Hammel Translations

The New Jens Söring Documentary Preview, Part 1

First, an update: I had a nice Zoom call with two of the producers of the Söring podcast “Small Town, Big Crime“. I explained to them my take on the case, which, of course, is the Only Correct Take, and they had a lot of good questions. Parts of the interview may show up on future episodes, so stay tuned to hear my English, which I promise you is a lot better than my German. They said they’re committed to pursuing leads wherever they go, not in exonerating Söring at all costs. I’m sure I’ll find something to critique in the future episodes, but overall I got an honest vibe from them, and encourage everyone to tune in for future episodes. Söring is the case that keeps on giving!

In yet more Söring news, as I noted on this blog a few weeks ago, ZDFInfo, the documentary channel of the ZDF, abruptly canceled all of its programming for 4 August 2020 and replaced it with what looks like a four-part documentary on the Jens Söring case. And in fact they’ll be broadcasting it again on 10 August 2020. There was initially no extra information about exactly what the show was going to be. I speculated it might be a re-run of the documentaries produced by Karin Steinberger and Markus Vetter in 2016, which were then edited down into the pro-Söring advocacy movie “Killing for Love“.

It turns out that’s only part of the story. I have just watched the first part of the upcoming 4-part ZDFInfo documentary. As expected, it was directed by Steinberger and Vetter. The press release notes that the documentary contains new footage of Elizabeth Haysom’s trial, and its focus is going to be on a “private detective” who has spent “years” researching Söring’s case. The first part of the new series starts with indisputably new footage of Söring being deported from the USA and landing in Frankfurt, Germany. This is accompanied by the strains of “I Put a Spell on You”, which will be familiar to viewers of “Killing for Love”. Daniel Brühl and Imogen Poots, two German actors, take over the role of speaking for Söring and Haysom. There is no general narrative voice-over.

The rest of the first episode is largely not new. It appears to be composed mostly of scenes already shown in “Killing for Love”, as well as longer footage and outtakes from that overall project. The framing device remains Söring’s 2013 German-language interview with Steinberger and Vetter in prison in Virginia. There is some new footage of Elizabeth Haysom’s trial in 1987, in which she was cross-examined by prosecutor Jim Updike. The scenes are edited to make Haysom appear in as negative light as possible, of course. Local journalists’ unflattering assessments of Haysom are also quoted. The documentary features Söring openly stating (in the 2013 interview), that Elizabeth Haysom killed her parents. As we know, Söring has recently been ordered by his lawyers to stop repeating that slander, under threat of legal action from Haysom. I wonder if Steinberger and Vetter will ever inform the viewers that Söring has abandoned this claim? Judging by their past work on the case, I think we all know the answer to that question.

It’s hard to say where the documentary will go from here. So far there’s little in it that’s new. In early 2020, the plan was to make a new documentary focusing on Söring’s life and plans after release. However, that plan was scrapped, since Söring doesn’t want to draw attention to his personal circumstances, going so far as to delete all of his social media accounts. Further, as Söring has discovered, there are now limits on the things he can say about his case, since he is a private citizen like any other and can be sued for defamation.

As I’ve reported before, Söring’s media team has been actively trying to place a new documentary series on the Söring case, focusing on events which occurred after “Killing for Love” was released. I don’t know whether this new documentary is that project. I suspect it isn’t — I think this may just be Steinberger and Vetter finding a new use for old footage. So far, there’s not even a new interview from Söring, which you would expect from a new documentary project.

Perhaps the disappointing reaction to Söring’s 2020 media appearances plays a role here. The reaction to Söring’s interview in Der Spiegel and the Markus Lanz talk show among Söring’s small band of supporters was, of course, rapturous, but in the overall German media landscape, the reaction was surprisingly muted. News outlets which previously reprinted Söring’s claims with gusto are now much more distanced and skeptical. Söring was almost without exception referred to as a “convicted double-murderer”, not a “victim of US justice.” I’d like to think my articles in the FAZ — and, most of all, Terry Wright’s report — have something to do with that. German media outlets now know there are well-informed German-speaking critics who will meticulously analyze anything they print about the case, and they are taking more care with the facts. This is, of course, a Good Thing.

Since the new documentary can’t focus on Söring’s post-release life, the only new developments since “Killing for Love” was released in 2016 are the DNA/blood test correlation, and the FBI report, so I presume we’ll get heaping helpings of speculation and innuendo about these things in the new documentary. Further, we’ll get more footage of private investigators criss-crossing Virginia in a futile hunt for the “real” killers. Will the real culprit turn out to be the two drifters? Or “Ned B.”? Or “Jim Farmer”? Stay tuned for yet more speculation and innuendo!

Since we’re probably going to have to encounter the DNA stuff again in this new documentary, I’m working on a new post in which I will state my conclusions about the DNA, and then point to new information from actual experts who…completely agree with me. Stay tuned!