Maya Moore helps vacate conviction of inmate imprisoned for 22 years

She still plans to sit out the upcoming WNBA season.
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Maya Moore has moved one step closer to freeing a man from prison who may have been wrongfully convicted more than two decades ago. 

On Monday, 39-year-old Jonathan Irons, in prison since he was 16, had his felony burglary and assault conviction vacated by a judge in Moore's hometown of Jefferson City, Missouri. 

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

In January, after announcing that she planned to sit out a second consecutive WNBA season, the former Minnesota Lynx MVP told the New York Times that her focus was on trying to free Irons. 

Irons has served 22 years of a 50-year sentence after being convicted of burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun. Moore and Irons' attorney, per the New York Times, argue that the evidence supporting Irons' innocence is overwhelming. 

Last October, Moore wrote a letter to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt arguing that there is no DNA evidence or physical evidence of any kind that links Irons to the crime. She elaborated on her belief of Irons' innocence in a recent interview with TIME

"He was sixteen years old at the time. There was an interrogation that happened without any adult present, there were no interrogation notes that were retained from the time of the interrogation. Those were thrown away.

"There were highly unreliable eyewitness testimony practices, eyewitness testimony procedures with no physical evidence, no footprints, DNA, blood. He had alibi witnesses that were never brought to the stand, and there were unidentified fingerprints that didn’t belong to Jonathan or the victim. That was never acknowledged during the trial.

"The facts alone are just overwhelming. It’s like something out of a a made-up show, because it just seems unreal how this could have happened."

The vacating of Irons' conviction means the State of Missouri has 15 days request an appellate court review. If the state doesn't appeal, St. Charles County has 30 days to decide to retry Irons or not. 

Moore helped lead the Lynx to four WNBA championships between 2011-17. In January, she said "basketball has not been foremost in my mind," and that her life is "in a really good place right now."

Asked by TIME if she will play again, she said: "Well I’m still in my time away and not really talking more about it other than I’m not playing this year. That’s just the best way to leave it."

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