Jonathan Irons, inmate backed by WNBA star Maya Moore, freed from Missouri prison

Jonathan Irons, inmate backed by WNBA star Maya Moore, freed from Missouri prison
WNBA star Maya Moore took a year off from playing for the Minnesota Lynx to help secure the release of Missouri inmate Jonathan Irons. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — Jonathan Irons, whose attempt to have a 50-year prison sentence overturned was championed by WNBA star Maya Moore, was released from a Missouri prison Wednesday.

Irons walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center and was greeted by Moore, who put her pro career on hold last season to work for the 40-year-old’s release, KMOV reported.

“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons told reporters. “I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.” He added: “I thank everybody who supported me -- Maya and her family.”

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Moore was among a group of people outside the prison when Irons took his first steps to freedom for the first time as an adult, clapping and then dropping to her knees before joining others in a group hug with Irons, ESPN reported.

Irons served 22 years of his sentence.

“Thank God it’s over,” Moore, 31, a Jefferson City native who sat out last season instead of playing for the Minnesota Lynx, said in a video she posted on her Instagram account. The video was captioned with the word “Freedom.”

During a news conference Thursday, St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said investigators found too many issues with the evidence in the case to retry Irons, KMOV reported.

In March, Missouri judge Daniel Green vacated Irons’ 1998 conviction, The New York Times reported. Irons had been convicted in the burglary and shooting of Stanley Stotler, 38, a homeowner who lived in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon. Stotler and his assailant were both armed, and Stotler was shot twice, the newspaper reported.

Irons insisted that he was not at Stotler’s home and had been misidentified, the Times reported.

Court records show that Stotler was shot in the right arm and right temple. Weeks later, he was unable to pick out the assailant from among a lineup of six photos, the Times reported. Instructed by a police officer to give his best guess, Stotler pointed to a picture of Irons, the newspaper reported.

Irons was 16 at the time of the assault but was tried as an adult. He was convicted by an all-white jury, ESPN reported.

Moore first met Irons in 2007 during a visit that was part of the prison’s ministry, KMOV reported. She stunned the sports world in early 2019 when she decided to stop playing so she could devote more time and energy to secure Irons’ release. Moore also helped fund the hiring of high-profile defense attorney Kent Gipson, the Times reported.

Irons said Stotler was “a victim twice.”

“A victim once by the person who burglarized his home and assaulted him,” Irons said. “And he was a victim of the police who manipulated him into identifying me.”

Irons said he was ready to move on with his life.

“I want to rest, and get my legs up under me and be able to stand,” Irons said. “There’s a lot to adjust to out here, and I’m gonna take it slow.

“And I’m surrounded by people I know who love me and have my best interests in mind, and so I’m gonna listen to them, study and learn all I can. And when I get the time and the opportunity and the resources and the provision, I want to be able to reach back and help other people.”