Journey for Justice

When the social justice system failed Jonathan Irons, WNBA start and childhood friend, Maya Moore, stepped in to contribute all her efforts to set him free. Putting her basketball career on halt, Maya Moore’s passion for him to receive justice finally paid off. Their story represents a beautiful journey from false conviction to freedom.


Eve DeGeronimo and Annika Shah

When one finds their place in the world, it can be life-changing. Yet, when loved ones are in desperate need of assistance, a dream may be put on hold. An inspiring example of this scenario is represented by the story of Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons. 

Arguably, Moore is one of the greatest professional women’s basketball players today. And she still put her dreams aside, opting out of the 2019 and 2020 WNBA seasons to seek justice for Johnathon Irons. Irons was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison at a young age. But, as time went on, Moore refused to stand by any longer for him to gain what he deserved all along: freedom.

While she was concerned about Irons, Moore pursued her career for some time, as Irons was working with other lawyers that were provided through the prison. 

Over her four year career at UConn, Moore led her team to a 150-4 record with two National Championships, and she became the fourth leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history. Moore then went on to being the first overall pick for the Minnesota Lynx, in the 2011 WNBA draft. The list goes on for the number of championships, awards, and records she has set so far, but, throughout all these years, Irons grew more and more important to her with their consistent communication.

Irons was initially convicted of burglary and assault in 1998 at age 16. Despite his young age, he was tried as an adult and given a 50-year prison sentence by an all-white jury. There was no direct evidence, such as fingerprints, a witness, or DNA samples that could have connected Irons to the crime.

In the initial trial, Stanley Stotler, the victim of the case, was unable to pick out his attacker when given many pictures. As a result of this, he was instructed by a police officer to give his ‘best guess’. Stotler proceeded to point at Irons, one of the only two black men.

Throughout his time in prison, Irons said he would never agree to parole because he did not want to admit guilt when he had done nothing wrong. He was smart in doing so—little did he know Moore would fight for his freedom down the road. 

Irons went through years of attempting to get retrials, but all of them were denied. It was 2019, and Moore knew it was time to step in. She devoted all of her energy to helping her innocent friend gain freedom. She took time off her basketball career, even though most people believed she was in her prime state of play.  

There have been many life-destroying wrongful convictions in the United States, and Moore was not going to stand by any longer. She was dedicated to getting justice for the wrongfully convicted man and acted with compassion and kindness regardless of her career in the WNBA. 

Throughout the journey to help Irons gain freedom, Moore used her fame by funding one of the best defense attorneys in Missouri, Kent Gipson. She got a lot of publicity for taking time off from the WNBA and gained support from her community of fans.

With the help of Kent Gipson, Moore was able to accomplish her goal, setting Irons free. There was no connecting evidence, and the judge overturned Irons’s initial conviction, making him a free man at 40-years-old. 

Moore has been involved in many movements on the social justice issues we see today. Just recently, Moore helped lead the Lynx in one of the first athlete protests seen for the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice, following the police shootings of many unarmed African American men and women. Not only is she an all-star athlete, but she strives to fight against racism in the United States.

Since Irons was released, the friendship between him and Moore that was established early on grew into a romantic relationship. The couple appeared on “Good Morning America ” in September of this year to reveal some exciting news about their relationship.

“We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we’ve been doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” Moore said. “We’re excited to share this new chapter of life together.”

In all, Moore used her fame to bring recognition to Irons’s case and ultimately set him free. It is important to honor people like Maya Moore for their strength and dedication in life-changing, emotional cases like this one. Today, America should fight for the wrongfully convicted and a better justice system that can help all regardless of the amount of money they have. 

Moore and Irons can now conquer as one and establish new memories to make up for the time they missed together.