Jonathan Irons, a friend of WNBA star Maya Moore, had his conviction overturned by a state judge on Monday who ordered him released from the maximum-security prison where he is being held. Moore who had taken time away from her career as a Minnesota Lynx to fight for Irons’release, delivered the news to Irons by phone.
Irons was 16 but tried as an adult when he was convicted by an all-White jury and sentenced to 50 years for a burglary in which a suburban St. Louis homeowner was attacked with a gun. He has been behind bars for 23 years.
In Jefferson City, Missouri, Judge Daniel Green issued a ruling vacating Irons guilty verdict. However, Irons has not yet been released as St. Charles County has 30 days to retry him and the order is stayed pending a review by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which can choose to appeal the ruling.
Irons was convicted despite the lack of a corroborating witness, fingerprints, DNA, or blood evidence connecting him to the crime. However, there was a set of fingerprints left at the crime scene that did not belong to Irons or the victim. According to Iron’s lawyer Kent Gipson, the fingerprint evidence was withheld by the state and would have demonstrated that someone else committed the crime.
The New York Times reported that when Irons heard the news, he said, “She [Moore] saved my life. I would not have this chance if not for her and her wonderful family. I cannot say it better than that.”
Moore met members of Irons’ family while volunteering as a part of a church prison ministry. The two kept in touch and met for the first time in 2007.
“We’re still fighting because he is still behind bars, but we hope that the momentum and the commitment we’ve had for truth in this case, from Johnathan to our lawyers, to our family, we hope inspires others and inspires change along with accountability and prosecutorial reform,” Moore said in an interview with the Jefferson City News Tribune. “This is something that didn’t have to happen.”