ST. LOUIS — A man whose conviction was overturned after 23 years in prison filed a federal lawsuit Monday against St. Charles County officers and others who he and his attorneys say were responsible for his wrongful imprisonment.
Jonathan Irons, a Black man now in his 40s, was convicted in 1998 of burglary and the assault on an O’Fallon homeowner, a crime for which his attorneys say he was framed by St. Charles County authorities.
The homeowner in 1997 was shot in the head and arm by an intruder, and the man initially told police he remembered only that the assailant was a Black man, according to the suit.
Irons’ attorneys say police manipulated the homeowner into identifying Irons, presented a false confession from Irons and ignored fingerprint evidence.
The lawsuit also alleges O’Fallon officers assaulted Irons during his interrogation.
“Irons now seeks justice for the harm that the Defendants have caused and redress for the loss of liberty and the terrible hardship that he has endured and continues to suffer as a result of the Defendants’ misconduct,” the complaint states.
Irons’ conviction was overturned by a judge and he was released in July 2020.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed appeals last year to prevent Irons’ release, but they were denied by the Missouri Supreme Court.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar then declined to retry Irons, citing a lack of fingerprint evidence and a lack of transcription or records from Irons’ interrogation. Lohmar also said that in a series of suspect photos shown to the victim, Irons’ picture was larger than the others.
Irons is now married to WNBA star Maya Moore, who paused her career to assist in freeing Irons and push for reforms in the U.S. criminal justice system.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, names officers from O’Fallon and St. Charles County as defendants, as well as others. The suit lists several claims, including malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.