Maya Moore helpful in hiatus as inmate's conviction overturned

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Long a winner on the court, Maya Moore is now a winner in court.

The WNBA star put her career on hiatus to help Jonathan Irons, 39, get released from prison, and on Monday, Irons' initial conviction was overturned.

"This day has been a long time coming," Moore said following the hearing. "We are just so grateful and thankful to God and to everybody who has played a role in bringing justice."

Irons has served 22 years of a 50-year sentence that he was handed in 1998 following a conviction of burglary and assault with a weapon of a suburban St. Louis homeowner. The man testified that Irons was the person who assaulted him in his home, but Irons' lawyers said there is no evidence (witness, fingerprints, footprints, DNA) to corroborate that their client committed the crime. Irons, an African American who was living in poverty, was 16 at the time of the incident but tried as an adult, and the all-white jury found him guilty.

Judge Daniel Green's ruling granted Irons' petition for a writ of habeas corpus, vacating his convictions for burglary and assault and ordering that he be released from maximum security prison. The judge placed a stay on the order, allowing the state 15 days to request a review by the appellate court. If the state does not appeal, then St. Charles County has 30 days to decide whether it wants to retry Irons.

"It's a very good day," said Irons' attorney Kent Gipson. "But it's not quite over yet."

Moore was surrounded by family and friends who had been by her side during this process. Following the hearing, they spoke with Irons over the phone, cheering as they heard his voice.

"You're coming home!" Moore said. "Get your meal order ready."

A four-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time college player of the year and two-time NCAA champion, Moore has already said she will sit out the upcoming WNBA season, her second straight on the sideline.

"I'm not committing to professional basketball for this upcoming season, but when next spring rolls around, I'll be willing to discuss what the future will look like," Moore said Tuesday. "I'm just really enjoying having the space to be present with some of the pressing things in my life right now. But I really have missed being able to connect with Minnesota fans. It's where I've been my whole career, and there's a special connection."