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

Blood, Logic, and Guilt

There are plenty of things happening behind the scenes with the Söring situation, which has got me going through the archives and thinking about the case. Many aspects of it are like intriguing logic puzzles.

Take the Type O blood at the crime scene. We’ll likely never have definitive proof it was Söring’s because of contamination and degradation. But it’s still powerful evidence, when seen in context. Söring supporters routinely make the same mistake many non-lawyers (and even many lawyers and judges) make: They take isolated bits of evidence out of context and then question their relevance or implications. That’s not how you should evaluate evidence, and it’s certainly not how the jury is instructed to evaluate evidence. They are told to evaluate the evidence holistically, and determine how any individual piece of evidence fits in with all the others.

Which brings us to the blood evidence. Söring supporters simply say: “There’s no definitive proof the blood was his,” which is correct.

And then they stop. Far too early.

Let’s look at the blood evidence in context. Söring fled the United States on October 13, 1985, throwing away a free university education, to avoid giving blood, footprint, and fingerprint samples. He was then arrested in 1986 in London. Ignoring his lawyer’s advice, he chose to give a full confession. During that confession, without prompting from the investigating officers, Söring showed the scars on his fingers from the fight to the death with Derek Haysom. In his first ‘autobiography’, Mortal Thoughts, he admits as much: “Showing Detective Gardner those scars during questioning in 1986 was stupid even by my standards.” In 1986, though, Söring’s strategy was to confess to the crimes in the hope of receiving a lighter sentence. He confessed, repeatedly.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: It was Söring, not the detectives, who first furnished an explanation for the presence of the perpetrator’s blood at the crime scene. Söring voluntarily told them, without prompting, that he’d been injured, a piece of “tissue” torn from his hand, and that the wound bled copiously.

In 1990, his strategy had changed. In his sworn trial testimony, he stated that Elizabeth had driven alone to her home, murdered both her parents single-handedly, and returned to the hotel room with blood on her forearms and wearing different clothes. Then she supposedly confessed to him that she had murdered her parents. Alone. With no mention of any accomplices.

Now we have enough context to evaluate Söring’s statements about the blood. And they reveal the fatal logical flaw in his argument. Let’s assume that Söring’s 1990s trial testimony is true: Elizabeth Haysom killed her parents alone and confessed it to Söring, who then promised to take the blame, saving her from the electric chair. Söring, sitting in the Richmond police station back in June 1986, is actively trying to save Elizabeth.

In that case, why would Söring mention that he had bled at the crime scene? In his version of the story, Elizabeth committed the murders. Her blood type was B, Söring’s was Type O. So if Elizabeth was the perpetrator, as he claims, and she bled at the crime scene, then the perpetrator’s blood would be Type B, not type O. If Söring calls attention to the presence of any non-victim blood at the crime scene, he’s pointing the detectives straight toward the B blood smears which will implicate Elizabeth.

Further, why would Söring claim he had bled at the crime scene to the detectives if it weren’t true? Söring knows he bled at the crime scene, he described the wound and the bleeding at length to the police. This statement could helps clear Elizabeth of some guilt, but only if it is true. That is, Söring told the detectives he bled at the crime scene in the expectation that they would find his blood there. But if they find his blood there, that shows that he was there. This helps Elizabeth, but only because it indicates Söring was at the crime scene, and suggests he had a role in the crime.

Which Söring denied. He said, under oath, that he stayed in Washington.

Söring’s story is internally inconsistent. This is why the jury convicted him. Not because he was an uppity German bookworm; not because his two lawyers were incompetent; not because the judge was biased; not because of the “magic trick” with the sockprint, not because of pretrial publicity; not because of the scheming trickery of Elizabeth. The jury convicted him because the story he told made no sense even on its own terms.

The true story, which actually does fit all the facts and remains consistent, is as follows: Söring committed the murders, was injured, bled at the crime scene, and knew he had likely left some blood at the crime scene. When he’s arrested in 1986, he pursues the only strategy he thinks he has left, since he believes the police probably have overwhelming evidence and that Elizabeth is confessing all just a few doors down the hall: Söring confesses his guilt to try to achieve a lighter punishment. He is eager to show the police that he is cooperating and doesn’t want to cause any problems. He hopes that later, they will mention his readiness to cooperate before whatever judge or jury tries him in whatever country, and the judge will take it into account and impose a lighter sentence.

That is why he told the detectives about the cuts to his hands: He thought they had already found his blood type there. Why else ask had they asked him for a blood sample? Why else was this request so terrifying that he literally fled the country to avoid it? Söring’s aware of all this, and figures there is point in denying that he likely left blood at the crime scene. To be helpful and forthright, he told the detectives how the blood got there.

That is also why he told the detectives there could be footage of him riding in the elevator at the Marriott hotel without pants on. He assumed the police either already had these tapes or that they could get them, so there was no point in denying that he had ridden the elevators without pants. To be helpful and forthright, he admitted this was the case, and suggested the police go look for the tapes if they hadn’t already done so.

We have two possible explanations here:

1. Elizabeth did it, and/but somehow Söring’s blood type was found at the crime scene and not hers, and/yet Söring told the police about the cuts to his hands because he wanted to help Elizabeth, but/and Söring wasn’t at the crime scene ever anyway, so the blood couldn’t have been his, even though he told police he’d bled at the crime scene.

2. Söring did it, refused to give cops his fingerprints or blood for comparison because he suspected it/they could be found at the crime scene, even fleeing the country. When he was caught, he was “terrified” (his own words) of the death penalty. He believed the cops already had plenty of evidence against him, and there was his best option at that point was to confess and appear honest and forthright. So, without even knowing whether the cops had found his blood type at the crime scene, he told them he had probably left blood there. He hoped to gain favor by helping the police solve the case.

Which version makes more sense to you? Which version makes any sense at all?

Söring’s arguments have always been fatally inconsistent. It’s a minor scandal how many people have broadcast them when they should have known better.

1 thought on “Blood, Logic, and Guilt”

  1. What remains intriguing about this case is whether the jury would still have convicted them had he not confessed?
    What if Soering had given a no comment interview and had not given evidence at his trial?
    And what if Elizabeth had stayed silent, as she had planned to, until Soering started confessing?
    It’s not a certainty that Soering would not have been convicted, in spite of the lack of evidence and a confession.
    Ultimately, regardless of the evidence, it all comes down to the jury.
    I have been on Jury service three times and on the last occasion we nearly acquitted four burglars because there was no DNA evidence that they had been inside the victim’s house.
    The other jurors were blind sided by DNA or the lack of and had forgotten about crucial evidence.
    All four defendants admitted to being in the vicinity at the time because there was video evidence from police surveillance. But only one admitted to talking to the victim about “business” through his ground floor window. The others said they had stopped en route to talk to “Chris” and could not see the victim’s front door from where they were standing.
    I told the other jurors I think we are overlooking something, I need to check my notes.
    Sure enough, the Prosecutor had played his ace during his closing speech.
    “When the victim called 999 and said he was chasing four burglars out of his house, how did he know there were four of them, unless they had been in his bedroom?”
    As soon as I reread my notes to the other jurors, they immediately fell into line.
    Coming back to Soering, any juror who assessed the evidence in its entirety, would have convicted. It was not circumstantial evidence, it was based on his confession and his confession helpfully joined all the dots.
    But why do I come back to the jury if the evidence was so compelling?
    Because much has been made of the sock print and how that was responsible for the conviction.
    Soering”s supporters have always focused on how crucial that sock was and more importantly, how discredited a piece of evidence it was.
    And they are right.
    But what remains a mystery to me, is the Jury and their deliberations.
    There is a news report from 1990 after the verdict, where one female juror tells the camera that all the women jurors were in tears having to convict that young man.
    Without the sock evidence we would never have convicted him.

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