New details revealed in parole case of man who murdered teen in Flagstaff in 1986

A podcast reveals new details about the legal battle over whether to send convicted murderer Jacob Wideman to prison after missing a psychologist appointment.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 8:20 PM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — New audio from a recent parole hearing reveals new details about Jacob Wideman, a man who spent 30 years in prison for murdering his Flagstaff camp roommate as a teenager in 1986. He was granted parole in 2016 but back in prison less than a year later for missing a psychologist appointment. A new podcast is examining whether or not Wideman’s rights were violated as it weaves an unusual legal web through court.

Wideman was just 16 when he killed his summer camp roommate Eric Kane in Flagstaff who was the same age. After 30 years behind bars, Wideman was granted parole seven years ago, but sent back to prison for life after failing to make a psychologist appointment as part of his parole requirements. “Wideman’s attorneys have told me they’ve never done a parole case before. The judge was just trying to understand all the sort of nooks and crannies of the law in this area because it’s so unusual for this kind of thing to happen,” said Beth Schwartzapfel.

Schwartzapfel is a writer for “The Marshall Project” and the host of their podcast with WBUR called “Violation,” which explores Wideman’s attempt to be rereleased on parole.

Wideman’s attorneys said he called the psychologist twice to make the appointment, but the psychologist was out of the office and didn’t return the call. At an August hearing, Wideman’s attorney argued that’s no reason to send somebody back to prison. “I beg this court, you should grant relief, you should release him, and if you’re not willing to do that, at a bare minimum, he needs to be given what the law demands he be given before he be stripped of that,” Wideman’s attorney said in the hearing, played on the Violation podcast.

But Schwartzapfel said Arizona law says to send someone back to prison from parole, you must also find the person lapse or was about to lapse into criminal ways. That’s what an attorney for the state argued Wideman did at the last hearing. “She was concerned that by being evasive and manipulative, Mr. Wideman was about to lapse into criminal ways, putting public safety at risk,” a lawyer for the DOC said in the hearing, played on the Violation podcast.

Schwartzapfel said the judge asked tough questions of all attorneys and could free Wideman to be back on parole, say he needs to stay in prison and start the entire process over or order another revocation hearing.

The last time Wideman had a revocation hearing was in 2020, when the executive clemency board was made up of appointed members from a Republican governor. This time, the board makeup is a bit different, with a Democratic governor now at the helm. “Now, would the change in makeup of the board affect the outcome of that hearing? Maybe,” said Schwartzapfel.

Schwartzapfel said everyone agrees on what happened and the laws at stake, so it comes down to intention and interpretation. “Was this phone call that he didn’t get back from a psychologist in time an indication of him being deceptive and manipulative and trying to act like he wanted to follow the rules but didn’t? Or was it just like an honest mistake? Who can say?” said Schwartzapfel.

Both Wideman and Kane’s parents were present for the hearing over Zoom, but neither party talked. Schwartzapfel said the judge should make a ruling within 60 days or so.

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