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Woman Fights To Clear Her Name After Spending 26 Years In Prison For Murder She Says She Didn't Commit

“The only thing they can do is just give me my name back," Laquanda "Faye" Jacobs said of the hope she'll one day receive a pardon that will allow her to pursue her dreams outside of prison.

By Jill Sederstrom

Laquanda “Faye” Jacobs was just 16 when she was arrested in 1992 for a murder she says she didn’t commit.

Jacobs was found guilty of killing her friend Kevin Gaddy, 17, allegedly because she wanted to steal his Chicago Bulls jacket, People reports.

The Arkansas native was sentenced as a teen to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but after spending 26 years behind bars, Jacobs was released for time served after a U.S. Supreme Court decision made it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without the possibility of parole.

Today, Jacobs has regained her freedom, but she’s still fighting to clear her name and says the past conviction has made it difficult to succeed at work and pursue the dreams she once held most dear in life.

“I can’t get the housing I need. I can’t adopt a child,” she told local station KARK. “They took the opportunity from me to bear a child having me locked up so long.”

As a child, Jacobs—the youngest of 12 children—had wanted nothing more than to one day become a mother herself. With a murder conviction of her record, however, it’s unlikely the now 46-year-old would ever get approved to adopt a child and her life continues to be haunted by a crime she insists she didn’t commit.

Gaddy was killed on Feb. 9, 1992 in Little Rock. Witnesses described the shooter to police as a woman in her 30s with scars under her eyes, according to the Midwest Innocence Project, which has taken on Jacobs’ case. They also described the assailant as wearing black pants and a black coat.

Jacobs, who was still wearing a white dress from church earlier that morning, had been driving home with her mother when they stopped to see what the police activity had been about.

She told People she was arrested on the spot after an officer had asked for her name. Gunshot residue tests taken of her hands would come back negative, but the case against Jacobs still moved forward.

“Faye’s case has all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction — incentivized testimony, procedures known to lead to eyewitness misidentifications and absolutely inadequate counsel,” said Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project. “Faye’s attorneys never investigated the crime and didn’t even ask the state for its files. …As a result, they never spoke to five additional eyewitnesses who saw the crime and stated that Faye was not the shooter.”

Despite what Bushnell described as serious holes in the case, Jacobs was convicted in 1993.

Her case caught the attention of the Midwest Innocence Project in 2014 and the nonprofit began to work on her behalf.

Before they were ever able to present their findings in court, the Supreme Court’s decision came down and Arkansas had to reassess its past convictions of juveniles sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After reviewing her case, prosecutors offered Jacobs a deal that secured her release immediately in 2018, giving her credit for the 26 years she’d already served behind bars but it also forced her to surrender her legal standing to go back to court to try to clear her name, according to People.

Jacobs is now hoping for a full pardon from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. But he turned down her request in January without commenting on the case.

She’ll now have to wait another six years to appeal for a pardon again.

Jacobs told KARK she knows she’ll never be able to get back the decades of her life she lost while in prison, but is now hoping to move forward with her life and still find a way to achieve her dreams.

“The only thing they can do is just give me my name back,” she said.

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