WNBA star Maya Moore put her professional basketball career on hold to help pursue the freedom of a Missouri inmate that she believed had been wrongly convicted.
On Monday, Moore helped Jonathan Irons, 39, have his initial conviction overturned, according to ESPN, after he served 22 years of a 50-year sentence, following a conviction of burglary and assault against a homeowner with a gun.
"This day has been a long time coming," Moore said after the hearing, according to ESPN.com. "We are just so grateful and thankful to God and to everybody who has played a role in bringing justice."
Moore had removed herself from consideration for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in January in order to focus on helping Irons earn his freedom. Moore announced then that she would be skipping her second consecutive professional season, after she had previously led the Minnesota Lynx to four WNBA championships.
Maya Moore helped lead the Minnesota Lynx to the 2017 WNBA Finals before taking a break from basketball in 2019. (Photo: Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports)
Moore had met Irons in 2017, when she toured the Jefferson City Correctional Center. Since then, she helped pay the defense team and has attended several of Irons’ courtroom hearings to offer her support.
According to ESPN, the homeowner testified that Irons was the person who assaulted him, but Irons’ lawyers argued that there was no evidence to corroborate those allegations. Irons is African-American and was 16 at the time, but was tried as an adult and found guilty by the all-white jury.
Judge Daniel Green granted Irons’ petition for a write of habeas corpus, vacating his conviction, according to the report. Judge Green placed a stay on the order, which allows Missouri 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," Irons' attorney Kent Gipson said, according to ESPN. "But it's not quite over yet."
Moore had family and friends by her side during the hearing, ESPN reported, and spoke to Irons on the phone after the hearing was over.
“Basketball has not been foremost in my mind," Moore told the New York Times in January in an exclusive interview. "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. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”
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