Jonathan Irons Freed from Prison After Maya Moore Helped Overturn Conviction

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2020

UNCASVILLE, CT - AUGUST 17: Maya Moore #23 of the Minnesota Linx during the game against the Connecticut Sun on August 17, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
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Jonathan Irons, who was convicted of burglary and assault in 1998 and sentenced to 50 years in prison, was officially released from the Jefferson City Correctional Center on Wednesday, according to Kurt Streeter of the New York Times

WNBA star Maya Moore put her basketball career on hold in part to help Irons overturn his conviction. The four-time champion and former Rookie of the Year and MVP stunned the basketball world when she sat out the 2019 season. Moore had met Irons while doing prison ministry in 2007 and formed a friendship with him. 

Her efforts to help Irons culminated in Missouri Judge Daniel Green throwing out Iron's conviction in March, citing issues with both the investigation that led to the charges and the case the prosecution made against Irons, calling it "very weak and circumstantial at best." Green specifically pointed out fingerprint evidence that was not turned over to Irons' defense team, which his lawyers said "would have supported their contention that someone else had committed the crime." 

"Until Maya Moore got involved, [Irons] just really didn't have the resources to either hire counsel or hire investigators," Irons' attorney Kent Gipson told Katie Barnes of ESPNW. "It's big to sacrifice a year of your career in your prime to do that."

After a series of failed appeals by Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt, St. Charles County lead prosecutor Tim Lohmar was given the decision to retry the case. He declined, freeing Irons. 

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Irons, then 16, was convicted of breaking into the house of Stanley Stotler, then 38, and shooting him. Stotler picked out two Black men in a lineup weeks after he had been shot, one of them Irons, and later identified him in court. But per Streeter, "There was no corroborating witness to the crime, nor were any fingerprints, DNA or blood evidence implicating Irons presented in court."

Prosecutors also claimed Irons had confessed to the crime to a police officer during questioning, though Irons denied that story. As Streeter reported, "The officer who interrogated him did so alone and did not make a video or audio recording of the conversation. Asked for his interview notes, the officer said he had thrown them away."

Irons, 40, served 22 years of the 50-year sentence. 

It's unclear if Moore, who also chose to skip the 2020 season, will ever return to the court. But it is clear that she's found purpose in criminal justice reform.

"God says: Mankind, God has given you one thing to do," she told Barnes. "Seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. That's what I've been trying to do."