Maya Moore fans were shocked this year when they learned she would miss a second consecutive season to focus on criminal justice reform. The Minnesota Lynx star announced she was putting her career on hold to fight for the release Jonathan Irons—a 40-year-old Black man who was wrongly convicted in the late 1990s.
"Basketball has not been foremost in my mind," she told the New York Times back in January. "I’ve been able to rest, and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan."
Moore's noble efforts paid off. On Wednesday, Irons was released from prison after spending more than two decades behind bars. The man was just a teenager when he received a 50-year prison sentence for alleged burglary and assault in St. Louis, Missouri. Prosecutors claimed Irons had admitted to breaking into a residence and shooting homeowner Stanley Stotler; however, there were no physical evidence or witness testimony that connected Irons to the crime.
After Moore spent months and months championing Iron's innocence, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green overturned the 1998 conviction, arguing the original prosecutors had suppressed evidence favorable to the defendant. An appeals court upheld the ruling in the following month.
On Wednesday, Moore and her family traveled to the Jefferson City Correctional Center to greet Irons as he finally walked out of the prison. The basketball star posted footage of the big moment on Instagram, capturing all the emotional reactions to Irons' long-awaited freedom.
"I feel like I can live life now," Irons said in the video. "I’m free, I’m blessed. I just want to live my life worthy of God's help and influence ... He made this possible. I thank everybody who supported me: Maya and her family and just to be home, to have somewhere to be home. I'm so grateful."