LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — A Little Rock woman who served 26 years for a crime she said she did not commit is seeking a gubernatorial pardon.
LaQuanda Jacobs was released from McPherson Correctional Facility in Newport back in 2018 after 26 years. She was convicted of murder in the 1992 death of a man in her neighborhood. At the time, she was 15.
“He was a friend of mine,” Jacobs said. “I was walking home from church when it happened, and I didn’t do it.”
Jacobs was sentenced to life in prison without parole. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision made mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional, so she was released on time served.
“It’s not something that can be given back to me,” Jacobs said. “The only thing they can do is just give me my name back.”
Jacobs is no longer in prison, but the collateral damage remains. She wants to start a family and move up at work, but the conviction hangs over her head, she said.
“I can’t get the housing I need. I can’t adopt a child,” Jacobs said. “They took the opportunity from me to bear a child having me locked up so long.”
An online petition calling for a pardon from Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is circulating on change.org. The petition was up to more than 40,000 signatures by the time of this story’s publication.
Jacobs said she went before the state’s parole board and was told she had not yet been out in society long enough to warrant a full pardon. Matt Bender, a teacher at the University of Arkansas Law School, said without approval from that board, the governor is unlikely to sign a pardon.
“It’s very much a bureaucratic process,” Bender said.
Bender said trying to receive a pardon is difficult because of the application process. Because the governor has so many clemency and pardon requests to sort through, it takes a near-perfect application for success. Per policy, the governor does not comment on specific cases.
“It makes it really complicated to succeed no matter how good their story and their reasons for seeking a pardon are,” Bender said.
Jacobs has maintained her innocence since she was a teenager. She said she wants a new start in life, and if the governor ultimately signs the pardon, she will have that opportunity.
“I would apply for different things because I’d know it’s not going to come back and say, ‘Conviction, you can’t do this,'” Jacobs said.