A judge in Missouri on Monday overturned the conviction of Jonathan Irons, whose appeal of 50-year sentence for burglary and assault had been backed by basketball star Maya Moore.
Moore, who graduated from Collins Hills High School before a decorated career at Connecticut and the WNBA, announced last year that she was putting her professional career on hold in large part to help Irons.
Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that prosecutors had suppressed evidence in the case against Irons, who was tried and convicted as an adult at the age of 16 in 1997, and spent 23 years in prison. He was convicted of breaking into a home outside St. Louis and shooting the homeowner hiding in a closet. Green called the prosecution’s case “very weak and circumstantial at best” with no physical evidence linking Irons to the crime and eyewitness testimony that was “dotted with inconsistencies.”
Moore, a five-time all-star with the Minnesota Lynx, met Irons in 2007 during a visit to the Jefferson City Correctional Facility.
Moore posted her reaction to the vacated guilty verdict on social media Monday with a tweet that read in part: “Let Justice Roll like a River today.”
Moore was in the courtroom when the decision was announced.
“It felt so surreal,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “We finally have justice. I was just thinking, ‘Did this really happen? Did it?’ ”
The Missouri Attorney General’s office and the St. Charles County prosecutor’s office can appeal the decision or retry the case. The Missouri Attorney General’s office declined to comment.
In a phone interview with the New York Times, the 40-year-old Irons said “It feels like I can just breathe, like the weight of the world is off of me, like I have the chance to live.
“She saved my life. I would not have this chance if not for her and her wonderful family. She saved my life and I cannot say it better than that.”
Moore, 30, led Collins Hill to four consecutive state championships appearances, winning three, and was named Miss Georgia Basketball in 2007. At Connecticut, Moore was part of back-to-back national championship teams in 2009-10 and a two-time national player of the year. After being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft by the Lynx, Moore went on to win four league championships and was named Rookie of the Year, WNBA MVP, a six-time all-star, a three-time all-star MVP and five-time all-WNBA first team among her accolades. She was also part of two Olympic gold medal winning teams for the United States in 2012 and 2016.
The 2020 season will be the second consecutive WNBA season that Moore will miss, also in part because of fatigue that she cited when announcing the hiatus in January. Moore also plans to miss the 2020 Olympics but has not indicated that she will retire.
“We are proud of the ways that Maya is advocating for justice and using her platform to impact social change,” Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said in a statement in January.
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