Criminal Law, DNA, Evidence, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering, True Crime

Podcast Review Part 1: Söring’s Story Crumbles Further Under Polite Assault from ‘Small Town, Big Crime’

Episode 14 of Small Town Big Crime — “The Confession” — is out, with cameo by yours truly. In this post, I’ll discuss the podcast as a whole. After that, I’ll write a separate post on the strategy Söring and his lawyers are using to try to discredit me.

The podcast focuses first on a witness to the crime scene who has not come forward before. This is interesting, but doesn’t bring any new information relevant to Söring’s innocence claims. The podcasters then recount how they got in touch with me — I sent them a Facebook message offering a “friendly challenge” in which they could ask me anything about the case. We then had a nice Zoom chat. I think I was the first to make them aware of the Wright report, but I’m not sure. (One small correction: the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, for which I wrote 3 articles about the case, is a newspaper, not a magazine).

The podcast hosts then recount their efforts to determine whether Terry Wright exists, and whether he wrote the report. Terry Wright’s point of view is that everything he has to say about the case can be found in his 450-page report, and he doesn’t want to get roped in to the Söring media circus. Eventually, he broke his silence and wrote through an intermediary to the podcasters, confirming his authorship. In any event, the podcasters come to the same conclusion I did. Whether the report was written by Wright or not (I’m quite sure it was), it is accurate, exhaustive, and devastating.

The podcasters chose an excellent approach: they contrasted what Söring said in a 2019 interview with what they now know from the trial record and the Wright report. In 2019, Söring had no idea that Terry Wright was compiling his report or that I’d become interested in the case. Söring had never been asked sharp, critical, well-informed questions by any interviewer up to that point, and probably imagined this would never happen, since by the time journalists contact him, they have usually bought into his story to some extent.

So Söring recited his alternate history, confident that nobody would try to verify or critically analyze his statements. But now, the podcasters of Small Town, Big Crime have become the first full-time professional journalists to seriously research all sides of the case. They show that Söring’s account of being denied legal advice is untrue, as is his claim to have only confessed on June 8, 1986. They also question his assertion from the 2019 interview that he was “99% sure” he had some form of immunity and could be tried in Germany, even though he had been explicitly warned by detectives that this was not the case.

The podcasters then note that Sörings crime-scene sketches were reasonably accurate, that his description of the crime scene was also reliable, and they even play the tape of the infamous comment in which Söring admits he returned to the Marriott without trousers on and was likely caught on tape by the security cameras — an admission which is impossible to square with Söring’s claim to be only reciting second-hand information fed him by Elizabeth.

The podcasters remain admirably neutral — they politely, but relentlessly identify Söring’s errors and false statements, but let the listener figure out the implications.  Whenever I spoke to them, they stressed that they would take the podcast wherever the facts led them, and this seems to be exactly what they’re doing. It’ll be interesting to see where they go next! Stay tuned, and don’t forget to sign up for their Patreon — writing and researching a podcast like this takes huge amounts of time, and it’s already uncovered major new aspects of the case. Don’t just listen — support!

And just to avoid any tedious speculation — no, I don’t receive any money from their Patreon, or any compensation from them in any way, and I neither have nor want any editorial influence over their podcast.

4 thoughts on “Podcast Review Part 1: Söring’s Story Crumbles Further Under Polite Assault from ‘Small Town, Big Crime’”

  1. Logically, Soering’s diplomatic immunity ruse has always been a red herring. As even in the unlikely event that it’s true he believed it, logically that could give him as much reason to actually commit the murders as merely falsely confess to them.

    That said, I’d never heard until this post that detectives had explicitly warned him that he did NOT have diplomatic immunity. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet. Does it specify who/where/when this warning was given him?

  2. Dear Mr. Andrew Hammel,

    I’ve never doubted the source of the Wright-Report until this was mentioned in the podcast, and there are indeed some aspects that seem… strange.
    Since it is only available on Soering-guilty-as-charged and from your article in the FAZ, I have just one question:
    Where did you get the report from?

    1. As has been stated on the podcast and by Wright himself, the provenance and authorship is irrelevant.
      It can all be cross referenced with the trial evidence.
      That’s good enough for me.

    2. I got it from Holdsworth, who in turn got it directly from Terry Wright.

      As I’ve pointed out in print before, the report was never intended to be released to the public. It was intended solely to be read by Ralph Northam, as part of Soering’s parole file. Parole files in Virginia are confidential.

      Wright decided to release the report to the general public after hearing of Soering’s unexpected parole. However, he only did so through me and Holdsworth, because he didn’t want to become directly involved with the Soering media circus; i.e. to become the public face of fact-checking Soering’s innocence claims. That role fell to me.

      Thus, the report was never intended for official release by any institution; it was merely intended to provide context to Governor Northam in reaching his decision on Soering’s parole. But now that the audience for Soering’s claims is not just Northam but the entire world, Wright decided he might as well allow it to be more broadly shared.

      I have read every page of the report, and also communicated with Terry Wright about certain points to make sure I understood them. The report is, as we lawyers say, self-authenticating; it is impossible to read it without being convinced the person who wrote it, Terry Wright, has access to a vast trove of documents and personal experience.

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