News of someone being exonerated for a crime they did not commit is music to the ears of attorney John A. Pray.
As co-founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, he has helped guide five post-conviction DNA exonerations in the state since the program launched in 1998.
Last year, the Innocence Project successfully overturned the murder conviction of Robert Lee Stinson after four years of work on the case. Stinson was released from prison after serving 23 years.
This year, Pray celebrates his 25th anniversary as a Clinical Professor with the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Frank J. Remington Center.
Beyond his work with the Innocence Project, Pray also co-directs the Criminal Appeals Project, in which he supervises students in their work on the direct appeal of criminal convictions.
Pray’s passion for righting wrongs in the criminal justice system is accompanied by his love of music – and a shameless plug for his daughter – in his responses to this week’s Asked & Answered.
Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?
John A. Pray: Anything related to legal writing, particularly in writing motions that are persuasive and tell a story.
WLJ: What can you spend hours doing that isn’t law-related?
Pray: I enjoy participating in sports; tennis, soccer, golf, working in the yard; growing fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, and beekeeping, and music; playing piano.
WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?
Pray: My daughter Sarah Pray is an aspiring singer/songwriter so I check her website out frequently at www.facebook.com/sarahpraymusic.
WLJ: Which actor would play you in a movie and why?
Pray: I can relate to Ben Stiller in some of his roles. Otherwise, I like Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep, and though they wouldn’t look the part, I think they could convincingly play just about anyone.
WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?
Pray: That being an effective attorney doesn’t require ranting and raving and being generally uncivil. Actually, I hope that students are learning that in law school, but that message sometimes gets diluted by seeing attorneys in the popular media.
WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?
Pray: I don’t remember the first, but the best was a concert by the Brooklyn Bridge when I was in college.
WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
WLJ: In three words or less describe your legal career?
Pray: Interesting, challenging, worthwhile.
WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?
Pray: Since I live in the country, my snowblower.
WLJ: If you were State Bar President for a day and could make one permanent change to the profession, what would it be?
Pray: To find ways to encourage the delivery of legal services to the majority of people who cannot afford our services.
Jack Zemlicka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.