UTAH STATE PRISON — A man who was 21 years old when he shot and killed a rival gang member, who he believed stole a half-ounce of marijuana, has been granted parole.
Jason Randy Biggs, now 42, was convicted of murder 18 years ago. Recently, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole granted Biggs a parole date of Sept. 17, 2019.
On Jan. 2, 1996, Biggs shot and killed Kenny Leiter, 18. Biggs and two others had plotted to beat Leiter, believing he had stolen about a half-ounce of marijuana from one of their friends at a New Year's Eve party. Investigators later learned that although Leiter belonged to a rival gang, he was never at the party.
The fight was reportedly ending when Biggs stepped in and shot Leiter.
Biggs was denied parole during his first hearing in 2015. On March 27, another parole hearing was held.
In a recording of that hearing, Biggs was solemn and apologetic as he addressed the board. As he recounted the events of that night, he said he was 21 and had started using meth. But he didn't want to make excuses for what happened.
"I just lost control of my life and everything. And I don't want to minimize what I've done and the hurt I've caused other people by saying I had these terrible things going on in my life because it almost diminishes the responsibility for what I've done because I made those choices. I put myself in those situations," he said. "I just made horrible choices in my life."
During his hearing, it was noted that Biggs has not had a disciplinary write-up in prison since 2009. He said he has cut all ties with his past gang lifestyle. Since being in prison, Biggs has earned several college associate and bachelor's degrees, including in psychology, and building and construction.
But Stan Leiter, Kenny Leiter's brother, read a statement to the board urging it to make Biggs serve his entire life sentence, posing the question to the board, "What is the value of a life?"
"Let Jason Biggs spend the rest of his life in prison, paying for the life he took," he said. "Please do not allow Jason Biggs to ever have the opportunity to rejoin his family. … Make him pay a life for a life."
Leiter said his father was never the same after the shooting, and believes his grief contributed to health problems that ultimately lead to his death.
"There was not a day (that goes) by that my dad did not have Kenny's picture in his shirt pocket with him," Stan Leiter said.
When asked to respond to Leiter's comments that Biggs killed the wrong man over a stolen half-ounce of marijuana, he said the account was "100 percent correct."
"It's 100 percent my fault. I made those choices. I respect everything that he said," Biggs said.
Prior to learning he had been granted parole, Biggs said he was at peace with the possibility he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
But he said if he is released, he would like to speak to juveniles in high schools or through the Metro Gang Unit to talk to others who are like he was two decades ago, to help them avoid "these same horrible choices," he said, and to "help them see what their choices lead to."
Biggs said he doesn't want other families to go through what Leiter's family has. If given the opportunity, he said he would like to make contact with Leiter's family — something he is currently not allowed to do — and with their blessing, start a program to help at-risk youth in Leiter's honor.