Wrongly convicted man inspires inmates

These men say Kezer had a big impact on their lives.
These men say Kezer had a big impact on their lives.
Jonathan Irons
Jonathan Irons
Joshua Kezer
Joshua Kezer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KFVS) - A man wrongly convicted of murder has had quite an impact on his former cell mates.

It's a special report from inside prison walls. The story of a young man finding inspiration in part from someone well known to the Heartland, Joshua Kezer.

Kezer spent 16 years in prison for the murder of Michelle Lawless of Scott County before a judge declared him innocent in 2009.

At Jefferson City Correctional Center there are men who say Kezer had a big impact on their lives. They are convicted murderers, rapists and burglars. Some admit their guilt, others proclaim their innocence.

Either way Kezer says this doesn't matter to him, they are his family, When Kezer walked out of JCCC in 2009 it was a sight his prison family says they will never forget. A sight that inspired at least one to stop at nothing to fight for justice of his own.

"I've been in since 1997," said Jonathan Irons. "I was 16, I was a youngster."

Now 31, Jonathan Irons says most of what he knows of life he learned from inside the walls of a prison and the men serving alongside him.

He talked to us about Joshua Kezer, and watching him walk free. Irons says he loves him like a brother.

"It's like you go through a period with a person in your life and then they're just gone," said Irons. "I was happy for him but I was sad to see him go."

"Jonathan, these men, they are my family. The men behind these fences I lived with them I breathed with them," said Kezer.

Irons and Kezer first met at the Jefferson City Prison known as "The Walls."

Irons was sentenced to 50 years for a non-fatal shooting in the St. Louis area. It happened during a burglary. Kezer, then a convicted murderer, was in the midst of a 60 year sentence for the murder of Michelle Lawless. Through faith in God, they say they found freedom even inside the walls of a prison and strength in their fellow inmates.

"I know God has sent me the people I need in my life," said Irons.

From the beginning both men maintained their innocence. As Kezer fought his case, Irons did the same. At one point, the UMKC Innocence project looked into Irons case. Like Irons, they believe the victim was lead to pick his picture out of a line up. They also site a lack of DNA evidence to connect Jonathan to the crime.

Jonathan admits he lead a hard life, but he says he is not guilty.

"God knows your heart," said Jonathan.

In 2009, a turning point, Kezer is declared an innocent man. Irons remembers watching him walk free.

"He hugged me and said he would not forget me," said Jonathan. "Josh was always true to his word."

With that vision of Kezer, Irons isn't giving up. He's actually studying law in prison and also writing his own legal document to request a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the court recently denied his latest request October 3, Irons says he will find a way to try again. He relies on God for strength and direction. Meanwhile the man who prosecuted Jonathan's case has passed away.

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