another man, Jesus Mora Flores raping his five year old daughter and without a thought and with his bare hands beats the monster to death. After review of the case, the State of Texas chose not to indite. THANK GOD. Around the country, this horrible news story brought focus on 'self defense' laws. It was decided that defending a child was an extension of defending ones self and should be viewed as just that, self defense. As a parent myself I can honestly tell you that there isn't anything I wouldn't do to protect my child if he were in danger.
When Deborah met Oliver Wilson in the mid 70's, she was a single teen mom and thought she had struck gold. Oliver was a very good looking man, in fact, a model at one point and he did everything in the beginning of their relationship to win Deborah and her mother 's hearts. He held doors, brought flowers and seemed to genuinely care for Deborah's daughter from a previous relationship and that sealed the deal. Deborah was sprung. Oliver did everything to win Deborah's heart, until he conquered his feat and from that day forward her life changed from a living dream to her worst nightmare.
One day, after the couple had been dating for a while, Oliver asked Deborah to do him a favor to which she quickly agreed. Oliver mentioned being low on funds and her first thought was part-time job. Deborah was dropped off at a hotel where she was given a brief run-down and shown to a room and her first John. Or what Oliver thought was going to be Deborah's first John but when she realized what was going on, she refused to do as told and have sex with the stranger.
Upon learning of Deborah's refusal, Oliver was infuriated and beat her so badly that she never refused again. At this point, he completely cut her off from the outside world and she was not allowed to see or speak to anyone without Oliver's permission. Deborah, still in high school, spent her senior year prostituting and still managed to keep her terror a secret and graduate with good grades.
There was a very brief 'honey moon phase' after Deborah learned she was carrying Oliver's child, he even took out a small life insurance policy so his child could be cared for if something were to happen to him.
As said, it was a very brief honey moon phase and before Deborah knew it she was prostituting and being beaten even worse than before. By the early 1980's Oliver added addict to his list of attributes and the abuse escalated. Very shortly after Oliver started abusing drugs, Deborah learned that he was sexually abusing her oldest daughter, the daughter she believed Oliver loved as his own and the biggest reason she fell in love with him. Deborah did what she thought she had to do to protect her children and turned to two men named Sibley and Lively who were known gang members.
1983~ Los Angleles prosecutors charged Deborah and one of the Gang members (the other was a minor) with first degree murder and announced that it was a Death Penalty case. Deborah had received a whopping $17,000.00 from the life insurance policy and according to prosecution, that was her motive for having him murdered. Never mind that most of the money was used for Oliver's very lavish funeral. Facing death, both defendants plead guilty and received 25 to life sentences.
It wasn't until 2002 that two amazing human beings, Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran, attorney's and advocates for the California Habeas Project heard of Deborah's case and took it on Pro Bono. They would spend the next seven years fighting fiercely for Debora's freedom. Deborah was finally granted parole after being denied three times on July 10th 2009.
Deborah Peagler was the victim of unimaginable abuse. In recent years, if proven that a women endured years of abuse when facing punishment for the death of her partner, they are sure to receive a much lighter sentence. While its understandable that we can't have vigilant heroes running around killing abusers, its also understandable that after suffering years of abuse, some of the women are going to fight back. I can't say that I blame them.
The most troubling thing for me about this case isn't that Deborah went to jail in 1983 murdering her abusive husband. Our country was much more narrow minded back in the 80's but times, they are a changing. The real travesty occurred years later when Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and his team fought tooth and nail till the end, even appealing and prolonging Deborah's parole when finally granted. If this same scenario where to happen today, the most the defendant would receive is six years. Deborah was a model prisoner and there was documented proof of the violence and molestation.
A prosecutor will only very rarely admit they were wrong in a past conviction and this is one of the most frustrating things about our legal system. Views change, new science is uncovered, witnesses change there testimony and the prosecutor holds tightly to their original stance because that is what they are supposed to do. The fact that human lives are at stake seems to get lost somewhere in the court statutes, rules and legal mumbo-jumbo and the script is completely outdated. Everything isn't cut and dry and sometimes we have to think 'outside the box'.
For any readers that think stories like this have no effect on their lives, here's a fact for you. California tax payers spent approximately $504,000.00 for the 21 additional years Deborah was held and $648,000.00 for all 27 years combined. Think on that for a moment.
'Crime after Crime', the documentary about Deborah Peagler's life, arrest, conviction and fight for freedom opened in 2011 and is a MUST SEE. The documentary covers the case in much more detail and was the winner of multiple awards. There are very important details that I didn't cover in my article, so make sure you check it out!
*resources and additional information linked at names and phrases.
Article written by Lisa Wallace
Copyright © 2014
Freedom For All
All Rights Reserved