Maya Moore helpful in hiatus as inmate’s conviction overturned

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Long a winner on the court, Maya Moore is now a winner in court.

The WNBA star put her career on hiatus to help 39-year-old Jonathan Irons get released from prison, and on Monday, Irons’ initial conviction was overturned.

“This day has been a long time coming,” Moore said following the conclusion of the hearing. “We are just so grateful and thankful to God and to everybody who has played a role in bringing justice.”

Irons has served 22 years of a 50-year sentence that he was handed following a conviction of burglary and assault of a man in his home with a weapon. The homeowner testified that Irons was the person who assaulted him, but Irons’ lawyers said there is no evidence (witness, fingerprints, footprints, DNA) to corroborate that their client committed the crime. Irons, an African American who was living in poverty, was 16 at the time of the incident but tried as an adult, and the all-white jury found him guilty.

Judge Daniel Green’s ruling granted Irons’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus, vacating his convictions for burglary and assault. He placed a stay on the order, allowing the state 15 days to request a review by the appellate court. If the state does not appeal, then St. Charles County has 30 days to decide if it wants to retry Irons.

“It’s a very good day,” said Irons’ attorney Kent Gipson. “But it’s not quite over yet.”

Moore was surrounded by family and friends who had been by her side during this process. Following the hearing, they spoke with Irons over the phone, cheering as they heard his voice.

“You’re coming home!” Moore said. “Get your meal order ready.”

A four-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time college player of the year and two-time NCAA champion, Moore has already said she will sit out the upcoming WNBA season, her second straight on the sidelines.

“Basketball has not been foremost in my mind. I’ve been able to rest and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road,” Moore told the New York Times in January. “And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”

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