Isaac Wright Jr. was a convicted felon who learned the ropes of the legal system to free himself and became a lawyer in the process. He is the inspiration for ABC’s ‘For Life’. On Tuesday, December 1, Wright announced his candidacy to run for mayor as a Democrat in New York City.
In 1991, Wright was wrongfully accused of being the main deviser behind a drug conglomerate in the New York and New Jersey area. Subsequently, he was convicted under New Jersey’s drug kingpin law. Wright served as his own lawyer and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Wright constructed the legal tactic and formulated a defense pro se brief as a counter to the king-pin jury instruction in State v. Alexander, 136 N.J. 563 (1994); this method was instrumental in reversing his conviction.
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While conducting a cross-examination during his own case, Wright was able to extract a confession of police misconduct from a veteran police officer, James Dugan. This is what solidified his freedom.
“I understood law enforcement in such a way that I was able to get a law enforcement officer, a veteran, to actually come clean and admit fault, even though he was facing prison time,” Wright told People.
“The years of dealing with those issues allowed me to take that experience and individually turn an officer around. I think I could do the same thing with the NYPD.”
While he was incarcerated, Wright continued to study law and became a prison paralegal. He was instrumental in lowering the sentences and overturning convictions of over twenty inmates.
After Wright’s release from prison, he pursued law and graduated in 2002 with his undergraduate degree. In 2007, Wright graduated from Saint Thomas University School of Law. In 2008, he passed the New Jersey bar examination.
Wright was granted admission to the bar by the New Jersey Bar’s Committee on Character after a nine-year investigation and he is currently a Counselor with one of the biggest Black-owned law firms in Newark, New Jersey, law firm Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley.
According to the firm’s website, he focuses on “defending the wrongly accused and going after corrupt institutions.”
He is banking his candidacy on his experience which by all standards is different from his counterparts. He did not fully disclose his plans for the city, though he has pledged to “address the racial, economic, environmental, and educational injustices that plague our city’s institutions.”
“I don’t consider myself a true activist,” Wright said, adding that the core of his makeup is to fight for what is right.
Many friends and colleagues had pushed Wright to stand for this very position many years ago. He feels now is the right time because this year, many people have decided not to be silent anymore on issues pertaining to institutional racism and police brutality.
He however believes that there is more everyone can do aside from the protests, and that is, to get into the real fight. Wright said he is the man to lead that fight for real change.
“In my experience in life, nothing good happens, most of the time, without a fight,” he said. “You can scream, you can holler, you can protest — which are all good things, because we have to be heard — but no real, significant changes occur without rolling up your sleeves and getting into a fight.”