The Berliner Zeitung just published an essay (g) by me on how the German media is handling Jens Söring’s innocence claims. They titled it: “Jens Söring Will only be Free when he Admits He’s A Murderer”. I didn’t choose this title, which I find a tad aggressive. The piece focuses more on the role of American and German media makers in propagating Söring’s claims. Nevertheless, we all gotta understand that newspapers need clicks and subscriptions, so it would be churlish to complain.
The essay begins with a short history of the case for those who are unfamiliar. It then documents how Söring and his prominent supporters convinced people at the highest echelons of German politics to support his case and argue that his trial was unfair. Shortly after Söring landed in Germany in December 2019, there were dozens of requests for interviews with him. He was fully prepared to try to obtain the pardon from the German media which he had not obtained from the Governor of Virginia.
But then Terry Wright and I came along. I published long pieces in the FAZ, building on Terry Wright’s report, which critically assessed Söring’s claims and found them wanting. Media interest in Söring cooled a bit: ‘Wait, I thought this guy was innocent because he made a false confession and there’s DNA evidence. But now there are these other people who say that’s not true. Looks like this is more complicated than we thought. Could be uncharted dangers here. Let’s pass.’
Nevertheless, Söring did give interviews to Der Spiegel and Markus Lanz in early 2020. Neither was a resounding success for Söring — he was permitted to tell his side of the story, but it wasn’t very convincing, since his story had dramatically changed: He could no longer blame Elizabeth for personally murdering her parents, because she might sue him, as a free man, for slander. So the very heart of his innocence claim for 30 years — that Elizabeth Haysom personally killed her parents, returned to Söring afterwards with “blood” on her arms, and confessed to him — was ripped out of Söring’s story. Not much was left.
The article concludes by looking at what I posted about a few weeks ago: How are the German media responding to Söring’s new publicity tour for his upcoming book? The good news is that he’s not getting very many publicity spots. If it hadn’t been for myself and Terry Wright (and, of course, William Holdsworth), Söring’s new book would almost certainly have been a huge media event, with Söring appearing all over German talk shows and newspapers, claiming to millions of gullible Germans that he had been manipulated by the murderous femme fatale Elizabeth and railroaded by the corrupt, backwards American criminal justice system.
As it is, he is so far appearing on a regional talk show and a literary festival. Their program announcements for his appearance had several errors, but I managed to get at least one corrected. Before, when a German TV producer or talent booker was contacted by Sörings PR people, they would be sent a one-sided “press pack” of information only helpful to Söring. And that would be basically all they could find — there were literally no credible sources in German questioning Söring’s story. Now, of course, there are. Producers and bookers now know — or at least should know — that they can’t take anything Söring says about his case at face value.
I still haven’t read Söring’s new book. Söring’s a reasonably talented writer, and has lots of interesting — and more importantly, true — things he might say about his personal development and his time in prison, if he so chooses. So long as he sticks to those subjects, he’s doing a service to the discourse. But if he simply recycles his discredited tale of innocence, he will now face careful scrutiny. Better late then never.