By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Basketball star turned activist Maya Moore revealed that she and Jonathan Irons have married.
The pair joined ABC News’ Good Morning America Wednesday to share exclusive details of their unique love story that blossomed out of friendship after she helped free him from prison following his wrongful conviction 23 years ago.
“We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we are doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” Moore said. “We got married a couple months ago and we’re excited to just continue this new chapter of life together.”
While the couple’s nuptials were celebrated during the ongoing pandemic, Moore said it did not take away from the momentous occasion.
She said that the guests were masked and socially distanced, but the main thing was they were able to get married with some of their closest friends and family.
Moore, 31, said that the romantic feelings progressed gradually over time, since they first met through a prison ministry program when she was 18 years old.
“Over the last 13 years we have just developed a friendship and just entered into this huge battle to get him home and just over time it was pretty clear what the Lord was doing in our hearts and now we’re sitting here today, starting a whole new chapter together,” she said.
She said what she loves most is her husband’s ability to rise above the chaos of his surroundings, as well as his faith in God.
Even though Irons told her he wanted to be close and remain friends, he also revealed his love for her while still at Jefferson City Correctional Center and that he wanted her to marry him, but said, “don’t answer right now.”
“I wanted to marry her but at the same time protect her because being in a relationship with a man in prison, it’s extremely difficult and painful. And I didn’t want her to feel trapped and I wanted her to feel open and have the ability any time if this is too much for you, go and find somebody. Live your life. Because this is hard,” he said.
He said the moment he finally popped the question was worth the wait.
“When I got out we were in the hotel room we had some friends in the room, it was winding down and we were extremely tired, but we were still gassed up on excitement,” Irons recalled. “It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, ‘will you marry me,’ she said, ‘yes.'”
The couple, who have most recently been working on the “Get Out the Vote” campaign, first formed a close friendship in 2007, before her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, when she met him through a prison ministry in which her extended family in Missouri participated.
When Irons was 16 years old, he was tried and convicted as an adult by an all-white jury for the burglary and shooting at the home of 38-year-old Stanley Stotler. Irons maintained his innocence while he was in prison, saying he was wrongly identified during the lineup.
After years of fighting, a Missouri judge overturned Irons’ conviction in March, saying there were problems with the way the case had been investigated and tried — including a fingerprint report that would’ve proved Irons’ innocence, not being turned over to his defense team.
While Irons, now 40, has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he said he doesn’t feel resentment toward the man who wrongly identified him, and said that Stotler is a “victim” as well.
The couple said they are currently enjoying a playful, joyful life in the new normal together riding bikes, playing frisbee and other free activities that both haven’t been able to do in a while.
Moore and Irons are also currently focused on spreading the word about local elections for voters to make a real impact in their communities through Win With Justice’s “Get Out the Vote” campaign.
GMA anchor Robin Roberts announced in her interview with the newlyweds that her production company Rock’n Robin productions has teamed up with ESPN films to produce a documentary about Maya and Jonathan’s story.
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