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Arkansas native fights to have her name cleared from crime she says she didn't commit

Faye Jacobs was released from prison after 26 years, but that doesn't mean she's free. She's asking to be pardoned for a crime she says she didn't commit.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Faye Jacobs spent almost three decades in prison for a crime she says she didn't commit.

We shared her story last year, but now time is running out for Governor Hutchinson to consider her case and give her a clean slate.

"Giving up is not an option for me," Faye Jacobs said. "I did so many years there in prison and I didn't give up when I wanted to."

RELATED: She spent 26 years in prison for a Little Rock murder she says she didn't commit

The cost of freedom is a price she's still paying.

"But I refused to and I will remain that way out here. I will refuse to give up no matter what," she said.

But sometimes, the best lesson just might be compassion.

We first met Faye in 2019. She welcomed us into her Kansas City home where she began building her new life.

On February 9, 1992, Faye -- who was just 16 years old at the time -- was taken in for questioning after a shooting near the corner of 29th and Jefferson in Little Rock.

Decades old police reports detail accusations from a criminal informant linking her to the murder.

Just a teenager, Faye was tried and found guilty of capital felony murder and sentenced to life without parole.

She would spend 26 years in prison, but she's always maintained her innocence.

Fast forward to 2014, that's when Tricia Rojo Bushnell with the Midwest Innocence Project stepped in to help clear Faye's name.

While they worked to prove Faye's innocence, something major happened. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole.

"There came a question where she had to decide where she was going to take an offer of time served and go home or continue to battle it out in proving her innocence in a different court," Bushnell explained.

Faye chose to go home.

"What that meant though, since she's not in custody of the state, we can't pursue what's called a 'habeas petition' for her. That would be to prove her innocence," Bushnell said. "You have to still be within custody or control of the state, and so since her sentence is over, that actually means we can't go to the courts to prove her innocence. So the only thing that is left is for the governor to grant clemency."

During the pandemic, Faye and Tricia tirelessly worked on filing a clemency petition. But in April of this year, Faye did not get the response she was hoping for.

While the parole board made their recommendation, the final decision is ultimately left up to Governor Asa Hutchinson.  

Our request for an interview with the governor was denied. But they did send us a statement, saying, "The governor carefully reviews up to 90 clemency files every month. Due to this substantial volume of applications, he does not generally comment on individual cases."

We looked into how many people Gov. Hutchinson has pardoned since being in office and learned since January 13 of 2015, he's pardoned more than 2,800 people.

2,389 of those were pardons with firearms and 465 were pardons without.

"I'm just totally limited," Faye said. "Yes, I'm out here walking free, but I'm totally not free and that's the heartbreaking thing of this whole situation."

Now living in the free world, Faye says she still deals with the trauma that came with being incarcerated.

Ripped from her freedom and deprived of her life desires -- like having children of her own. It pains her to admit she'll never have a chance to be called 'mom.'

"Being incarcerated, women are affected totally different and I'm not able to produce like males when they get out," Faye explained. "I've pursued adopting, but because of this conviction I can't even adopt. "

Despite being incarcerated for almost three decades, Faye has found a bright side in all of this.

She now focuses on making up for lost time with family and helping others who are still fighting for their freedom.

RELATED: Unconscious bias can lead to wrongful convictions, local judge says

As for her future, she's more motivated than ever as she waits for an exoneration.

"I'm innocent, so why wouldn't you? Ya know, so I'm just trusting that he will pardon me. No doubt about it," Faye said.

Gov. Hutchinson still has the ability to pardon Faye. Now that her application has been forwarded from the parole board to his office, he has until February 3 to make his decision.