WNBA star Maya Moore has scored a win in the courtroom by helping to get a St. Louis area man freed from prison this month. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals granted the release of Johnathan Irons, who was locked up for more than 20 years for a violent O’Fallon home burglary he insists he did not do. Several gun shots were fired during the 1997 break-in, leaving the homeowner with a serious head injury.

Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons (Photo courtesy of Moore’s Twitter page)

Moore, who grew up in Jefferson City and is a longtime friend of Irons, stepped away from the game in the prime of her career to help Irons get out of prison. Outside the Jefferson City Correctional Center, she fell to her knees as she watched Irons take his first steps as a free man again.

During a conference call with reporters from across the globe, she said a huge weight has been lifted off her family’s shoulders.

“This is similar to a championship in the feeling of like the next day exhaustion of like ‘We just went to the mountain top and now oh yeah – our bodies are exhausted,’” said Moore.

For the past 18 months, she has been helping her extended family put on a full court press to get Irons released. Moore’s godfather, Reginald Williams, made a pivotal discovery when he uncovered a document within the O’Fallon Police Department’s evidence files – an unidentified fingerprint from the crime scene. That piece of evidence turned up several years after the original court trial concluded.

The revelation led to an appeal last October in which his lawyers made the case that no physical evidence connects Irons to the crime. They also argued that police mishandled the original case in several ways.

Moore says she never truly felt like Irons would not have his conviction overturned.

“There’s something about truth that just makes you believe it’s going to happen – when you have the facts right in front of you,” says Moore. “I’ve heard Jonathan say this, like he just had to keep believing ‘If we get the truth in front of the right people who want to do the right thing, they’ll do it.’ When I decided to use my platform and my voice, I was just shining a light with the resources that I had on the facts that were already there, trying to put it into the hands of people who could do something about it.”

Irons was represented by a powerful group of four attorneys from the high-profile law firm of Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry in St. Louis.

Moore thinks Irons’ win and George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis can change history.

“This is an issue of long-term dehumanization that has been expressed intentionally through systems in our country. And so because I think we are beginning to talk more about the root of systemic racism, which is centered on dehumanizing people, we can start to weed out the dehumanizing practices through these systems. Changing systems doesn’t make sense until you get to the heart behind that system.”

Moore, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time NCAA champion and four-time WNBA titlist, launched a non-profit inspired by Irons. Win With Justice educates people about prosecutorial misconduct and aims to redefine what a win is in the criminal justice system.

Previous stories:

WNBA star in Missouri courtroom to help imprisoned friend score ‘Win With Justice’

Cole County judge orders mystery fingerprint to be cross-checked in violent 1997 burglary case

Maya Moore to sit out second WNBA season to push for Missouri man’s prison release

Missouri man in prison for violent 1997 burglary could be a free man soon

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