Governor commutes life sentence of Robert Wideman in 1975 murder case
Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday commuted the sentence of Robert Wideman, who was serving life in prison for his role in a 1975 murder. Wolf affirmed the Board of Pardons recommendation issued in May.
Wideman, 68, of Homewood, was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Nicola Morena. The case made national headlines after Wideman’s brother, the Pittsburgh novelist John Edgar Wideman, detailed their lives in an award-winning memoir, “Brothers and Keepers.”
“We are waiting every day for him to come home,” said Letitia El, Wideman’s brother. She was thrilled to receive the call from her younger brother Monday night, who called from S.C.I. Mercer with news of the governor’s decision.
Wideman, who was 24 at the time of the shooting, was not the gunman. But he was one of three men arrested in the robbery gone bad.
The gunman was also convicted of second-degree murder, while a third accomplice was convicted of third-degree murder.
“The Board found that Mr. Wideman used his time in prison productively and largely without incident, accepts responsibility for his actions and exhibits great remorse for the victim,” a statement from Wolf’s office said.
Wideman has a low risk of reoffending, the statement said.
Wideman will be released from prison to a community corrections center, where by law he must live for a year, according to a statement from the state Department of Corrections.
He will be released to a center as long as a bed is available, and the department is working to identify one as soon as possible, the statement said.
After that, he will remain on parole for the remainder of his sentence — the rest of his life, the statement said.
El, who said she will welcome her younger brother into her East Liberty home, has made arrangements for her brother’s return before.
He’s lost several bids for pardon during his 43 years in prison.
In 1999, he was granted a new trial by Allegheny County Judge James McGregor, but it was overturned by the Pennsylvania Superior Court after Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. filed an appeal opposing it.
“It was horrible,” she said. “Everyone was at my house waiting for him. We’re still waiting.”
While in prison, Wideman earned a college degree and sponsored other inmates in Narcotics Anonymous. He also worked with a restorative justice think tank.
“I’m happy for my client that justice has finally been done after these many years,” said attorney Mark Schwartz, a Bryn Mawr lawyer and Pittsburgh native who has been involved in Wideman’s case since 1984. “But I’m saddened for the many, many like Robby Wideman who are still sitting in prison.”