'Bad Seed'
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Description
Not long after Jacob Wideman murdered his summer camp roommate, Eric Kane, in 1986 — seemingly with no motive — a question emerged in the breathless news coverage of the tragedy: Was Jake a “bad seed”? It was no accident that some reporters latched onto the phrase. After all, it was plucked straight from perhaps the most famous book written by Jake’s own father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, about his family’s experience with violence, trauma and incarceration. But John Wideman wasn’t writing about his son Jake when he used the phrase “bad seed” in his seminal memoir, “Brothers and Keepers.” The book was published in 1984, two years before Jake murdered Eric. Instead, John was writing about his own younger brother Robby, Jake’s uncle, who years earlier had participated in a robbery that went very wrong. A man died, and although Robby didn’t pull the trigger, he was sentenced to life in prison. “The bad seed. The good seed. Mommy’s been saying for as long as I can remember: ‘That Robby, he wakes up in the morning looking for the party,’” John Edgar Wideman writes in “Brothers and Keepers” — and reads aloud in this latest episode of “Violation,” a podcast series from The Marshall Project and WBUR. This idea from John’s book, of going “bad,” would be applied to Jake, too, although John was disdainful of the concept. “Bad Seed,” Part Two of “Violation,” tells the story of Jake’s Uncle Robby through interviews with John as well as with Jake, who remembers having epiphanies as a boy that he would somehow follow his uncle’s path. The episode also brings listeners through the harrowing weeks and months after the murder of Eric Kane, when Jake Wideman turned himself into authorities and began his long journey through the criminal justice system. Ultimately, this episode asks: What should happen to kids like Jake?
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