Photo: Maya Moore/Twitter.
Photo: Maya Moore/Twitter.
Updated: July 02, 2020 06:12 PM
Created: July 01, 2020 10:33 PM
A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.
Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.
He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons' defense team, according to The New York Times.
The Missouri attorney general's office unsuccessfully appealed the judge's decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.
Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Missouri, native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.
Moore said in January she planned to sit out a second season and miss the Tokyo Olympics. After Irons' convictions were thrown out in March, she told the AP her plans hadn't changed.
"'My decision to take another year was bigger than this case," she said at the time. "But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I'm looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family."
In an interview on Good Morning America, Moore said of the moment she fell to her knees seeing Irons walk out of prison, "In that moment I felt like I could really rest...we've been standing for so long..it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief, it was just a worshipful moment."
Moore also teased about her possible future saying, "I'm like ok guys now it's time to take a break, I'm looking forward to some rest and seeing what the future holds maybe around the same time next spring."
Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve released the following statement Thursday:
Maya Moore got to celebrate another championship yesterday and none of us who have been blessed to have Maya in our lives are surprised. I cannot imagine, however, what this one must feel like. I was overwhelmed seeing Maya watch Jonathan Irons walk out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man. For the last few years we watched as she gracefully committed herself to Jonathan’s case, and as she has done so often on the basketball court, put the Irons team on her back. I am overcome with joy that Maya and all involved were able to reach their goal of Jonathan’s exoneration.
I also can’t help but feel a great deal of anger. Maya Moore should never have had to leave her profession to engage in the fight against the two-tiered criminal justice system that over polices, wrongfully convicts, and over sentences black and brown communities. The criminal justice system in America is so far from fair and equal and it angers me that Maya has had to sacrifice so much to overcome this racially disparate system.
On behalf of the Lynx organization, we are so proud of Maya for earning the biggest win of her career. I am sure that she was voted MVP of this championship, too. This time there is no hardware to take home to the trophy case, just a wrongfully convicted black man walking free.
(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)