Deborah Peagler easily could be someone you know. She is in her 40s, has two daughters and was once one of the highest-paid employees in an electronics manufacturing company. She found time to work on her associate degree, sing in a choir and teach illiterate inmates how to read. All this while she was behind bars, serving 25 years to life in the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla after being found guilty of first-degree murder in Los Angeles in 1983.
She was still in prison two decades later when a couple of land-use lawyers from Walnut Creek took on her case — pro bono — and set out to prove that not only was Peagler forced into prostitution and brutally abused by the man who pimped for her, but that she was wrongfully incarcerated for his death.