WNBA star Maya Moore scored a lot of victories in her professional basketball career, but none may be as significant as the victory she helped secure for a Missouri man who was freed from prison after 22 years.
Moore, who took a year off in 2019 to help with the release of Jonathan Irons, joined others to greet Irons when he walked out of Missouri’s Jefferson City Correctional Center on Wednesday, July 1. In a clip Moore shared of that moment, she can be seen falling to her knees before hugging Irons, 40 with others, and asking him how he felt.
“I feel like I can live life now,” he answered. “And I’m free, I’m blessed. I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence … I thank everybody that supported me.”
Moore took a break from the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx last year to help overturn the conviction of Irons, who was found guilty of shooting a St. Louis area homeowner when he was 16 years old. The conviction was thrown out by a judge in March because of issues with the case, including a fingerprint report that wasn’t turned over to Irons’ legal team.
Irons began serving a 50-year sentence for the non-fatal shooting following a 1998 conviction by an all-white jury of burglary and assault with a weapon. He was tried as an adult.
The homeowner identified Irons as the person who assaulted him, while Irons’ defense team said there was no evidence such as DNA and footprints, or witnesses to corroborate the man’s claim.
The judge’s decision was appealed twice by lawyers for Missouri’s attorney general and both appeals were denied, which led to Missouri’s Supreme Court turning down the case, according to the New York Times.
That left matters with the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County, where the reported crime took place. That prosecutor Tim Lohmar said on Wednesday, July 1 that the case was dismissed and prosecutors would not pursue a retrial.
Moore, 31, a native of Jefferson City, Missouri, became familiar with Irons’ case after seeing her godfather Reggie Williams review it. Some of her family members became involved with Irons through a prison ministry some time ago. Moore then visited Irons at the prison before starting her freshman year at UConn.
During an interview on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, July 2, the two-time Olympic gold medalist spoke about the moment Irons was freed and, after seeing him, she fell to her knees.
“In that moment, I really felt like I could rest,” said Moore, who helped the Lynx get to the WNBA Finals six times, winning the title four times. “I’d been standing, and we’d been standing, for so long; and it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief. It was kind of a worshipful moment, just dropping to my knees and just being so thankful that we made it.”
Irons also spoke during the GMA interview and explained what he did after first leaving the correctional facility.
“I got to have time to just sit around and just be around my people,” he explained. “Family and friends, people that I knew growing up, just being in that moment.”
Moore announced that she’d be taking a break from the WNBA before the start of last season, saying she’d be investing her time “in some ministry dreams” that have been “stirring” in her heart for several years.
Before the WNBA was suspended for COVID-19, the 6’0 forward — the first overall pick in the 2011 draft — said she’d also sit out this season.