Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Maya Moore celebrates as longtime friend Jonathan Irons finally freed from prison

Wearing a white T-shirt with the words “Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” in black letters across the front, basketball star Maya Moore was brought to tears Wednesday when Jonathan Irons walked out of the Jefferson City (Mo.) Correctional Center as a free man. He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence, but a judge threw out his convictions in March, and he was let go after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case.

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“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said while standing next to Moore in video released on social media. “I’m free, I’m blessed. I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence and just provision in my life. He made this possible. I thank everybody that supported me — Maya, her family. To be home, to have somewhere to be home, I’m so grateful.”

Moore, 31, announced in February 2019 that she would not play basketball last year so that she could focus “on the people in my family, as well as on investing my time in some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.” Freeing Irons became a big focus, and she’s sitting out 2020 as well.

Moore’s friendship with Irons dates back to a visit she took to Jefferson City Correctional Center with her godfather in 2007, just before her star began to rise at the University of Connecticut. Since her shocking announcement to leave basketball, Moore has tirelessly worked for his freedom, often making trips from her Atlanta home to Jefferson City, where she spent the first 11 years of her life.

Moore and others argued Irons was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges stemming from the nonfatal shooting of a homeowner when Irons was 16. But earlier this year a judge cited a series of problems with the case and threw out Irons’ convictions. The Missouri attorney general’s office was unsuccessful in appealing the judge’s decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.

Irons is now 40, but grateful for his new freedom in life.

“God is good,” he said repeatedly in the video Wednesday.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8

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