Maya Moore shocked the WNBA world in the winter of 2019 when she announced she was taking some time away from the court to assist in overturning the conviction for Jonathan Irons, and inmate at Missouri's Jefferson City Correctional Center. On Wednesday, her efforts helped lead to his freedom. Moore was there as Irons left prison and the two shared an emotional moment.
Moore shared a video of the embrace on her Instagram page with the caption, "FREEDOM."
The four-time WNBA Finals champion and a five-time All-Star discussed the moment on "Good Morning America" Thursday:
"In that moment, I really felt like I could rest. I'd been standing, and we'd been standing, for so long; and it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief. It was kind of a worshipful moment, just dropping to my knees and just being so thankful that we made it."
Irons was grateful for Moore's assistance and in the video on her Instagram page said that he is "blessed."
"I feel like I can live life now," he said outside of the prison. "I'm free, I'm blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God's help and influence... I thank everybody that supported me, Maya and her family... I'm so grateful."
Moore's family met Irons through a prison ministry program, according to the New York Times. She first met Irons in person at the correctional center before starting her freshman year at UConn and has since worked to bring justice to him.
Irons, now 40 years old, was serving the 22nd year of 50-year sentence given to him in 1998. He was convicted of burglary and assault with a weapon of a suburban St. Louis homeowner, but Iron's lawyers say there was no evidence connecting him to the crime.
At the time of the trial, Irons was a 16 and living in poverty. However, he was tried as an adult and convicted by an all-white jury despite no witness, fingerprints, footprints or DNA proving his guilt.
In March, Judge Daniel Green granted Irons' petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The state's Supreme Court refused to take the case and Missouri's attorney general had two appeals denied. The lead prosecutor in St. Charles County Tim Lohmar was left to decide if the case should be retired and determined there would not be a retrial, a crucial step in Iron's eventual release.
Irons, now free, wants to pay it forward.
"I want to advocate for people who are less fortunate," he said on "Good Morning America." "I want to help people with their cases. I want to speak to positive change and be a part of the rebuilding process from where we're at right now, because there's so much greater coming on the horizon, and I see it -- even in the darkness, I was able to see it -- and I know we're going. We shouldn't give up; we should keep going,."
Moore had already planned to take all of 2020 off from the WNBA and said even with Irons released from prison, her plans have not changed.
"My decision to take another year was bigger than this case. But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I'm looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family," she told the Associated Press.