Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green has ordered the Missouri Highway Patrol to cross-check an unidentified fingerprint potentially linked to a violent eastern Missouri burglary in 1997. During the break-in at a home in O’Fallon, the burglar fired several gun shots, seriously injuring the homeowner in the head. Johnathan Irons is serving a 50-year prison sentence for the crime he says he did not commit.
Two months ago, several witnesses were called to the stand on behalf of Irons to testify about their knowledge of any potential police bias in the case. Reginald Williams, a friend of Irons, testified that he obtained from the O’Fallon Police Department’s evidence files a document detailing a second fingerprint pulled from the only door to the burglarized home. He said the paperwork was not included in files for Irons’ court trial. Irons’ attorneys think the print could have cleared their client.
Irons, who took the stand in October, said after he was arrested for the crime, he was questioned without a lawyer or guardian. He was 16 years old at the time. None of his conversations with police were recorded. His case revolved around the claims made by the lead detective, who was ill during the trial and has since died.
The prosecution argued during the trial that Irons was seen the day of the burglary with a gun in the neighborhood where the crime happened. Irons said he had several friends he often visited in the area.
In 1998, the African-American man from eastern Missouri’s Wentzville was convicted by an all-white jury of first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
During last week’s court hearing about Irons’ request to get the mystery fingerprint reviewed, WNBA star Maya Moore was able to be there. For more than a decade, Irons and Moore have been friends. Moore, who spent her childhood in Jefferson City, has played eight seasons for the Minnesota Lynx. She has taken a break, in part to try and help Irons walk away from prison as a free man soon.
“He is so close to getting his freedom,” says Moore. “We were able to present an overwhelming amount of facts about his case two months ago. He’s just somebody that should be so bitter and angry and just hopeless. He is a light – and just very inspiring to me, my family and just his perseverance and not giving up the hope of the truth coming out around his case.”
The judge’s order says the Missouri State Highway Patrol should complete the fingerprint work as soon as possible and the results should be given to the St. Charles Police Department.
Irons, 39, is incarcerated at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
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