Marked for Life
One Man's Fight for Justice from the Inside
Author: Isaac Wright Jr. with Jon Sternfeld
An empowering memoir of courage and hope in the face of injustice—and the basis for the ABC television show, For Life—Marked for Life is the true story of Isaac Wright Jr.’s battle to win his freedom after being wrongfully imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, and a critical indictment of America’s judicial system.
“If I waited around for someone to save me, I’d be waiting my whole life. Unless I took the reins of this thing myself, I was going to die in prison. If that was my destiny, then I was going to die fighting. The desperation of that equation kept me up most nights. I would never find a gladiator. So I had to become him.”
In the summer of 1989, Isaac Wright Jr. was a 28-year-old independent music producer, who’d struck out on his own and became one of hip hop’s early success stories. With his dance crew Uptown Express, Wright won recognition on Star Search, toured with Run-DMC, and transitioned into management, co-founding his wife Sunshine’s music group, The Cover Girls. They’d settled in the New Jersey suburbs to raise their six-year-old daughter, never imagining that Wright would fall victim to gross police misconduct and a corrupt district attorney.
Accused of being a drug “kingpin” and incarcerated in Somerset County while the prosecutor and police built their case of lies against him, Wright realized he would get no help from any defense attorneys—white men uninterested in uncovering the truth or in proving the innocence of a black man. Pressured to take a plea deal offer of 20 years behind bars, Wright chose to take the law into his own hands by educating himself in the legal system so he could represent himself in court.
Studying statutes and cases in the jail’s law library, Wright became an adept legal mind. But despite acquiring knowledge that he put to use in defending his fellow inmates, he lost his trial and was sentenced to Trenton State Prison for life, plus 70 years in 1991. For the next five years, Wright would continue learning law, become a paralegal with the prison’s Inmate Legal Association, and appeal his case. Threatened by corrupt correction officers and convicts, his family falling apart, Wright fought for his life with every legal means at his disposal, eventually uncovering the smoking gun that unraveled the conspiracy perpetrated by law enforcement officials against him.
Marked for Life is not just the story of how Isaac Wright Jr. won his freedom. It is the story of how he found his true calling as a gladiator fighting on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized communities victimized by an unjust system of law.
St. Martin's Press