WBUR, Boston’s NPR and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focused on criminal justice, today released Episode 1 of a new podcast, “Violation.” It focuses on the case of Jacob Wideman, who was released from prison after serving more than 30 years for stabbing a fellow teen to death while traveling with their summer camp to the Grand Canyon in 1986. Though Wideman was released from prison on parole in 2016, he returned just nine months later, under very unusual circumstances.
Podcast fans may recognize the name Jake Wideman from Serial’s “The Coldest Case In Laramie.” Jake, who went to high school in Laramie, Wyoming, falsely confesses to the crime at the center of that podcast (Episode 5). And literature fans will recognize the name John Edgar Wideman, Jake’s father. He’s an acclaimed writer and Rhodes scholar whose body of work includes his groundbreaking memoir Brothers and Keepers, and two PEN/Faulkner award-winning books, Philadelphia Fire and Sent for You Yesterday. While his writing tackles race, justice and trauma, John Edgar Wideman has not spoken publicly about his son’s case, at least not directly, until now. This podcast marks his first in-depth interview about Jake.
In “Violation,” host and staff writer for The Marshall Project Beth Schwartzapfel investigates Wideman’s winding and complicated story.
“Violation” is filed under ‘true crime’ in the podcast apps, but it’s so much more than that,” Schwartzapfel said. “A crime sets the events of this story in motion, but don’t expect to puzzle out who committed the crime, or to mull if this was a wrongful conviction. Jake’s was a rightful conviction. So the question becomes: Then what?”
WBUR and The Marshall Project bring together the compelling narrative elements of Jacob Wideman’s story with The Marshall Project’s expertise in criminal justice reporting and WBUR’s skill in telling riveting audio stories that unfold over multiple episodes. The podcast details Jake’s struggle to understand why he committed this terrible crime. It pulls back the curtain on the opaque and politicized system of parole boards, which often have more power to determine how much time someone spends in prison than judges and juries do. “Violation” examines the active and unusual role of the victim’s family in Wideman’s legal case — a role that has been bolstered by strong victim’s rights protections in Arizona. And it explores why Wideman was sent back to prison for a minor infraction, when the state’s parole board almost always reserves such a sanction for more serious parole violations. Wideman argues that the reason he remains behind bars is because of who he is and because of who his victim was. The journey listeners can anticipate (note, episode titles and descriptions subject to change):
Episode 1: Two sons, lost — An unexpected detour on a summer camp road trip lands two teens in a hotel room off Route 66. Overnight, one teen, Eric Kane, is fatally stabbed. The other, Jake Wideman, committed the crime. And it conjures eerie echoes as Jake’s father — John Edgar Wideman — is known for his seminal memoir, Brothers and Keepers, about his life as a novelist and his brother’s life as a fugitive wanted for robbery and murder.
Episode 2: “Bad seed” — Jake Wideman, the son of a college professor, was raised with all the advantages that his father and uncle lacked. Was there something in his family history that led him to commit murder? This episode digs into Wideman’s childhood, his family background, and the state of his mental health before and after the crime.
Episode 3: Life without parole — For people like Jake Wideman, trying to get parole is like walking a highwire. It’s full of pitfalls, politics, and in some cases, straight up wrongdoing. This episode delves into the role of parole boards in determining whether and when prisoners are released, and the challenges faced by those seeking parole.
Episode 4: Second chances — Wideman recounts his efforts to understand his own story and demonstrate his readiness for release on parole.
Episode 5: Mass supervision — This episode discusses restrictions and surveillance on parole, including the use of ankle monitors, and the tensions that rise between Wideman and those who oppose his release.
Episode 6: Investigation — Wideman’s parole is revoked after he fails to schedule an appointment with a psychologist, despite attempting to contact the psychologist in advance.
Episode 7: No safe place — This episode explains the traumatic experiences that may have contributed to Wideman’s crime, as well as the broader issue of how to balance punishment and rehabilitation in cases of violent crime.
“We’re thrilled to partner with The Marshall Project on “Violation,” a story that explores a gripping case and sheds light on systemic issues within our criminal justice system,” says Ben Brock Johnson, Executive Producer, WBUR Podcasts. “Whether you’re fascinated by motive, family history, or the strange and often hidden machinations of how people navigate serving prison time and parole, we think this podcast will captivate you from the first episode to the last.”
New episodes of “Violation” will be released every Wednesday during the season. It will also be incorporated every Thursday as a weekly broadcast series during NPR and WBUR’s national news program Here & Now. “Violation” is available on Apple, Spotify and wherever podcasts are found.About WBUR
WBUR is Boston’s NPR — a public media leader committed to exceptional journalism on air, online, on demand and on stage. Our mission is to produce high-quality journalism and enriching experiences that foster understanding, connection and community for an expanding circle of people. WBUR Podcasts brings WBUR’s 70+ years of audio storytelling expertise to the podcast ecosystem. Our record of excellence includes chart-topping, critically acclaimed shows like Modern Love, Dear Sugars, Endless Thread, Circle Round, Last Seen, Anything for Selena, The Common and On Point. We’ve partnered with The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Futuro Media, NPR and Reddit. WBUR’s podcast network drives millions of monthly downloads and features wide-ranging audience groups from news lovers, techies, science nerds and history buffs to new parents and young women. Learn more: wbur.org/podcasts.About The Marshall Project
The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. The Marshall Project engages the millions of people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. We partner with local and national media outlets to reach diverse audiences, from people who want to learn more about criminal justice to experts who turn to us for fresh, accurate information.Media Contacts
The Marshall Project