Criminal Law, Evidence, Mental State, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering, True Crime

Dr. Andy Griffiths’ Complete Report on Jens Söring’s Interrogation, Part 2 of 2

And now to the report of Dr. Andy Griffiths itself. You can download the English original here. A German translation apparently prepared by one of Söring’s supporters (not me) can be downloaded here. I will cite the report as GR (Griffiths Report). If I cite another source, I will make that clear.

I informed Dr. Griffiths of my intention to release his report and provide a critical analysis of it. He sent me one brief email indicating he still stood by his conclusions and opposed the publication of the report. I invited him to correct any misstatements or errors he found in my first post. I also invited him to submit any general comments on my analysis. Finally, I sent him a draft of this post, inviting him to correct any errors or misstatements he saw. He never responded to any of these later emails in any fashion.

Thus, it can be assumed that Dr. Griffiths has read this post and found no errors or inaccuracies in it. Needless to say, if he wishes to submit any response to this post, I will post it in full here.

With that housekeeping aside, let’s turn to the report itself.

What sources did Griffiths consult?

First, let’s look at the list of sources Griffiths consulted:

FineReader_hQDbGQmadS

FineReader_pRNT6X8Ohv

A few things stand out here. First, Griffiths consulted Söring’s March 2, 1990 testimony during the suppression hearing in Söring’s Virginia murder trial. This means Griffiths is aware of Söring’s allegation that Kenneth Beever threatened to have Elizabeth Haysom injured if Söring did not talk to police. Recall that Söering testified on March 2, 1990, supposedly quoting Beever: “[Beever] said, ‘Very pretty girl, all alone in that cell block. It would be an awful shame if she fell down and hurt herself.’ And at that point [Beever] turned to me and raised his eyebrows like this, and looked me in the eye like that.”

Griffiths, however, does not indicate that he consulted Söring’s trial testimony, in which Söring conspicuously failed to cite Beever’s threat. Griffiths states that he consulted 10 pages of a “book” Söring wrote, but doesn’t say which one. Is he referring to a draft of “A Far, Far Better Thing“, Söring’s 2017 book co-written by Bill Sizemore? Or is he referring to “Mortal Thoughts”, the Internet publication from 1995, which — much to Söring’s dismay —  is still available in an archive online?

No matter which “book” he is referring to, it’s still questionable why Griffiths would prefer a book as a source over Söring’s sworn trial testimony from June 18, 1990. Of course, Söring’s trial testimony is full of holes and false statements, but at least Söring was subjected to cross-examination which revealed them to the jury. Griffiths appears not to have read Söring’s cross-examination, which leaves Söring’s credibility in ashes. Yet he’s apparently willing to credit Söring’s statements in a later book.

Griffiths also says he consulted the 2016 pro-Söring documentary “The Promise”. Little remains to be said about the reliability of that source.

The first error: Söring waited almost four years to recant his confessions

First, to a mistake that’s not in the report itself. Griffiths provided a summary of his findings starting at about 18:00 in this press conference, arranged by Söring’s lawyers, which is also embedded in an accompanying news article dated October 27, 2017. Most of the matters discussed by Griffiths in his Skype video link are discussed in more detail in the report itself. However, at 20:10, Griffiths says: “Jens had recanted his confession, as soon as he had made it, really.”

It’s impossible to determine what basis Griffiths has for this statement, which is incorrect. Beginning on June 5, 1986, Söring confessed to personally murdering the Haysoms, then elaborated on that confession through the next 4 days, June 5-8, 1986. He then repeated the confession three separate times in November and December 1986 — to Drs. Bullard and Hamilton and a German prosecutor. All of the proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights which led to Virginia dropping the death penalty were carried out expressly on the basis that Söring had confessed to the murders.

The first time Söring publicly cast any doubt on the reliability of his confessions was on March 2, 1990, at his suppression hearing. Thus, Söring didn’t recant his confessions “as soon as he made them, really.” He waited 3 years, 8 months, and 23 days to do so.

This is not a promising start for Dr. Griffiths’ report.

Errors and Inconsistencies in the Report

On the very first page of the report, there is another error: “It was at the end of this four-day period of police custody that Soering confessed to being solely responsible for killing both Mr and Mrs Haysom.” On the next page, Griffiths states: “This report focuses on that four-day period in English police custody, which ended with his confession.”

As Terry Wright and Kenneth Beever, who personally questioned Söring, establish in their report, this is also incorrect. Wright corrects the record (Wright, pp. 183-84):

In his book Mortal Thoughts, Soering says that he had not confessed before June 8. This is not true. Soering began to confess on the very first day of his interviews and continued throughout the four days. Even as Soering and I sat waiting to start the interview in which he made his comment about pleading guilty, he admitted to me that he killed the Haysoms. Soering made many other confessions on June 5, 6 and 7. He also talked about his feelings of remorse for killing the Haysoms. He said he was at Loose Chippings the evening they died. He said when he left the house that night, the Haysoms were dead and drew a sketch showing the positions of the bodies. He told us that Elizabeth Haysom stayed in Washington DC, and he told us that he had drinks with the Haysoms, and much more, including that he taken some items from Loose Chippings and thrown them in a dumpster along with some of his bloody clothing.

For example, on June 5, Soering asked us if it was possible for someone to be tried in the England or West Germany for murders committed in the USA.

Beever asked why he wanted to know.

Soering: “Well, if I’m dealt with in West Germany life only amounts to 10 years imprisonment. In England it amounts to about 25 years, but if I’m tried in Virginia they’ll fry me. You know, the electric chair.”

Beever asked him why he was asking such questions.

Soering: “Because I murdered two people, you know that.”

It’s hard to imagine how Griffiths could have made this error, given that he claims to have consulted the tapes and notes of Söring’s confessions. Griffiths seems to have decided to rely on Söring’s later characterizations of his interviews in Söring’s “book”, in which he claims he told detectives “as little as possible” from the 5th-7th of June, 1986.

A Short Digression on the Disappearing Defamation

Incidentally, both “Mortal Thoughts” and “A Far, Far Better Thing”, Söring’s 2017 book co-authored with Bill Sizemore, contain virtually identical descriptions of the allegation of extortion against Kenneth Beever. Here is the latest version, from “A Far, Far Better Thing” (pp. 169-70):

But I testified that I had only signed the waiver forms and talked to police because I had feared for Elizabeth’s safety. The English Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever had come to my holding cell alone and told me that Liz might fall down and hurt herself if I did not drop my demands for a lawyer.

In court, my American attorneys argued that the chronology of events on June 5 supported my claims. At the 3:35 and 6 p.m. sessions, I refused to sign the Miranda waiver forms, insisted on my innocence, and requested a lawyer. Police records confirmed that I was returned to my holding cell at 6:45 p.m. specifically because of my demand to see an attorney.

What I could not prove through documentation or witnesses was that Detective Beever issued his threat at some time between 7 and 7:40 p.m. But this allegation was hardly implausible, given the English police scandals of the late 1980s and early 1990s. First to be released by the London High Court of Appeals was the Guildford 4, a group of Irish youngsters who spent fourteen years in prison for an IRA terrorist bombing that they did not commit; Americans learned about this miscarriage of justice through the movie In the Name of the Father. In the following years the convictions of the Birmingham 6, the Maguire 7, and scores of nonpolitical prisoners were also overturned, because the English police had used violence or the threat of force to obtain false confessions in all these cases. Judge Sweeney, however, ruled that this pattern of abuse was irrelevant and cut off my lawyers before they could introduce a photocopy of an English police handbook on interrogation, which advised officers to take all steps necessary so suspects would not take advantage of their right to an attorney.

At 7:45, shortly after Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever threatened to harm Elizabeth, I asked the station’s desk sergeant for permission to telephone the German Embassy. Instead of reaching a consular officer who could contact my lawyer, I was only able to speak with the embassy night watchman.

The wording in “Mortal Thoughts” is nearly identical. However, as I pointed out on this blog on January 28, 2020, Söring is content to libel Kenneth Beever in English, but not in German. In the German translation of “Mortal Thoughts”/”A Far Far Better Thing”, entitled (in German) “Not Guilty! How I Spent 33 Years in Prison for a Crime I Didn’t Commit“, Söring eliminates any mention of Beever’s alleged threat.

Here is the portion of the German book “Not Guilty” (Kindle Position 2728-2738) which describes Söring’s suppression hearing. The portions which are verbatim translations from “A Far, Far Better Thing”/”Mortal Thoughts” from English to German are in regular type. The passages which were eliminated from the German edition appear in bold:

From March 1–5, 1990, Judge Sweeney heard the defense’s motion to suppress my “confession” of 1986. This was the most important of the many pretrial hearings. If the police were found to have denied me access to an attorney during questioning, my statements would not be admitted as evidence at trial. Credibility was the central issue, as in most such motions. Should Judge Sweeney believe my claim that an English policeman had threatened to hurt Liz if I did not agree to speak to the detectives without my lawyer present? Or should the judge believe one American and two English investigators, who all insisted that my right to an attorney had not been violated?

The prosecution argued that I had knowingly and willingly consented to questioning without counsel. Except for the first two sessions at 3:35 and 6 p.m. on June 5, 1986, I had signed Miranda waiver forms before each interrogation. Someone as intelligent and educated as I could hardly claim that I had not understood my rights, and there was no evidence of physical coercion. Those portions of the interrogations that had been tape-recorded contained fairly polite interviews without direct threats. But I testified that I had only signed the waiver forms and talked to police because I had feared for Elizabeth’s safety. The English Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever had come to my holding cell alone and told me that Liz might fall down and hurt herself if I did not drop my demands for a lawyer.

In court, my American attorneys argued that the chronology of events on June 5 supported my claims. At the 3:35 and 6 p.m. sessions, I refused to sign the Miranda waiver forms, insisted on my innocence, and requested a lawyer. Police records confirmed that I was returned to my holding cell at 6:45 p.m. specifically because of my demand to see an attorney.

What I could not prove through documentation or witnesses was that Detective Beever issued his threat at some time between 7 and 7:40 p.m. But this allegation was hardly implausible, given the English police scandals of the late 1980s and early 1990s. First to be released by the London High Court of Appeals was the Guildford 4, a group of Irish youngsters who spent fourteen years in prison for an IRA terrorist bombing that they did not commit; Americans learned about this miscarriage of justice through the movie In the Name of the Father. In the following years the convictions of the Birmingham 6, the Maguire 7, and scores of nonpolitical prisoners were also overturned, because the English police had used violence or the threat of force to obtain false confessions in all these cases. Judge Sweeney, however, ruled that this pattern of abuse was irrelevant and cut off my lawyers before they could introduce a photocopy of an English police handbook on interrogation, which advised officers to take all steps necessary so suspects would not take advantage of their right to an attorney.

At 7:45, shortly after Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever threatened to harm Elizabeth, I asked the station’s desk sergeant for permission to telephone the German Embassy. Instead of reaching a consular officer who could contact my lawyer, I was only able to speak with the embassy night watchman. As soon as he learned of this attempted telephone call, Detective Beever fetched me from my cell, and at 8:05 I signed the first of many Miranda waiver forms.

Since I had been returned to my holding cell at 6:45 expecting to see my attorney soon, I had no reason to waive my right and speak to the police only seventy-five minutes later unless I had been forced to do so. I was certainly in no rush to unburden a guilty conscience. Although I admitted during the 8:05 interrogation that I had been at the scene of the crime, I retracted that partial confession the next day and did not admit to killing Derek and Nancy Haysom until the evening of June 8.

The defense was also able to produce some undisputed evidence that threw doubt on police credibility on the specific issue of granting me access to a lawyer. Bedford County Detective Ricky Gardner testified at the suppression hearing that I had made only an equivocal request for an attorney during the 6 p.m. interview on June 5, and his typed summary of this session, written on June 9, 1986, also implied that I had not directly asked for counsel.

As you can see, Söring eliminated all mention of Beever’s threat, and of other supposed problems with the “credibility” of the detectives, when having his book translated into German. The reason, almost certainly, is that Germany has more restrictive libel and defamation laws than the UK or the USA. Accusing someone of a serious crime without proof is a criminal offense under German law. We can assume that, when asked by his German publisher to provide proof of his allegations of extortion and assault against Beever, Söring chose to remove them. Or the publisher did this on its own.

Perhaps Söring also realized that his allegation against Beever didn’t make any sense. As we have already see, Söring waived his right to see a solicitor in writing and began confessing to the crimes long before 7:00 pm on June 5, 1986. Why would Beever have needed to pressure Söring into doing something he was already doing with — to quote Griffiths from another part of the report, “enthusiasm”?

Yet Griffiths is content to accept Söring’s version of events in “A Far, Far Better Thing.” Griffiths has, yet again, made the fundamental mistake all of Söring’s supporters make: believing what Söring says about his case.

The next few pages of Griffiths’ report contain background information about the phenomenon of false confessions. Most of this is generic, and as far as I can tell, reliable. False confessions do occur, albeit very rarely. It’s necessary to be on the lookout for them when the suspect is mentally impaired, cognitively limited, or being pressured with illegitimate tactics by police. None of which was the case here.

Next we come to this curious passage (GR 4):

Soering’s confession can be defined as voluntary in that there is no overtly coercive conduct by the interrogators that broke his resistance or through which he came to believe that he committed the offences. However as the next area of the report will outline, the authors feel that breaches of legislation identified materially affected Soering’s decision to confess by denying him the proper advice and counsel that would have balanced his enthusiasm to protect his girlfriend by outlining the true consequences of his actions.

A few points:

1. “[N]o overtly coercive conduct by the interrogators that broke his resistance”? Of course there was — Söring testified under oath on March 2, 1990, that he only confessed because Kenneth Beever threatened to injure Elizabeth Haysom (“Very pretty girl, all alone in that cell block. It would be an awful shame if she fell down and hurt herself.”). He repeated this allegation in the “book” Griffiths consulted. If threatening to harm a loved one is not “overtly coercive conduct”, what is?

2. “[D]enying him proper advice and counsel”. Söring met his solicitor Keith Barker in the Magistrate’s court in the morning of June 5, 1986, upon being informed he would be questioned for homicide. Söring validly waived counsel in writing multiple times. Yet, as confirmed in Keith Barker’s affidavit itself, Söring spoke to Barker at 4:30 PM on June 5, 1986.

3. “[H]is enthusiasm to protect his girlfriend”. Elsewhere in the report. Griffiths cautions against assuming defendants are guilty. Here me makes the converse mistake: blindly assuming Söring is telling the truth. There is no record of Söring publicly stating that he confessed falsely to protect Elizabeth from the electric chair until June 18, 1990, when Söring unveiled his new defense strategy in court during his murder trial in Virginia. Even in the pretrial suppression hearing on March 2, 1990, Söring never claimed he had confessed falsely — he claimed merely that he had confessed under duress.

There is no indication whatsoever in the 1986 confessions that Söring was confessing to protect Elizabeth. Keith Barker, in his affidavit, never suggests that Söring confessed falsely, or that he might have a reason for doing so. Therefore, even if Söring had been given an additional opportunity to consult with his lawyer (aside from the two opportunities he already had on June 5, 1986), he couldn’t possibly have asked Barker about the wisdom of confessing to protect Elizabeth — because Söring hadn’t invented that story yet. Griffiths is evaluating Söring’s conduct in 1986 based on a story Söring first told 4 years later. I call this the “time-warp problem”. It crops up again and again in the report.

Incidentally, Griffiths never explains why, if Söring were so eager to protect Elizabeth, he accused her of being an accessory before the fact to capital murder, a crime which carries a sentence of 20 years to life, and for which Haysom in fact received two 45-year prison sentences. Prosecutor Jim Updike’s cross-examination of Söring on this critical flaw in his story was particularly effective, as I pointed out in this blog post.

Griffiths’ report then moves to a lengthy analysis of whether the provisions of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act, which had just come into force on January 1, 1986, were complied with in Söring’s case. I am not an expert on this law, and gladly defer to Griffiths’ expertise. Griffiths maintains there were several violations of the act. However, he never makes a convincing argument that these procedural mistakes would have reduced Söring’s obvious “enthusiasm” to confess (to quote Griffiths himself), or cast doubt on the accuracy of his confessions.

Griffiths claims that if the police had properly implemented PACE, Söring would have consulted with his lawyer and (presumably) not confessed. However, Griffiths concedes (GR 6): “It is noted that Soering does not request a solicitor on his arrival in custody but does talk to Keith Barker, solicitor at 4.30pm during the first interrogation. On two other occasions [Söring] signs to the effect that he wishes to speak without a solicitor present.” Söring himself waived counsel three times in writing, yet was still permitted to speak to his lawyer. Were the police supposed to ignore Söring’s signed waivers? “Sorry, Mr. Söring. You’re 19 years old, highly intelligent, in good health, with no signs of mental illness, eager to confess, and we’ve provided you with exhaustive information and warnings concerning your legal rights. But we’re not going to accept your signed waiver of your right to meet with a solicitor. It just wouldn’t be right.” Further, Griffiths’ argument is contradicted by Söring himself (in one of his many versions), who testified in June 1990 that he wanted to confess to “save” Elizabeth from the electric chair.

Griffiths also states (GR 6): “In addition it appears that Ricky Gardner issued Soering with US legislation compliant Miranda warnings at the commencement of each interrogation, further adding to Soering’s confusion over his legal rights.” The standard Miranda warning reads: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” (emphasis added).

I fail to see how that warning could have caused Söring any “confusion” about his legal rights. Söring himself, in the book excerpt quoted above: “Someone as intelligent and educated as I could hardly claim that I had not understood my rights.”

Griffiths’ curious reticence about an extortion accusation against a fellow officer

The PACE violations don’t present a convincing argument for why Söring’s confessions are unreliable. But there is, as we have seen, a killer argument which invalidates all of Söring’s waivers of counsel and all his statements to police. This argument is right under Griffith’s nose, in the very sources Griffiths consulted: Söring says he was coerced into confessing by Beever’s extortion threat to injure Elizabeth (I can’t resist quoting Söring’s words again: “Very pretty girl, all alone in that cell block. It would be an awful shame if she fell down and hurt herself.”). This makes all the other PACE violations look like small potatoes indeed.

Yet one searches the text of the report in vain for any mention of Söring’s accusation. Griffiths mentions it only in this curiously anodyne footnote 20, on page 9: “Soering does allege that one of the British detectives threatened to harm Elizabeth Haysom early in his detention but there is no corroborative evidence of this complaint and Soering does not appear ill at ease in any of the recordings.”

This is the only mention Griffith makes of the grave accusation Söring leveled against Griffiths’ fellow officer, Kenneth Beever. Yet this allegation, we recall, is the heart and soul of Söring’s March 2, 1990 testimony about the circumstances of his interrogation. Söring stated that none of his statements to police was made “willingly”, because Beever’s threat of harm to Elizabeth was hanging over his head. At trial, Söring (without mentioning Beever by name) claimed he only waived a lawyer and confessed because he was afraid Elizabeth would come to “immediate” physical harm, right there in the police station, if he insisted on meeting with his lawyer and refused to talk to the police.

Griffiths’ brief footnote strikes me as a grossly inadequate response to a potential career-ending libel against a fellow detective. Among the questions Griffiths’ response leaves open are:

  • Does Dr. Griffiths believe Jens Söring, or does he believe Detective Beever? Both testified under oath.
  • Why doesn’t Griffiths tell us whom he believes? Is he genuinely on the fence about this?
  • Does Griffiths have reasons to believe Söring is a more credible source than Beever? What are these reasons?
  • Further, assuming Griffiths believes Beever that no such threat occurred, didn’t Griffiths reflect on this fact? Didn’t he ask himself whether he should trust Jens Söring, who made this grave accusation under oath? If Söring lied about this under oath, what else did he lie about?

Gardner’s supposed assumption of guilt

After more discussion of PACE violations, Griffiths returns to more general subjects:

As stated earlier, the authors’ examination of the interrogation material does not reveal coercion by either Gardner or the British detectives present. Therefore, given this fact and Soering’s explanation, his confession falls into the category of a voluntary false confession…. Furthermore, although the reason behind his actions would appear to be rare research indicates that it is not unheard of — particularly within people of his age strongly emotionally attached to the real perpetrator.

Once again, Griffiths notes that there was no coercion, which contradicts Soering’s sworn testimony and his books. Griffiths also falls into the time-warp trap again, assuming that Elizabeth Haysom was the “real perpetrator” of the crime. Griffiths is making assumptions about Söring’s motivations in 1986 based on a story Söring only invented 4 years later, and for which there is no proof.

Griffiths then faults Ricky Gardner for (GR 10) “believing Soering to be guilty of the crimes.” Griffiths goes on (GR 11): “Therefore with Ricky Gardner expressing from the outset that he ‘knew’ Soering was involved and no one to put the opposite view, Soering was admitting to a scenario that never happened. However, no one was applying their mind to the reliability of his account because of (a) Gardner’s belief and (b) Soering’s enthusiasm to convince him that his account was true.”

First of all, the scenario did happen. Second, given the fact that (1) Söring had engaged in (GR 11) “suspicious behaviour” after the crime, as Griffiths concedes, and (2) Söring was “enthusias[tically]” confessing to the crimes and providing extensive details about them, why would Gardner not believe him? There were no red flags of a potential false confession here. As with the signed waivers of counsel, Griffiths seems to be endorsing a standard in which police should actively disbelieve an intelligent, mentally sound adult’s voluntary, detailed confessions to a crime. Why?

Griffiths then turns to the alleged “errors” in Söring’s confessions. “In normal circumstances detail that matches information from the crime scene that only the offender would know would provide strong credibility to the authenticity of a confession. However, the fact that Soering alleges Elizabeth told him what took place as part of a deliberate plan for him to take the blame complicates matters and could compromise the ability to be absolutely confident about the authenticity of his claims.”

Again, here’s the time-warp problem. Söring never publicly suggested he didn’t kill the Haysoms, or that Elizabeth confessed to him that she had killed them, until June 18, 1990.

Griffiths Misses the Red Flag

There were no red flags suggesting the potential for a false confession here. But there was a huge red flag suggesting a true confession — one which Kenneth Beever caught, but Dr. Griffiths didn’t. In the midst of criticizing Ricky Gardner for not asking enough follow-up questions to get verifiable details about Söring’s confession, Griffiths states (GR 13): “For example, when Soering volunteers that he was served drinks no questions are put to him about touching the bottle of alcohol or to describe the glass he drank from. In fact, in another instance, it is Soering who suggests that the Marriott hotel might have CCTV that would validate that part of his account (Doc 4, p361).” (emphasis added)

This, as Kenneth Beever and Terry Wright recognized (Wright report, 213-215), is a statement which conclusively proves Söring’s personal guilty knowledge. Griffiths either chose to ignore the significance of this statement, or failed to perceive it. I’ve addressed this point in detail (g) elsewhere, but let’s revisit the subject, because it’s critical. After the Haysoms were murdered, Bedford County detectives requested surveillance video footage from the Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Söring and Haysom stayed the weekend of the murders. They were too late; the footage had already been re-recorded. Of course, the police kept this information confidential, as per standard practice. Therefore, as of the time he was interrogated in London, Söring did not know that there was no CCTV footage from the Marriott. Police did not tell him this, nor were they obliged to do so.

Söring told the detectives that he had been forced to ditch much of his bloody clothing after killing the Haysoms, and therefore returned to Washington, D.C. without pants (Wright report, p. 213):

Beever: “That would mean that you arrived back at D.C. with no trousers on, wouldn’t it?”

Soering: “Um … yes, there could be a video tape of the elevator, which does show me without my trousers on because that’s in fact what happened.”

Even if the detectives had any doubt that Söring was telling them the truth about killing the Haysoms — and they had no reason to doubt this — this remark alone proves the accuracy of Söring’s 1986 confessions.

Why? Let’s think this through carefully. Söring thought that the police either had already found, or could find, surveillance videos of him riding the elevator without trousers. In case they hadn’t already gathered this evidence, he told them where to look. And did so in the certain knowledge that if they looked, the police would find video of Söring riding the Marriott Hotel’s elevator without trousers, because, to quote him, “that’s in fact what happened”. He was pointing to evidence which supported his confession because he believed this evidence existed, and knew that it would support his admission that he, personally, killed the Haysoms.

This fact is not something he could possibly have learned from Elizabeth, because it relates solely to his direct personal participation in the crime. If Elizabeth had killed her parents, there would be footage of her, not Söring, riding the elevators without trousers. And if she were on the tapes, and the police followed Sörings suggestion to inspect those tapes, they would find evidence which could put Elizabeth on death row. If Elizabeth really had committed the killings, and Söring wanted to protect her from being sent to death row for personally killing her parents, the last thing he would have done is voluntarily draw attention to the hotel surveillance footage.

Yet he did. Because he wanted to help the police find evidence corroborating his confessions. And pointed them to what he believed would be decisive corroborating evidence.

Now, a brief digression, just for context. Why did Söring decide to confess in 1986? Simple: Because he already believed the police had enough evidence to convict him. Therefore, he chose the strategy of admitting his guilt, but emphasizing mitigating evidence such as his alcohol consumption, youth, emotional immaturity, dependent relationship, and anger at the Haysoms. All of his 1986 confessions, plus the psychiatric reports, are designed to bolster a diminished-capacity defense (I committed the crime but only under the influence of alcohol and emotional disturbance), which would have been a viable defense in England or Germany in 1986. In 1990, Söring faced the crushing realization that Virginia does not recognize a diminished-capacity defense. So he needed to find another defense, which he did. That new defense, premiered on June 18, 1990, was that Elizabeth, not he, had killed the Haysoms.

Griffith’s failure to recognize the significance of the remark about the CCTV cameras undermines his entire analysis. Griffiths states repeatedly that suspects providing information which could have been known only to the offender, and which the offender could not have learned of from newspaper articles, police, co-conspirators, or any other sources is among the most powerful forms of corroboration there is. And there it was, staring him in the face.

I could end this post at this point. Yet I’ll continue, in the interest of thoroughness. Griffiths then goes on to detail the alleged flaws in Söring’s confessions. There’s little need to dwell on this at length, the Wright/Beever report establishes conclusively that there were only two minor errors in the confessions. Söring couldn’t remember what Nancy Haysom was wearing (Wright report, p. 295):

Wright – “Jens, can you remember what they themselves were wearing… Nancy and Derek?”

Soering – “What they were wearing… (long pause) …. That’s a very hard question. Let me try to think. I think Mrs. Haysom was wearing jeans…. I think, ah .., but I.., like I said ah… it’s… I would say that part of it is very… very confused.”

Wright – “It’s vague?

Soering – “Yes, very confused.”

The second error was equally minor. On his crime-scene sketches, Söring placed the body of Derek Haysom in the right location, but rotated it 90°. Söring warned the detectives that (Wright Report, p. 298) “I can tell you only that I have two hazy memories of the bodies.” That was correct; Söring’s recollections were generally accurate, but hazy due to the alcohol and adrenaline in his system. He generally remembered Nancy Haysom was wearing dark-blue clothing, but not which type of clothing it was. He generally remembered where the bodies were, but not the precise orientation of Derek Haysom’s body.

Human memory is not a video recorder, as Dr. Griffiths would surely agree. Every person’s recollection of a major life event will feature some inconsistencies and gaps, but that doesn’t mean the event didn’t happen. All of the other claimed “errors” in the confessions are either not important or not errors, as Wright demonstrates in meticulous detail in his report. Söring got dozens of things right, and provided information only the personal killer could know (such as that he rode the elevators in the hotel without pants). The few errors and inconsistencies are the kind which crop up in most true confessions. Söring’s confession would be considered adequately, if not richly, corroborated in any justice system on earth.

Conclusion

There’s no better way to conclude this post than to quote the initial paragraph of Dr. Griffiths’ own conclusion (GH 17): “Jens Soering was not pressured by his interrogators to make a confession. His interrogation shows no overt coercion or exertion of duress from Ricky Gardner or other police officers within the recorded interrogations. There was no requirement for any pressure because it is apparent from the first (recorded) minutes of interrogation that Soering is willing to talk.”

I have no reason to doubt the professionalism or good faith of Dr. Griffiths. He is a recognized expert in his field, who has done valuable work encouraging police departments to adopt modern best practices for the interrogation of suspects. However, in this specific case, I believe he failed to consult all of the available evidence, and failed to correctly evaluate the evidence which was at his disposal. I suspect the reason is the same reason which has led so many people, acting in complete good faith, to arrive at inaccurate conclusions regarding Söring’s guilt: He chose to believe Jens Söring’s statements about his case. Which, as we have seen, is always a grave error.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Andy Griffiths’ Complete Report on Jens Söring’s Interrogation, Part 2 of 2”

  1. Wieder eine unglaublich hervorragend recherchierte Analyse. Ohne Frage formen Teil 1 und Teil 2 gemeinsam den wichtigsten Artikel, der jemals zum Geständnis geschrieben wurde. Er sollte an sämtliche deutsche Medien verteilt werden. Man kann davon ausgehen, dass die meisten Menschen in Deutschland lediglich den „Ich gestand freiwillig, um Liz das Leben zu retten“ Teil von Juni 1990 kennen, nicht aber Sörings Aussage unter Eid vor Gericht lediglich drei Monate vorher, „Ich gestand unfreiwillig, weil Beever gedroht hat, Liz zu verletzen.“ Nichts passt zusammen. Wer sein Leben auf einem Gerüst an Lügen aufbaut, der lebt wackelig.
    Vielen Dank für Ihre wertvolle Arbeit, Herr Hammel.

  2. This expert was paid by the people supporting Soering; he cannot be neutral. Anybody who has ever followed a criminal trial, or civil for that matter, knows that expert witnesses always testify for the party that pays them and whom they represent and most of the time come to differing conclusions.
    Perfect analysis which should end this insufferable claim of innocence once and for all.

Leave a Reply to Jay Engel Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.