Who is Jonathan Irons? Jonathan Irons is a 40 year old African-American man who was convicted at age 18.
Irons, whose request for freedom from a 50-year prison sentence was accepted and pushed by the W.N.B.A. Star Maya Moore walked out of a Missouri penitentiary on Wednesday, nearly four months after a judge overturned her conviction on charges of burglary and assault.
Irons was greeted by Moore, his family and other supporters who hugged and applauded him outside the Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison on a country road called No More Victims Road. At one point, Moore fell to his knees as if in oratol amazement.
“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said. “I am free, I am blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.” He added: “I thank all those who have supported me – Maya and her family.”
Then Irons took the first steps towards adult freedom.
It was the culmination of a year-long effort by his supporters to win his freedom, a campaign that took into account Moore’s decision last year to give up playing in the W.N.B.A. at the height of his success.
In March, a Missouri judge, Daniel Green, cleared Irons’ 1998 conviction in what police said was a burglary and shooting at the home of Stanley Stotler, then 38, a White House owner who lived alone in O’Fallon, about a 45-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. Both Stotler and his attacker were armed and Stotler was shot twice.
Irons insisted that he was not there and had been misidentified.
After hearing testimony and a profession of innocence from Irons, who was chained in the courtroom, Green cited a number of issues with the way the case had been investigated and tried. He focused on a fingerprint report that hadn’t been handed over to the Irons defense team. The print, found inside a door that would be used to leave the house, did not belong to either Irons or Stotler.
Irons’ lawyers said the fingerprint would support their contention that someone else had committed the crime. Green agreed that the press would provide Irons’ defense team with “unassailable forensic evidence” to support his declaration of innocence.
The case against Irons, Green wrote, was “very weak and circumstantial at best.”
In the three-and-a-half months since Green overturned his conviction, attorneys for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt launched a pair of failed appeals, then were dismissed by the state Supreme Court, which left the matter in the hands of Tim Lohmar, the chief prosecutor in St. Charles County, where the crime occurred. He had to decide whether to retry the case.
Lohmar refused a retrial on Wednesday afternoon.
Moore’s family met Irons through the prison ministry. She and Irons were introduced in 2007, during a visit to the penitentiary shortly before her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, where she became one of the most-announced female players in college history. Moore went on to win four W.N.B.A. championships and a Most Valuable Player Award for the Minnesota Lynx, but she and Irons formed a close bond, similar to a brother.
He did not speak publicly about their friendship until 2016, when he began supporting changes in law enforcement and the legal system. After a series of police shootings of unarmed black men — including the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., near where Irons grew up — and the killing of five Dallas officers by a sniper during a protest against police brutality, Moore helped lead the Lynx in one of the first protests by athletes for the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice.
Moore, who is now 31, has become a strong voice for the prosecution’s changes. In early 2019, she stunned the sports world by announcing that she would take a break from basketball, in part so she could devote more time and energy to helping Irons mount what they thought would be her last appeal. He used his fame to raise awareness and helped fund the hiring of Kent Gipson, a highly regarded defense attorney based in Kansas City, Mo., to handle the Irons case.
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