By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
Jonathan Irons was recently released from the Jefferson City (Missouri) Correctional Center after serving twenty years of a fifty-year sentence.
The 40-year-old Irons was greeted by WNBA star Maya Moore who dropped to her knees in relief as she and many others were responsible for gaining his release.
“In that moment I just, I really felt like I could rest,” Moore told Robin Roberts on the “Good Morning America” broadcast. “I mean I’ve been standing and we’ve been standing for so long. It was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief- it was kind of like a worship moment just dropping to my knees and being thankful that we made it.”
Moore, who is 31 and a Jefferson City native met Irons through a prison ministry right before her freshman year at UCONN. After leading the Huskies to two National Championships she helped lead the Minnesota Lynx to four WNBA titles. In 2019 he took time away from basketball to devotes her time in helping Irons gain his freedom. The announcement stunned many in the sports world.
Moore then used her fame to raise funds to hire famed Kansas City attorney Kent Gibson to work on the case.
In 1998 at the age of 16 Irons was convicted of burglary and a shooting in O’Fallon, Missouri a suburb of St Louis. It was the home of Stanley Stotler a white homeowner who at the time was 38 year-old and lived alone.
According to the New York Times and court records someone entered Stotlers home the intruder and Stotler were both armed. Stotler was shot twice once in the arm and the right temple. After weeks passed he was unable to pick out his attacker from a six pack of photo’s shown to him by police. He later was told by a police officer to give “his best guess”. He pointed to a picture of Irons that was a bit larger than the others and one other photo of a different African-American man.
Irons who was 16 at the time did admit to police to breaking into Stotler’s home according to prosecutors. It’s a claim that Irons adamantly denied. The officer who did the interrogation was by himself and didn’t make any video or audio recordings. When asked about his notes he claimed to have tossed them away.
There was no other witnesses to the crime, no fingerprints, no DNA or blood evidence pointing towards Irons. After years of hard work and appeals In March Missouri Judge Daniel Green vacated Iron’s conviction and he was released from custody last week. Moore took a shot and it was the biggest one she ever made.
He will live with Moore’s God parent s in Atlanta. He was humbled and calm. “I hope to be an agent for a positive change,” he said to Roberts. “I want to encourage and inspire people and share my story with anyone who will listen. I want to be an advocate and part of the conversation going forward.”