Wrongfully Incarcerated at 16, Woman Released 26 Years Later
Laquanda “Faye” Jacobs was released from prison last Tuesday after 26 years of wrongful incarceration in Arkansas. Jacobs was sentenced to life without parole at the age of 16 for capital murder, but the Innocence Project argues she was a typical example of a wrongful conviction.
“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.”
Following the fatal shooting of the victim in 1993, witnesses described a shooter who was a woman in her thirties wearing a black coat with black pants and with scars under her eyes. Jacobs, who was arrested just one hour after the crime was committed, was 16 at the time and wearing a white dress she wore to church that morning. Jacobs also does not have scars under her eyes.
Free But Not Exonerated
While Jacobs is free, she has not yet been exonerated. She was released because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children cannot receive mandatory life sentences without parole and she was granted a release based on time served. Her conviction still stands, but her legal team is working to get her exonerated.
The only way Jacobs can be fully exonerated is to be granted a state pardon from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. As such, Jacobs lawyers are petitioning the governor for a pardon based on the argument that her defense was inadequate. They are also calling into question the legitimacy of the state’s two witnesses who identified Jacobs as the shooter.
“Social science now confirms the identification procedures used back in 1992 increased the risk of eyewitness misidentification,” said Bushnell. “And eyewitness misidentification is a leading cause of wrongful convictions. It has played a role in more than 75 percent of convictions overturned through DNA testing.”
Jacobs now has a GoFundMe donation page to help her re-entry into society.
“Faye’s case exemplifies just how difficult it is to overturn a conviction in our justice system,” Bushnell stated. “It should not be this hard, but she’s not done seeking justice, and neither are we.”