Wilder "Ken" Berry, a senior paralegal in the firm's Chicago office, was the subject of a Dec. 7, 2009 Chicago Tribune column titled "Wrongly convicted ex-inmate is now on corrections panel."
The column reports Berry's appointment to an Illinois Department of Corrections advisory board, which helps craft policy and programs for inmates and parolees.
Berry was arrested in 1991 on sexual assault charges, convicted, and sentenced to 35 years in prison, despite his claims that the encounter with his accuser was consensual. That conviction was eventually overturned.
"Some people may think I lack objectivity and will always advocate from the 'inmate' perspective," Berry said. "But I want our communities to be safe, and we should not be releasing people without regard for their ability to succeed. Education is the key. I don't want my family or anyone else's to be victimized."
Berry was represented by an attorney who didn't investigate the allegations and didn't call any witnesses at trial, expect for Berry, according to the article. While in prison, Berry completed his undergraduate degree through a program with Roosevelt University and worked as a law clerk in the prison library. It was then when he wrote a letter to Winston & Strawn, which helped overturn his conviction.
"When I was told about the appointment, I sat at home a few nights later and it was surreal," he said. "After our first meeting, we were given IDOC identification cards, and I found myself looking at my old inmate ID card in one hand, and my new board member ID card in the other. Who would have thought it possible?"
Berry said his conviction has not left him bitter toward the system, but rather used the experience as a motivating factor in his life.
"If you do not like the circumstances of your life, change them," Berry said. "I used a method that anyone could use: I examined my situation, plotted a course of action, and stuck to it, no matter what. Anything that was inconsistent with the direction I was going was not a part of my life. This is something I use to this day, and anyone can use this method."