Laquanda Jacobs to be freed today after 26 years in prison for murder advocates say she didn't commit | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Laquanda Jacobs to be freed today after 26 years in prison for murder advocates say she didn't commit

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge TO BE FREED TODAY: Laquanda Jacobs
  • TO BE FREED TODAY: Laquanda Jacobs
Laquanda "Faye" Jacobs, 43, is to be released from the women's prison unit in Newport today after serving 26 years for a murder her advocates  say she didn't commit.

She's being released for time served as a result of resentencing of people who received mandatory
life without parole sentences as juveniles. Jacobs was 16 when convicted of capital murder in 1993 for the 1992 shooting death of Kevin Gaddy, 17.

A news release from a law firm that has contributed to an effort to free Jacobs says she was wrongfully convicted. It said:

.. witnesses described the shooter as a woman in her 30s with scars under her eyes wearing black pants and a black coat. However, then 16-year-ol Jacobs was quickly arrested one hour after the crime still wearing a white dress she wore to church that morning.

“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.”

At Jacobs’ trial in 1993, the state of Arkansas relied on two eyewitnesses — a traumatized teenage victim and an incentivized witness. The teenager originally did not identify Jacobs when shown her photo on two occasions, but later identifyed her after being told to do so by others. The incentivized witness only came forward after being arrested on charges of his own weeks after the crime and has since recanted his identification of Jacobs as the murderer.

“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.”

Bushnell and the MIP took on Jacob’s case in 2014. She was entitled to a new sentence under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that children could not receive a mandatory life without parole sentnece. She was scheduled for a new sentencing hearing in September, but Pulaski Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley agreed to a 40-year sentence. With good time and a good prison record, she qualified for immediate release. That comes before a court hearing on a writ of habeas corpus requested in May by the Lathrop Gage law firm of St. Louis.

Matthew Jacober, a partner in the law firm, said it would still endeavor to clear Jacobs' name. “The injustice Faye suffered for 26 years is unimaginable and a failure
of our criminal justice system," he said.

The legal team will petition Gov. Asa Hutchinson for clemency.

“Faye’s case exemplifies just how difficult it is to overturn a conviction in our justice system,” said Bushnell. “It should not be this hard, but she’s not done seeking justice and neither are we.”
Judge Barry Sims signed the order clearing the way for Jacobs' release on Monday.

Here's the writ for habeas corpus that lays out the case for her wrongful conviction.

Individuals wishing to support Jacobs’ continued legal fight for an exoneration and her transition back to society can find a GoFundMe to support Jacob’s reentry. Donations to the Innocence Project can be made at themip.org

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