Laquanda “Faye” Jacobs was arrested at 16 and ultimately convicted for a killing she and others claim she did not commit. Now, after serving 26 years in prison, Jacobs is looking to clear her name.
According to People, Jacobs was raised just like any other teenager in the United States. She grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, worked at a Burger King, sang in the church choir and was looking forward to going to college and starting a professional career. But, above all, she dreamed of having her own baby.
But, that dream fell to pieces when she was arrested and convicted in 1992 for fatally shooting 17-year-old Kevin Gaddy, a former elementary school classmate.
Her nightmare began on Feb. 9, 1992, when Jacobs was driving with her mother near 29th and Jefferson streets in Little Rock and they stopped to check out a commotion. On the spot, an officer asked Jacobs her name, then handcuffed her and took her to the police station. A test for gun residue on her hands was negative. But nine days later she was charged with killing Gaddy, allegedly because she wanted his Chicago Bulls jacket.
She was found guilty and sentenced as a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2014 her appeal for help caught the attention of the Midwest Innocence Project, which took up her case and gathered new evidence that undermined the conviction. “Her innocence was so clear,” says MIP’s executive director, Tricia Rojo Bushnell.
Before MIP could present its findings to a judge, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing of juveniles to life without parole was unconstitutional. The state of Arkansas was forced to reconsider Jacobs’ sentence — and in cutting it down to 40 years, the prosecutor offered Jacobs a deal that would release her immediately with credit for the 26 years she’d already served.
Jacobs accepted that deal and was set free in 2018 after serving 26 years in prison. As a former inmate who completed her sentence, she gave away her legal ability to go back to court while incarcerated and prove she was innocent of the murder in 1992, according to People.
Now 42, because of her criminal record, Jacobs has a hard time finding employment or signing a lease for a home, which also means it will be difficult for her to attain a goal she always wanted above all others, motherhood by adoption. Her only option was to appeal to the governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, for a full pardon. He declined in January and now she was to wait six years to ask for another appeal.
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Although the prosecutor’s office stands by its conviction, Jacobs sees a role for herself now to advocate for those who she believes were wrongly placed behind bars, and urge reform of laws that prevent people like her from proving their innocence outside of jail. And she still envisions herself as a parent.
“I don’t know when or how it’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen,” says Jacobs. “I’m a true believer.”