Lawyer Isaac Wright Jr., Once Wrongfully Convicted, Now Running For Mayor Of NYC
Isaac Wright Jr., the inspiration behind ABC's "For Life," will bring his fascinating life story to the campaign trail.
December 04, 2020 at 3:40 pm
New York resident and licensed New Jersey lawyer, Isaac Wright Jr., has thrown his hat in the ring, announcing this week that he is running for mayor of New York City.
Wright Jr.'s eventful life is depicted in the ABC show For Life, which he produces along with 50 Cent. He is most notably known for fighting and winning appeals against the life sentence he was given in 1991 on charges of being a drug kingpin.
He spent seven years in prison studying law before making waves when he defended himself in many of his court cases. He ended up helping 20 fellow incarcerated people get free as well. His work and lawsuit against state officials had wide-ranging consequences.
According to The New York Times, the prosecutor in his case, Nicholas Bissell, was eventually convicted on 30 different felony charges before fleeing the court and killing himself. Wright Jr.'s cross examination of a corrupt police officer in his case, as well as the charges against Bissell, were integral in securing his release from prison in December 1996.
"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. 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," Wright Jr. told People.
His experience in the court room propelled him into the legal field, and by 2007 he had graduated from St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami. He passed the New Jersey Bar in 2008 and now works for New Jersey law firm Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley.
Wright Jr., who said he is running as a Democrat, noted to People that his experience "is different than any other candidate in the fray," but that he doesn't consider himself "a true activist."
The protests this past summer over police killings of Black people encouraged him in part to run for office. He said that while the video of George Floyd angered him, it did not surprise him because he "understood the undercurrent and the reasons why that happened."
"Just a look at the face of the officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck is indicative of the cause behind what he was doing. His face showed no concern. There was absolutely not an iota of [care for] what he was doing… But there's a bigger picture: the true blame. The blame in totality should be put on the system," Wright Jr. said.
Wright Jr.'s campaign will focus on desegregating the city's notoriously homogenous public schools and making housing "a human right," according to his campaign website.
He also has a lot of ideas on criminal justice, calling for a new police commissioner to support city-wide police retraining to focus on de-escalation, the demilitarization of regularly uniformed officers, the creation of a mental health response organization that is separate from the NYPD, the reduction of the overwhelming police presence in schools and a reallocation of the bloated budget to community resources, mental health services, and education.
"Police accountability is only one half of the equation. My own experiences with the justice system have given me a deep understanding of the need for change," Wright Jr. wrote on his campaign website.
"We must stop criminalizing poverty by ending the cash bail system, eliminating court processing fees, decriminalizing low-level, non-violent drug offenses, and developing a broad community-driven coalition of ideas, strategies, and policies to end mass incarceration in our city. We must focus on restorative solutions to build a truly just system," he added.
Wright Jr. is part of a large field of Democratic candidates looking to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is serving out his second term.
According to local news outlet PIX11, he will be facing off against candidates like MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has also floated his potential candidacy in recent days.
In an Instagram post, 50 Cent said he was backing Wright Jr.'s candidacy.
"This is our guy, soon to be the mayor of New York Isaac Wright jr.," the rapper wrote. "He is the real deal we need people like him."
“I believe I’m someone who can turn this city around, who can bring this city back to its past glory and that can make life better for the average New Yorker," Wright Jr. told PIX11.