Home / World News / Jonathan Irons, Helped by W.N.B.A. Star Maya Moore, Freed From Prison

Jonathan Irons, Helped by W.N.B.A. Star Maya Moore, Freed From Prison

She did not talk publicly about their friendship until 2016, when she began advocating for changes in law enforcement and the legal system. Following a series of police shootings of unarmed Black men — including the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., near where Irons grew up — and the killing of five Dallas officers by a sniper during a protest of police brutality, Moore helped lead the Lynx in one of the first athlete protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice.

Moore, now 31, became a strong voice for prosecutorial changes. In early 2019, she stunned the sports world by announcing she would take a timeout from basketball, in part so she could devote more time and energy to helping Irons mount what they thought would be his final appeal. She used her fame to raise awareness and helped fund the hiring of Kent Gipson, a highly regarded defense attorney based in Kansas City, Mo., to handle Irons’s case.

Court records show that Stotler, the victim of the crime, was shot in the right arm and right temple. Weeks later, he was unable to pick out the assailant from among a lineup of six photos. Instructed by a police officer to give his best guess, Stotler pointed to a picture of Irons, which was slightly larger than the others, and to another photo of a different African-American man.

Stotler later identified Irons as the perpetrator while Irons sat in court — once while Irons was dressed in prison garb and another time while the teenager sat next to his defense lawyer. But there was no corroborating witness to the crime, nor were any fingerprints, DNA or blood evidence implicating Irons presented in court.

Prosecutors said Irons, who was 16 at the time the crime took place, admitted to a police officer that he had broken into Stotler’s home, a claim that Irons steadfastly denied. The officer who interrogated him did so alone and did not make a video or audio recording of the conversation. Asked for his interview notes, the officer said he had thrown them away.

Despite his youth, Irons was tried as an adult. On the advice of his public defender, he did not testify. In a county with few minority residents, he was convicted by an all-white jury and given a sentence that made him ineligible for parole until he was about 60 years old.

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