Back in 2019, WNBA player Maya Moore took a break from basketball to fight for a man serving a 50-year sentence in Jefferson, Missouri for a crime he did not commit—now Jeremy Irons is finally free.
Irons, a Black man, was just 16 years old when he was arrested and 18 years old when he was convicted on burglary and assault charges for the shooting of a white man. There was no DNA or physical evidence that put Irons at the scene and Irons insisted from the start that he had been misidentified, according to the New York Times.
Moore met Irons through prison ministry in 2007, the NYT reports. A year later, Moore would go on to become a star player at the University of Connecticut before going pro with the Minnesota Lynx, winning four WNBA championships and being named MVP. She’s also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, by the way.
However, Moore decided to step back from the game last year to devote more time to helping Irons with his final appeal by raising awareness about his case and helping to fund his defense team. “I’m dedicating my life to freeing Jonathan the same way I dedicated myself to each game in the WNBA,” she said in an Instagram video at the time.
Back in March, Missouri judge Daniel Green vacated Irons’s 1998 conviction, claiming the case—which was heard by an all-white jury—was “very weak and circumstantial at best.” In particular, fingerprint evidence had not been turned over to Irons’s defense team back in ’98. The print in question reportedly did not belong to Irons or the victim of the shooting, suggesting that Irons was not the assailant.
On Wednesday, July 1, Maya Moore was right there with Jonathan Irons when he was released from prison as prosecutors declined to retry the case.
“In that moment, I just really felt like I could rest,” the 31-year-old advocate told Good Morning America . “We’ve been standing for so long, and it was an unplanned moment where I felt relief, and it was kind of a worshipful moment, just dropping to my knees, and just being so thankful that we’d made it.”
“People don’t want to watch a fixed game, they want to watch a fair game, and so that’s all we’re asking for, in our justice system—let’s be fair,” Moore also the morning show. You can watch the full conversation, above.
Moore also captured Irons’ own reaction as he left Jefferson City Correctional Center on Instagram
“I feel like I can live life now. I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence,” Irons—now 40 years old—said in the video. “I thank everybody who supported me—Maya and her family.”