Sharing stories of underdog victories is by far the best part of my job, so I was recently thrilled to learn of Isaac Wright, Jr.
In 1991, Wright was convicted of being a drug kingpin and sentenced to life in New Jersey state prison. He’d been framed and railroaded by a crooked cop, a corrupt prosecutor and a greedy judge.
Why’d they pick on Wright? For the same reasons people in powerful positions have ruined the lives of countless others — because they could.
But they picked the wrong one in 1991.
Wright got to work freeing himself as soon as the doors of his prison cell clanged shut. He started studying the law and appealed his conviction, arguing that the judge hadn’t properly instructed the jury on what a “kingpin” was.
He won. His conviction was overturned and the life sentence set aside. That only left him another 72 years to serve on the remaining charges.
And so the determination of Isaac Wright, Jr. found its purpose. He resolved not only to free himself but to punish those who’d stolen his freedom.
In 1996, Wright won an evidentiary hearing in which he forced a detective to testify to the facts surrounding his arrest and prosecution. The detective confessed to framing Wright under orders from the district attorney, who’d suborned perjury from several witnesses and paid the judge to guarantee Wright’s conviction through a series of biased rulings.
By the time Wright was finished with them, the cop had pled guilty to evidence tampering, the judge had found a prison cell of his own, and the prosecutor had taken his own life while on the run from federal marshals.
Wright was freed in 1998 after a judge threw out all 18 of his convictions. But during his time behind bars, he’d helped reduce the sentences of 20 other men, some of whom were freed. In fact, he had first used his argument on “kingpin” jury instructions to help overturn another man’s conviction.
Those formidable legal skills and successes led Wright to seek a law degree, which he earned in 2007. He passed the bar exam a year later, but the New Jersey State Bar refused to admit him for nine years while they investigated his “character”.
In September 2017, Isaac Wright, Jr., Esq. was sworn in by a Justice Virginia Long (retired) of the state supreme court. Mission accomplished:
I went to law school for one reason and one reason only… To slay giants for a price. And if the giant is big enough and the cause is important enough, I’ll do it for free, especially when it involves helping those who cannot help themselves.