Söring devotes several pages of his new book to yours truly, who he identifies as a ‘Texan Blogger’. I think they deserve a ‘fisking‘, so here it is.
The main passage stretches from page 193 to 196 of Soering’s book “Return to Life”. I’ll reprint it here (my quick and dirty literal translation) as block quotes, with my comments below. Let’s go!
The blogger is a former Texas criminal defense attorney who has written about my case on his websites and in guest posts in FAZ. Each time he first announces that he can prove my alleged guilt, each time, of course, he fails to deliver the goods.
Thousands of readers disagree!
His main source is a text that was falsely called a “Scotland Yard report” in the FAZ. It is actually more of a private document that was published on the internet on an anonymous hate site, and the tone and content are accordingly not objective.
That phrase only appeared in the headline, which I didn’t choose, but the report was written by two retired senior Scotland Yard detectives, so it’s hardly misleading. Jens Soering Guilty as Charged is not a hate site, it is a site which gathers arguments and evidence which refutes Söring’s innocence claims. Söring may hate that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a hate site. The author is sometimes too acerbic for my taste, but Team Söring has never pointed out a single error on that site, which is full of original documents and convincing arguments.
The alleged author is a retired British detective who took part in my interrogations in 1986. However, he is nowhere to be found, even another British policeman is unable to get in touch with him despite his best efforts.
Terry Wright and Kenneth Beever are very much real, I’ve spoken to Terry Wright personally. In the coming months, we’re going to be hearing a great deal from him. Stay tuned!
The Texan blogger’s first article was not only a ‘guilty verdict’ against me, but also an indictment of the German media, which allegedly only addressed the doubts about my conviction because journalists in this country are mostly left-wing and hostile to America. This accusation is odd if only because even American media – including the Washington Post and Virginia Public Radio — are now vociferously questioning the legality of my conviction.
The mainstream German press skews center-left, as studies show, and often anti-American, as the Claas Relotius scandal showed. As for American reporters interested in the case, they no longer exist. American press interest in the case vanished after Söring landed in Germany, and, as far as I can tell, no American reporter or supporter of Söring has made a single supportive public statement about his case since the Wright Report was published. The last American journalists to address his case were the makers of the Small Town, Big Crime podcast, but Söring broke off cooperation with them when they wanted to ask him questions based on my work and the Wright report. The podcast has since gone dormant, although its makers assure me another episode is on the way.
German journalists have in the past without exception treated my case honestly, not one of them has claimed that I am clearly innocent, or concealed the incriminating evidence against me.
Das Versprechen downplayed or ignored dozens of pieces of incriminating evidence against Söring, and used misleading, manipulated audiotapes to bolster his story. Germany’s leading daily newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that my research had uncovered “journalistic errors” (g).
Like Markus Lanz, however, the vast majority of journalists before him had quickly recognized the impossibility of reaching a final verdict on my guilt. They were therefore mostly concerned with a sober comparison of the facts and with the question of whether I had been justly convicted on the basis of them. In the process, many came to the conclusion that I had by no means been convicted of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, that I must be considered “not guilty” at least in the legal sense. Following this constitutional logic alone, the German press, just like the American press, increasingly spoke of my double life sentence as a miscarriage of justice, even without one hundred percent proof of innocence.
Why should people consider the opinions of journalists with no legal training rather than the many judges who carefully reviewed Söring’s case and found “overwhelming evidence” of his guilt?
On his website and Twitter account, the blogger argues less politically than in the articles; there, his attacks become personal.
I have never criticized Söring personally, except to point out his lies, and to discuss the aspects of his character that are relevant to his credibility. If a person goes into the public arena and makes controversial arguments which injure the reputations of other people, they must expect to have their credibility questioned. I have kept all personal information I have learned about Söring strictly confidential. I have warned commenters to this blog not to post personal information or insults, and have removed comments which violated this policy. I have denounced nasty personal insults about Söring and the doxxing of him or his followers explicitly and repeatedly on this blog.
During the Lanz show, he comments on each of my sentences in a live ticker, as if it were the final game of the soccer world championship. And if I retire after the interview to enjoy my life away from the public eye, he triumphs, now he has finally successfully intimidated my friends and me into curling up into a fetal position.
I pointed out the lies Söring told on the Lanz show, and proved they were lies. I have repeatedly said that I have no problem with Söring discussing his prison time and his readjustment to Germany, but that if he continues to spread false information about his case, I will correct it. That’s exactly what I’ve done, and it’s had profound effects on the media treatment of Söring’s case.
After ZDF responded to his complaint with a rejection of all claims, the blogger then spreads the thesis that I am only so convincing because I believe my own lies, that is, I have convinced myself that I am innocent. This attempt to imply that I have a mental disorder and that I cannot trust myself and my memories is not only deeply dishonest, but downright perfidious.
I received a personal letter from the Director of ZDF defending the Lanz broadcast. I could have appealed the letter to the supervisory council of the ZDF, but I thought I’d sufficiently made my point. I have never suggested Söring is insane, and in fact I’ve argued he isn’t. I do believe he may be a kind of pathological liar, based on the objective evidence that he (1) has lied about dozens of aspects of his past and his case; (2) appears no longer able to truly comprehend that what is is saying is misleading or false; and (3) responds inappropriately when someone draws attention to the inaccuracies and falsehoods in his accounts. And I’m not alone in this estimation: Nathan Heller, the New Yorker reporter, pointed out that Söring “tended to grow distraught when my reporting carried me into less known territory” away from his “approved library of information”. This is likely one reason Söring never agrees to an interview in which he might face skeptical questions about his case.
The low point in taste, however, is when he equates people who believe in my innocence with Holocaust deniers: “The Holocaust happened – despite unanswered questions, which still exist. The moon landing took place – despite open questions. Despite unanswered questions – Söring murdered the Haysoms.” I’m stunned.
The point I was making is clear: The mere fact that there are anomalies, unanswered questions, and inconsistencies in a historical narrative does not justify disbelieving that narrative when overall, the majority of the evidence supports the narrative. The point is valid and applies to Söring’s followers: they simply choose to ignore the mass of evidence against him and focus solely on trivial side-issues.
Also, more and more American and German supporters are now coming forward to inform me that the same man is writing to them urging them to turn away from me. He even tries to turn my closest personal friends against me in long emails.
I have contacted American and German reporters and supporters to inform them that they should not take Söring’s word at face value, and urging them to treat Söring’s claims with an appropriate amount of skepticism — especially when Söring defames people. The fact that some of these supporters consider Söring a personal friend is irrelevant — whether friend or not, it is wrong for them to distort history and attack the reputations of honest people. In many cases, these friendly cautions worked, and I was able to prevent publication of a story which would have been misleading. I also note that since the Lanz interview (and possibly since the Wright report) came out, not one of Söring’s American friends or supporters has made a single public statement arguing his innocence. In any event, I would have no problem with any of these emails being published openly. I hereby give express consent to Jasom Flom, John Grisham, Richard David Precht, and anyone else I contacted to publish their entire email correspondence with me. Go right ahead!
More than ever, this raises the question of whether and how I should respond to the American blogger’s campaign, which has gotten completely out of hand. I have always been willing to engage with anyone who has a serious interest in the case or my life story.
Söring has refused every media or interview request from journalists who told him in advance that they were going to ask skeptical, informed questions about his innocence claims. He, his lawyers, and his PR team engage in extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations — which I have read — before every media appearance, carefully instructing the obedient journalists what they may and may not publish about Jens Söring. If the journalists do not agree to these restrictions, Söring refuses to be interviewed by them. I consider this possibly unethical from a journalistic standpoint, and have said so (g) in public. Söring breaks off contact with reporters who want to ask him informed, critical questions about his case.
If a young man who has been studying the Haysoms’ murder for years because he enjoys the nitty-gritty research work, asked me, I would of course answer his dozens of questions as thoroughly as I can.
And Söring’s answers would largely be false or misleading. I’d suggest the kid read the trial transcript instead, as I have done.
But unfortunately, the blogger has never confronted me personally, obviously he is only interested in a public, media-friendly confrontation. Besides, he has landed so many low blows in the meantime that I no longer see any basis for a reasonable conversation. Although I will never care when people call me a murderer and a liar, that’s why I made the decision to bite my tongue in the blogger’s case.
I have never confronted Söring personally because there is no need to. Söring has written millions of words about his life and experiences. There is nothing he could say to me privately about his case that he hasn’t already said in print. He is the one who launched a media campaign with lawyers and PR agents. My “campaign”, such as it is, is a part-time hobby. Most of my posts and articles about Söring are in response to his media appearances. Just like this one.
It remains a mystery what drives the man to go after me personally with such relentlessness.
It’s quite simple: I have three personal characteristics nobody else has:
- I’m an experienced criminal-defense lawyer with an intimate understanding of American criminal law.
- I have extensively studied Söring’s case and understand pretty much every single aspect of it.
- I speak fluent German.
Unfortunately, nobody else on earth shares all three characteristics. Also unfortunately, until very recently I was the only German-speaking journalist who had ever critically questioned Söring’s story. I didn’t want to become the point man for fact-checking Söring’s statements and holding the German press accountable, but if I didn’t do it, who else could have or would have?
What I find even more irritating, however, is that he so vehemently defends the corrupt judicial system of the United States. Obviously, the Texan blogger wants to protect his homeland’s reputation, but it is his own countrymen whom he is ultimately stabbing in the back with his controversial writings.
There it is again, the wholesale defamation of the entire criminal justice system of the USA as corrupt. Hardly a surprise; I’ve spoken with a number of convicted killers, and they rarely have good things to say about the people and the system which sent them to prison. In any event, I have repeatedly criticized the American criminal justice system in print, both in academic and journalistic publications. I have been a member of legal teams which have freed prisoners from death row on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct, incompetent defense lawyering, and racial discrimination. Yet the mere fact that the American criminal justice system has flaws — as do the German and French systems, which I have also criticized — doesn’t mean it’s fundamentally unreliable. Just because a disease exists doesn’t mean you have it. I have read the entire transcript of Söring’s trial and all appellate judgments and all of his arguments, and did not see any signs of a miscarriage of justice.
Jason Flom, for example, went to great lengths to help set up the Innocence Project because he could no longer bear the thought of tens of thousands of Americans being imprisoned without guilt and some of them even executed. It’s the same with my attorney Steve Rosenfield, who represents victims of justice and death row inmates pro bono despite a chronic illness that causes him constant excruciating pain. To present my trial, of all things, as a shining example of the superbly functioning U.S. justice system, only causes these two to shake their heads in disbelief.
I publicly support the Innocence Project’s work and am personal friends with several members of it. I have praised Jason Flom and John Grisham for their commitment to fighting miscarriages of justice, while at the same time arguing that in Söring’s case, they were blinded by his personal charm into making an error of judgment. Söring in fact asked the Innocence Project to formally take on his case, but they refused, and properly so. Söring’s case was a distraction from people who have genuine innocence claims. As I wrote in Quillette:
“Soering convinced dozens of well-meaning people to waste thousands of hours in a futile quest to prove his innocence. This effort could have been used to advocate for someone who was genuinely innocent—I would cite the inspiring counter-example of the second season of American Public Radio’s In The Dark podcast, which methodically demolished the case against Mississippi death row inmate Curtis Flowers.”
That’s another reason I patiently refute Söring’s claims — every pixel and minute wasted on his insubstantial innocence claims could have been invested in remedying genuine miscarriages of justice.
That’s pretty much all, folks. Söring’s team has been working hard for almost two years to try to find something to discredit me, and, as the book clearly shows, they came up empty. I am who I say I am, I’m correcting the record for the reasons I say I am, there’s nobody behind me pulling the strings.
And, as the book passage shows, Söring is still unable to point out any significant flaw in my research or reasoning. That’s the key takeaway from the book. Söring cannot engage with the substance of my arguments, because they’re accurate and logical and based on the truth. The truth Söring has yet to come to terms with. I personally hope that changes.