UTAH STATE PRISON — Jeremy Edwin Richards says he'll serve whatever time the Board of Pardons and Parole decides is best.
But Richards believes after 19 years in the Utah State Prison, he has changed and is ready to be a productive member of society again.
"I just want a chance, ma’am. That’s all I want,” he told board member Denise Porter in a recording of his parole hearing on Sept. 11. "I want to prove to you and to everybody else that I’ve learned my lesson.
"I know you heard it before, but I’m serious. I’m not coming back. I don’t like it here. I just want a chance. I’m not coming back,” Richards said.
In 1999, Richards got into an argument with Steven Malan, 29, after going to a party in Ogden. The argument turned violent and Richards stabbed Malan to death. He then called his father rather than 911. After Richards' father arrived at the scene, his father called police.
Four months later, while out on bail awaiting trial for his murder charge, Richards — high on meth — attacked a man with whom he was making a drug deal. He was charged with attempted murder.
Richards eventually pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a reduced charge of aggravated assault in the second case. For the murder conviction, he was sentenced to up to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Both sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. The aggravated assault sentence expired in 2004.
In 2014, Richards had his first parole hearing. It was revealed at that time that during his time in prison, doctors had diagnosed him as having major depressive disorder with severe psychotic features. He admitted that he was hearing voices in 1999, even though that was something he never told his attorneys during his original murder trial, and he was never given a psychological evaluation. He was prescribed medication for his mental illness for the first time while in prison in 2003.
During his recent second parole hearing, Porter noted that Richards' most recent mental health evaluation found he was doing well. Richards, who is still in the prison's Olympus facility where inmates with mental health needs are housed, said he knew his positive progress was due in part to his medication.
"I have got to be on my medication. I know I can’t go without it. If I was to get out on the street, the first thing I would do is go get my medication. That’s the first thing,” he said.
Richards, who was well-prepared for his hearing and gave strong answers to Porter's questions, was asked what had changed over the past 19 years that has made him so adamant about taking his meds.
He said he knew he had problems before, "but pride stepped in the way to get help," he said.
"I thought it would make me less of a man (to seek help)," he said.
Richards said having structure and routine in prison has also helped him.
"It makes me comfortable," he admitted.
Richards has a food-handler job in prison and serves food to other inmates. Both he and Porter noted that he had stayed out of trouble since being incarcerated. Richards said even though he has been offered drugs and alcohol while in prison, he has stayed clean for nearly two decades.6 comments on this story
"I do not want to live that life no more. I don’t want to drink no more. I don’t want to do drugs no more. I just want to be productive. I gotta stay on my meds. If I don’t stay on my meds, that’s where everything falls apart. And I got too much to lose,” he said.
If he is released, Richards said he plans to live with his mother in Hooper and help her manage her farm that has livestock.
"I believe I could succeed out there if I get a chance,” he said.
The full five member board is expected to make a decision on whether to grant parole in a few weeks.