Television viewers tend to love a ripped-from-the-headlines series and if that’s your bag, you’ll probably be really into ABC’s new show, For Life. It follows a prison inmate named Aaron Wallace, who serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. He becomes a lawyer while in prison, and then he starts serving as a defense attorney for other prisoners. It sounds like a Hollywood story, but Wallace is loosely based on the real Isaac Wright, Jr., who was wrongfully convicted of drug-related crimes and went on to become a lawyer for the people.
According to the New York Times, Wright was convicted in 1991 of being the mastermind behind an extensive New Jersey drug ring and sentenced to life in prison. Wright always professed his innocence and claimed that there was severe prosecutorial misconduct during his trial. Wright maintained he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and his conviction was only based on an illegal search and seizure. He then studied up, learning the law and biding time for his appeals — and he represented himself the whole time. In 1996, Wright was freed on bail after the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office started investigating Nicholas L. Bissell, the prosecutor at Wright’s trial, and the way he conducted investigations and trials. A judge threw out all of Wright’s convictions in 1998 after a New Jersey detective admitted to evidence tampering.
After his conviction was overturned, Wright went to college, per Prison Legal News, and then he went to law school. He graduated in 2007, passed the New Jersey State bar exam in 2008, fought with the bar’s Committee On Character for almost a decade, and finally became a real-life practicing attorney in September 2017. Wright was hired by Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley in Newark, New Jersey, finally able to help people just like him. It should be noted that, as of this writing, he no longer listed as an employee on the Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley site.
Of his career, he told Medium, “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.”
Wright is currently acting as an executive producer on For Life, and in an interview with IndieWire, he said that working on the show has given him a chance to reflect on his time in prison in completely new way. “I spent so much time fighting that I did not really consider what I was going through until all these years later,” he said. “When I had the opportunity to be on set... I was able to see myself as a third person. It became a therapeutic process for me."
Through For Life, Wright continues to help tell his story to help others in similar positions.