WNBA Star Maya Moore Helps Free Wrongfully Imprisoned Inmate

Jonathan Irons walked out of a Missouri penitentiary on Wednesday

Maya Moore
Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx stands on the court.
Sam Wasson/Getty Images

One of the biggest winners in the history of the WNBA secured the most important victory of her career this week — and it didn’t come on the basketball court.

Maya Moore, who stepped away from pro basketball prior to last season to focus on other endeavors, was able to get a wrongfully imprisoned inmate who was serving a 50-year prison sentence freed from a Missouri penitentiary.

Thanks to 31-year-old Moore’s help, Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of jail on Wednesday after a judge overturned his conviction on charges of burglary and assault.

Moore, who was the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2011, the league MVP in 2014 and won four championships with the Minnesota Lynx, first met Irons during a prison visit before her freshman year at UConn and the two formed a tight bond.

That friendship eventually led to Moore advocating for Irons to be released from prison after an all-white jury found him guilty for shooting a suburban St. Louis homeowner even though there was no evidence (witness, fingerprints, footprints, DNA) to corroborate the charge.

Irons was 16 at the time of the incident but was tried as an adult and began serving time when he was 18. Missouri judge Daniel Green vacated Irons’s 1998 conviction in March, paving the way for his release this week.

“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said after his release. “I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence. I thank everybody who supported me — Maya and her family.”

Moore, who has career averages of 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists, was non-committal about her return to the WNBA prior to Irons’s release.

“My decision to take another year was bigger than this case,” Moore told The Associated Press in March. “But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward to when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family.”

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