[Liebe deutsche Leser: deutsche Übersetzung folgt in Kürze!]
I’m introducing a new feature on this blog called Jens Söring: Original Sources. You’ve read my opinions on the case, now it’s time for just the facts, ma’am. I will present complete, unedited portions of important documents in the Söring case which are hard to find online. I’ll present them with a brief introduction, as neutral as possible.
This is the first installment, based on the trial transcript of the case. But first, a brief introduction to American court trial transcripts.
Introduction: What is a trial transcript?
You can skip this if you already know what a trial transcript or record of an American criminal case is.
When a trial takes place in an American courtroom, a court reporter is always present, taking verbatim notes of everything the witness, judge, and lawyers say, exactly as they said it. At the time of Söring’s trial, this was done on a special dictation machine called a “steno machine“. Recording a trial is quite a skill — court reporters spend years learning their trade. They must record what is said completely and objectively, because the trial “record” or “transcript” will be used in all future proceedings in the case. It literally becomes a part of history.
If the defendant is convicted and decides to appeal the case, then the courts hearing the appeals need to know what happened at trial. For this, they will use the trial transcript. Back in 1990, before computers, when Jens Soering was tried, these were printed as paper volumes. The transcript of a full criminal trial can easily stretch over 20 or 30 volumes, enough to fill an entire bookshelf, if not more. The transcript is usually divided by day: Day 1 of the trial will be recorded in Volume 1 of the transcript. A full day of trial will usually result in 200-300 pages. The transcript follows a strict format: Every line is numbered, as is every page. This is so lawyers can quickly locate exactly where a statement was recorded.
In famous criminal cases like Soering v. Commonwealth, many copies of a trial transcript are often made. One will be requested by the defense lawyer. If the defense lawyer is court-appointed, the trial transcript will be prepared for free, or at a reduced charge. The prosecution appellate lawyers who will defend the conviction usually also get a transcript, although sometimes they simply share one with the defense. Sometimes a court will also order a copy of the transcript to keep in its records if it anticipates it will have to resolve many arguments about what happened at trial. The specific rules and practices vary from state to state.
The transcript of an American criminal trial is a public document. That is, if the court orders a transcript prepared, that transcript will eventually be put in the case file. Anyone can visit the courthouse, check it out and read it if they wish. After all, everything in the transcript happened in open court before a gallery of random observers. A court may order some portions of a transcript which discuss sensitive topics “sealed”, so that the public cannot access them. But this is rare unless the case involves issues such as national security, undercover work, or testimony from minors. After a trial is resolved, law schools and research institutions often acquire the transcripts of famous cases and make them available in full, for free, to anyone who wises to view them. Examples here and here.
As I noted above, lawyers and judges can order trial transcripts at a special fixed price, since they need them to do their jobs. However, anyone can order a trial transcript from the court reporter. Although the transcript is a public document, it is also the property of the court reporter who created it. He or she is the one who did all the work, so he or she deserves to be compensated. And the court reporter is free to sell public trial transcripts to anyone who orders them. You can just call up, tell the reporter which trial you’re interested in, and pay the fee, which is usually very hefty (selling transcripts is often a big part of a court reporter’s income). Then the court reporter will arrange for the transcript to be printed out and mailed to you. Of course, this is back in 1990; nowadays, all of this happens electronically.
In a famous, high-profile case like Söring’s, many copies of the trial record are often prepared for news organizations, reporters, curious and well-heeled fans of the case, lawyers, commentators, etc. They are now sitting around in news organization archives, warehouses, peoples’ garages, government offices, etc. Of course I can’t know for sure how many orders for a transcript of Soering v. Commonwealth were placed, only Jacquelyn Keen, the court reporter for Söring’s trial, knows how many copies she created, and she is likely either retired or no longer among us. I found one of these transcripts, and it has proven fascinating.
Jens Söring was extradited to the United States after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1989 that he could only be extradited to face trial in Virginia if Virginia agreed not to seek the death penalty against him. Virginia agreed. After being extradited to Virginia, he was charged with two counts of capital murder. His trial was held in 1990. There were two major preliminary hearings before the trial on the merits (Hauptverfahren). The first was on February 7, 1990. That hearing was on the motion of Söring’s defense lawyers to disqualify Judge William Sweeney on the grounds of bias. Sweeney denied the motion, and his ruling was later upheld on appeal.
In early March 1990 came what is called a “suppression hearing”. This is a hearing held before the trial, without any jury present (a jury has not yet been selected, these hearings happens before the trial, which happened 4 months later) in which a defendant argues that his confessions or should be “suppressed” — that is, not introduced against him later at trial. The legal test for whether a confession can be introduced under American constitutional law is “voluntariness” (Freiwilligkeit). A confession is not voluntary if it was obtained by coercion, extortion, severe manipulation, or other means that suggest the suspect’s will was overborne (to use an earlier definition) and that he did not confess of his own free will.1 On the other hand, if the suspect was not coerced or threatened, is of sound mind, not intoxicated or mentally ill, and confesses of his own free will after receiving appropriate legal warnings, his or her confession is voluntary, and can be used against him at trial.
Soering testified under oath at his suppression hearing. He was the first witness, because only he could explain why his confessions in 1986 were not voluntary. Until that point, Söring had not suggested in public that he had been threatened, beaten, or tricked into confessing. Söring never publicly questioned or renounced his confessions from June 1986 until this hearing, on March 2, 1990.
Söring took the witness stand on March 2, 1990, to argue, for the first time in public, that his confessions were not voluntary. Four months later, in June 1990, he would change his story to say that he had willingly confessed to save his girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom from the electric chair. At this point, however — March 2, 1990 — that story had never been aired in public.
This is his direct examination — that is, testimony in which he’s being asked friendly questions by his own lawyer. It lasts 42 pages in the transcript. Here it is, slightly edited for formatting. I’ve inserted a few footnotes for explanatory purposes. As always, feel free to comment or get in touch by email. I’ll respond as time permits.
BEGIN DIRECT EXAMINATION OF JENS SOERING, 2 MARCH 1990
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE COUNTY OF BEDFORD
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
THE HONORABLE WILLIAM W, SWEENEY. JR., PRESIDING
Bedford County, Virginia March 2, 1990
* * * * *
JANES W. UPDIKE, ESQUIRE
Commonwealth’s Attorney County of Bedford Counsel the Plaintiff
RICHARD A. NEATON, ESQUIRE
Neaton & Fenner, 1 Kennedy Square. Suite 2026 Detroit, Michigan 48226, Out-of-State Counsel for Defendant
WILLIAM H, CLEAVELAND, ESQUIRE
Southwest VA Savings & Loan Bldg.
Roanoke, Virginia Local Counsel for Defendant
(Court convened at 9:30 a.m. and In the presence of the defendant and counsel, the following ensued.)
THE COURT: All right, continuing In the hearing. Mr. Neaton. who is your next witness?
MR. NEATON: Jens Soering.
THE COURT: All right.
The witness, JENS SOERING, having first been duly sworn, testifies as follows:
BY MR. NEATON:
Q Your name is Jens Soering, Is that right?
A Yes, it is.
Q When were you born?
A August 1. 1966.
Q And where were you born?
A Bangkok, Thailand.
Q And how far did you go In school?
A I went to the University of Virginia for a year and a half.
Q I’d like to direct your attention to the date of June 5th of 1986. Do you remember that day?
A Yes, I do.
Q Where were you on that day?
A I began In a remand prison and I was then taken to Richmond Magistrate’s Court and that’s where I met Mr. Barker.
Q Do you remember the remand prison that you were in?
A Yes, sir. The Ashford Remand Center.
Q Do you remember what court you went to that morning?
A Richmond Magistrate’s Court.
Q You met your solicitor at the Richmond Magistrate’s Court that morning?
Q And what Is his name?
A Keith Barker.
Q Was he provided by legal aid in the United Kingdom to represent you at that hearing?
A Yes. He had been representing me for the last month.
Q Were you present In the Magistrate’s courtroom at that hearing?
A Yes, I was.
Q What was the purpose of that hearing, if you recall?
A It was to remand me back into police custody for questioning.
Q Were you in police custody at the Ashford Remand Center?
A No. That was a prison service.
Q Were you told what you were going to be questioned about at the Magistrate’s hearing on the 5th of June?
A Yes, sir. Homicide.
Q And did you object or did your solicitor object on your behalf to the remand petition?
Q Did the Court or the Magistrate order you remanded for interrogation on the homicide?
Q After the Court ordered you remanded, what did you do?
A I was brought back down to the cells and searched by Mr. Beever and Mr. Wright and taken to the polIce station.
Q Did you see Mr. Beever and Mr. Wright in the Magistrate’s courtroom on the 5th of June?
A I don’t recall.
Q In any event, after the Magistrate’s decision you were taken into custody by Mr. Beever and Wright, is that correct?
A Yes, immediately afterward.
Q And after you were taken into their custody, where did you go. If anywhere?
A Well, we went to the Richmond Police Station.
Q And when you arrived at the Richmond Police Station, did you know what time it was?
A Early afternoon, about one o’clock-ish.
Q Did you have any way of telling the time at any time you were In the Richmond Police Station?
A No, I didn’t have a watch and there were no clocks in the cell tract where they kept me.
Q Now, you said you were taken to a cell tract, is that right?
Q Could you describe what that looked like?
A The men’s tract was a floorway with about six single celIs. They were tiled walls, green In color, metal doors, a cot bed and a toilet in each cell. They had a wicket in it, which is a small window in the door of the celIs.
Q And you refer to that window in the cell door as a wicket?
A I think that’s what they’re called, yes.
Q Was that wicket covered with anything?
A No. There was a flap on it, but that was open to the outside.
Q There was no screen?
Q No glass?
Q Was anyone else in your cell with you at that time?
A No. They were all single cells.
Q Were there any windows in the cells?
A Some glass bricks, but they weren’t windows you could open.
Q Where was the cell located within the police station?
A I guess on the ground level.
Q Now, when you got to the cell and you were placed in the cell, did you remain there for some length of time?
A About two hours.
Q Do you have any way of knowing what the exact length of time was that you remained in the cell?
Q What happened that caused you to be taken from the cell?
A The police came and took me upstairs to the interview room.
Q Do you remember the Identity of the police who came and took you to the interview room?
A I believe it was Mr. Beever and a custody sergeant who took me out of the cell. It was Mr. Beever who took me up to the interview room.
Q Do you recall where that interview room was located?
A On the first floor, up the stairway.
Q And when you got to the interview room, was there anyone else In the interview room at that time?
A Yes. The two policemen, other two policemen, Mr. Wright and Mr. Gardner.
Q When you entered the interview room, did any of the policemen say anything to you as you first entered the room?
A No. I started the conversation.
Q What did you say?
A This is the Cagney & Lacey business.2 I said, “I’ve seen Cagney & Lacey, Kojak, Hill Street Blues. I’ve got a right to a lawyer. I’d like my lawyer now, please,” or “I’d like my lawyer.”
Q And did any of the police respond to that?
A Yes. They all sort of got very ruffled and they said, “No, this Is not an interview. This is just preliminary information. It’s not even questioning. It’s just background.”
Q And did they proceed to ask you any questions?
A Well, they asked me questions about, the same questions you asked, date of birth, place of birth, things like that. Just background information.
Q Do you recall which one of the officers was asking you those questions?
A I don’t recall specifically. I mean, all three of them were asking questions.
Q Did anyone read you Miranda3warnings at that time?
A No. I think if anybody was reading Miranda warnings, I was. I was telling them that I wanted a lawyer, you know, that I had a right to a lawyer and I wanted a lawyer.
Q Do you recall if Mr. Gardner read you Miranda warnings?
A No, he did not.
Q Did the police continue to ask you background questions at that point?
Q What were some the questions that they asked you about?
A About voodoo and whether I believed in voodoo. And I explained to them that the first time I had seen this voodoo business come up was in the newspaper earlier that morning, that Mr. Barker had shown me, and that I had no contact whatsoever with voodoo.
Q Do you recall any other background questions that they asked you at that time?
A Well, the business about the voodoo and what I believed in. which was, I guess, Zen Buddhism, if anything, at that point in my life. You know, we discussed the differences between those things. And then they tried to bring the conversation around to, you know, other things and started talking about the relationship between Elizabeth and her parents. And at that point I said, “I don’t want to talk any more. I want my lawyer.”
Q And what happened then?
A Well, the same sort of response, you know, “Well, it’s not necessary, this is just background information.” And, you know, “It’s important you tell the truth and start talking.” Things like that. They did not respond.
Q Did there come a time when that interview ended?
A Yes. This conversation about whether or not I should have a lawyer went on for a long time, back and forth, back and forth, me asking and them refusing. And then the conversation ended and they put me back down in the celIs.
Q Did anyone tell you at that time that you could have a lawyer?
Q Did anyone tell you at that time that you could not have a lawyer?
A That was the impression I got from all three policemen.
Q At that point In time, did any of the three people in the room ask you if they could tape your statement?
A No. It wasn’t even an issue. It was just background questioning, they said.
Q Did you ever state to the police at that time that they couldn’t tape this conversation?
A No. It wasn’t an issue.
Q You got back to the cell. Do you have any idea what time it was when you got back to your cell?
A A couple of hours later. Late afternoon, I suppose.
Q How long did you remain in your cell after that conversation?
A Not long. Perhaps a half an hour.
Q And then what happened?
A I was taken upstairs again, same procedure. Fetched and brought upstairs to the interview room.
Q Who fetched you the second time?
A I believe it was Mr. Beever again with a custody sergeant, Initially, out of the cell tract and then Mr. Beever took me up to the interview room.
Q When you walked into the interview room, was anyone else In the room?
A Just the policemen.
Q The same —
Q — policemen as before? Mr. Gardner, was he there?
A And Mr. Wright and Mr. Beever.
Q What happened when you entered the room this time?
A Really the same thing that happened the first time. I said, “I’d like a lawyer. I don’t want to talk about the case, I want my lawyer.”
Q Did Mr. Gardner say anything to you at that time?
A Well, the three policemen said the same things that they had said the last time around, that it wasn’t really necessary, more background, things of that nature.
Q Did anyone read you Miranda warnings at that —
A No, they didn’t, because I started talking about the lawyer.
Q During that interview, did Mr. Beever put any questions to you about the homicides?
A Not that I recall. We just talked about access to a lawyer.
Q Did you Indicate to them what kind of lawyer you wanted?
A Well, we talked about different kinds of lawyers, but I made very clear that any lawyer representing me would have been fine with me.
Q I’d like to return to the 3:25 interview or the first interview. At any time during that interview, did you talk with your solicitor, Mr. Barker?
A No. I only saw Mr. Barker once that day and that was before I went into the Magistrate’s court, early in the morning for about five minutes. That’s when he told me that I should not speak about the case unless he was there and that he would come.
Q Now, getting back to the second interview at 6:00, did that interview end?
A Yes. That ended fairly quickly.
Q And what happened after that interview ended?
A Well, the told me they would put me back in the cells and get me a lawyer.
Q Who told you that?
A Mr. Gardner said that, “We’re going to stop now and put you in the cells and get you a lawyer.” And the other two policemen agreed. It was completely clear, that’s why I was being put back down.
Q And then you were returned to your cell again?
Q What happened when you got to your cell?
A I laid back on my bunk and waited for my lawyer.
Q And did anybody come to your cell after you laid down in the cell and waited for your lawyer?
A I think I got a meal at some time.
Q And do you recall If you ate the meal?
A No, I don’t. I didn’t eat a lot that weekend.
Q How were you served the meal?
A They just passed it through the wicket, through the little window in the door.
Q Did you have to get up off the cot, go to the wicket, and get the meal?
A Yes, I did.
Q And then you got the meal, set the meal down, and went back to the cot?
Q Did you lay back down?
A Yes, I did.
Q Did anybody else come to your cell while you were there after the second interview?
A Yes, they did. It was a while later.
Q Can you describe how that occurred?
A Well, there is a door which leads to the cell tract from the custody sergeant’s room, the reception room, and I heard that open and close again and I heard steps. It was easy to hear because all of the walls are tiled. And they stopped outside my door, so I turned around and I saw Mr. Beever’s face at the wicket.
Q Did he say anything to you at that time?
A No. he didn’t.
Q Did you do anything after you saw Mr. Beever at your wicket?
A Yes. I got up and walked to the door to talk to him.
Q And when you walked to the door, who was the first person to say anything?
A I was.
Q And what did you say?
A I asked him. “How’s Elizabeth.” I was worried about her.
Q Had you seen Elizabeth all that day?
A I had not seen Elizabeth since about two weeks earlier and we hadn’t been able to write.
Q Did you know where Elizabeth was at that time?
A Well, I assumed she was in the police station, too, but I didn’t know for sure.
Q Any by Elizabeth, you mean Elizabeth Haysom?
Q After you asked Mr. Beever how Elizabeth Haysom was, did he say anything to you?
A Yes, he did.
Q What did he say to you?
A He said, “She’s fine. She’s fine.” He was not looking at me, he was standing sort of at a right angle to the wicket so I saw his right profile. You see what I’m saying? I saw this (indicating).
Q Did Mr. Beever say anything else to you at that time?
A Well, he paused.
Q When he paused, did you say anything to him?
A No. It was not a very long pause.
Q And after he paused, what did he say to you?
A He said, “Very pretty girl, all alone in that cell block. It would be an awful shame if she fell down and hurt herself.” And at that point he turned to me and raised his eyebrows like this, and looked me in the eye like that. He didn’t have glasses on.
Q Did you say anything to him after he said that?
A No. I was just shocked, sort of open-mouthed. It was like a bad movie or TV thing. I just looked at him, shocked.
Q Did he say anything more to you?
A Well, he paused again while he sort of looked me in the eyes like that. Then he said, “I think you should talk to us, lad.”
THE COURT: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.
I think you should talk with us, or she?
THE WITNESS: “I think you should talk to us, lad, and you don’t really need that lawyer, do you?” Then he paused again and he went like this (indicating) to the wicket. “Think about it.” Then he walked away. And I mean. I didn’t say anything. I just sort of stood there open-mouthed.
BY MR. NEATON:
Q And what did he do after that?
A Well, I became very agitated, I guess Is the word, very worried. You know. I loved Elizabeth very much at that point in my life.
Q And what did you do, if anything, after Mr. Beever told you that?
A I did things like pace up and down the cell. I was just very worried. And then very shortly afterwards I rang the bell to get the custody sergeant, because I thought of one of my famous clever ideas.
Q Why did you ring the bell for the custody sergeant?
A Well, when the custody sergeant came, I asked him to give me the telephone call to the German Embassy because I was a foreign national and I should be able to telephone my embassy.
Q Why did you want to telephone the embassy?
A Well, at that point it was early evening and Mr. Barker had — I guess, I didn’t know — but I guessed Mr. Barker had left his office and was either at home or stuck In rush hour traffic, so I couldn’t telephone him. And my idea was I would phone the German Embassy because they were the only other people in London I knew and that they would then try to contact Mr. Barker for me to get him to come to the police station.
Q And were you allowed to call the German Embassy?
Q And did you, in fact, talk to anyone at the German Embassy that night?
A Yes, I did.
Q Who did you talk to?
A Well, the only person who was there was the night watchman or janitor. Usually, at like a consulate or an embassy they’re supposed to have a duty officer there who Is supposed to deal with emergencies, but the only person I talked to was the night watchman.
Q Did he tell you if anyone else was on duty that night at the embassy?
A He just said he couldn’t do anything for me, you know, he was just the night watchman, and I had to call back in the morning.
Q And what happened after that phone call ended?
A Well, the custody sergeant took me back to the cell and locked me back up again.
Q And you’re back in your cell. Did you ever see Mr. Beever, Mr. Wright or Mr. Gardner again that night?
A Yes. Mr. Beever came back very shortly afterwards, about five minutes afterwards, so that would be about ten minutes after he made the threat, all things considered. And he came with the custody sergeant.
Q Did you ask for Mr. Beever to come back to the cell at this time?
A No, I did not.
Q Did you ring the custody sergeant for Mr. Beever to come back to the cell at that time?
A No. The last people I wanted to see were Mr. Beever and the other policemen. I was worried, scared.
Q They came back to the cell. What happened when they came back to the cell?
A Well, Mr. Beever seemed sort of abrupt, unhappy.
Q Why do you say that? Why do you form that conclusion?
A Just even of the sound of him walking down the hallway, very fast. He, you know, pulled me out of the cell.
Q What do you mean he pulled you out of the cell?
A He just — I mean, It wasn’t anything bad. He just took my arm and pulled me out by the arm.
Q What happened then?
A Which, I mean, that’s like the only time anybody did that to me. And he looked angry. And then they took me out of the cell tract to the custody officer’s desk. And that was the first time I was actually at the custody officer’s desk.
Q And when you got to the custody officer’s desk, did anything happen?
Q What happened?
A They told me to sign the custody log.
Q And did you sign the custody log?
A Yes, I did.
Q And after you signed the custody log, what happened?
A They took me up to the interview room.
Q And when you got to the interview room, who was in that room at that time?
A All three policemen. Mr. Gardner, Mr. Wright and Mr. Beever.
Q When you got to the interview room, did Mr. Gardner immediately read you Miranda warnings?
A No, he didn’t.
Q When you got to the interview room, did any one of the three policemen talk to you?
Q Who talked to you first, if you recall?
A I can’t recall who talked to me first, but all three policemen did talk to me during this conversation which was, I mean, it was at least twenty minutes that we talked.
Q What did you talk about?
A Well, they told me again that this wasn’t questioning, this was just introduction, they weren’t questioning me and it was not an interview yet, and that I should tell the truth. And, you know, they told me I had supposedly killed these two people and I should clear my conscious [sic] and tell the truth and I must be feeling guilty and I should tell them about it, and I should just start with, you know, just start with the trip to Lynchburg they said and, you know, talk about It, “You’ve got to talk now.”
Q And this lasted at least twenty minutes?
A Yeah, because I didn’t want to do it.
Q And what did you say to them at that time, if anything?
A I told them I didn’t want to talk to them without a lawyer and I asked for a lawyer.
Q And do you recall what any of the policemen said to you at that time?
A Well, they told me the same things, you know, it was late at night now and they couldn’t get me a lawyer and I didn’t really need a lawyer, this was just background. And then at some stage, after I kept on insisting, Mr. Beever went like this, he raised his eyebrows again, looked me in the eyes, and went like this (indicating).
Q What did you take that to mean?
A Well, he was pointing, as far as I was concerned, he was pointing at Elizabeth in the cell downstairs and, you know, he was trying to remind me, which he did, of the conversation at the wicket and that, you know, if I kept this up, you know, she would fall over and hurt herself.
Q Now after Mr. Beever made that gesture to you — and the record should reflect that the witness pointed with his right index finger In a downward motion, so that the transcript gives an idea of what happened — what happened after Mr. Beever made that gesture to you?
A Well, you know, I just said okay. They then took out the Miranda form and went through the procedure and turned on the tape recorder.
Q Do you have any idea of when the tape recorded was turned on?
A No specific memory, no. I didn’t have a watch, I didn’t have a clock, but I was In the room by that time for at least twenty minutes. I mean, it went back and forth a lot.
Q During that interview, do you recall any breaks being taken?
A Just a couple of short refreshers. I mean, I was getting tired, it had been a very long day.
Q And did you ask to take the breaks?
A Yes, I asked to take the breaks.
Q Did you ask to turn the tape recorder off during the breaks?
A No, I didn’t.
Q Do you have any idea how long each break took?
A Well, they were very short. I mean, the idea was for me to have a break, so we just sat there In silence. I mean, you can’t really sit in silence for more than about five minutes. So both breaks were short.
Q Are you saying that to the best of your memory neither break was over five minutes and that’s your best estimate at this point?
A Yes, that’s for sure. That’s for certain.
Q Do you recall any other stoppages in the taped interview other than the two breaks that are approximately five minutes In length?
A Just when we ran out of tape at the end. But that wasn’t stoppage, it was just running out of tape.
Q And the interview ended at that time?
A We talked some more, but then I was put down in the cells.
Q Okay, you were put down In the cell. Do you have any idea of the time you were returned to your cell?
A It was late at night or It felt like late at night.
Q Did you fall immediately asleep at that time, if you remember?
A I don’t recall, but I really doubt it. I was very worried.
Q Were you ever Informed that Mr. Barker was in the police station at about midnight on June 6th?
A No. No.
Q You never saw Mr. Barker after the third interview?
A I didn’t see Mr. Barker between the morning of June 5th In court and like the next week in the Candlewell Green Police Station where I was in a holding cell because the prisons were overflowed.
Q Now, on June 6th, which would be a Friday, Is that correct?
Q Of ’86?
Q Were you again interviewed by the police?
Q Can you tell Judge Sweeney how that interview came about?
A Well, it was the same procedure. I was taken up to the interview room. I didn’t ring them to fetch me. I was just taken up. And they did what they did before every interview, they sat me down and talked to me, you know, to prepare me for the interview. They told me this wasn’t questioning, this was just introduction, background, it wasn’t questioning.
Q Do you know how long this went on?
A The same as every interview, twenty minutes, approximately. There would be sessions before every interview.
Q Was this session tape recorded?
A No, it wasn’t.
Q Who was present during that session?
A All three policemen.
Q And then you were read Miranda warnings?
Q Was a tape recorder turned on again?
A Yes. It was.
Q Now, I’d like to call your attention to that interview. Do you remember being asked during that interview whether any threats had been made against you?
A Yes, I do.
Q And do you recall if it was Mr. Gardner who put that question to you?
A I believe it was.
Q And do you recall if Mr. Beever said anything after Mr. Gardner asked that question?
A As I recall, I didn’t answer that question and Mr. Beever then said, “Tell us the truth. I think you should be honest about that,” something to that effect. I mean, I haven’t seen the transcript since 1987, so I don’t know.
Q And so what did you say in response to that question?
A Well, I guess I answered very sarcastically, “No, I personally haven’t been threatened.” It was a sarcastic response like that. I used to be a very sarcastic person.
Q And at that point in time, did Mr. Gardner say anything to you after you said that?
A Um —
Q Do you recall?
A I don’t recall specifically.
Q Did you go on to say something else?
A I tried to say something after that and I —
Q What were you trying to say after that?
A I wanted to say,” But Elizabeth was threatened,” but I never got that far.
Q Why did you never get that far?
A I was looking at Mr. Beever, because as I recall Mr. Beever was the last person to say anything to me. And Mr. Beever again did, I mean, this became a sort of signal between us really, he raised his eyebrows and went like that. And the raised eyebrows, you know, I knew what that meant. It didn’t mean anything to the other policemen, but, you know, I knew what he was talking about.
Q And he pointed again with his finger downward?
A Down to the cell where Elizabeth was.
Q And when he did that, what did you say?
A I just said, “Forget it. It’s hopeless anyway,” something like that. Because I knew that, you know, I realized that the sort of official record, anything like that, you know, had to be kept clear If I wanted Elizabeth safe.
Q During that interview, were you asked any about providing blood samples to Mr. Gardner?
A Yes, I was.
Q And when you were asked to provide blood samples to Mr. Gardner, what did you say in response to his request?
A Well, I made another sarcastic comment. I think I said something like, “I’ll give you mine if you give me yours,” something like that.
Q And after you said that to him, did you say anything else to him about the blood samples?
A Well, I said I would give him blood samples if I had a lawyer.
Q And what did he say, If you recall, at that time?
A He said — You know, when I said, “I’ll give you mine If you give me yours,” he said no.
Q Do you recall what he said after you then got a little less sarcastic and a little more serious and said, “I’ll give you blood samples after I consult with a lawyer,” or words to that effect? Do you recall If he said anything to you?
A I think this was a stage where Mr. Beever jumped in and there was another conversation about lawyers and that we couldn’t get one.
Q Now, were you asked specifically by Mr. Beever at that time. If you remember, whether you wanted an American lawyer at that time?
A That’s something Mr. Beever said. I just wanted a lawyer. I mean, that’s what I wanted all along. It’s the first thing I said to the policemen on June 5th.
Q Did you ever get a chance to answer Mr. Beever’s question on the 6th of June?
A No. He went on for a long time, you know, listing all sorts of reasons why it couldn’t be done and just kept talking. But, I mean, you know, I just wanted a lawyer.
Q Did Mr. Beever ever tell you it was fairly Impossible to get an American lawyer In London on the 6th of June?
A Yes, he did.
Q And would you stand by what’s in the tape of that conversation as being an accurate reflection of the conversation between you and Mr. Beever at that time?
Q During that part of the interview, did Mr. Beever ever accuse you of calling him a liar?
A It may have been that interview, yes.
Q At the end of that interview, did Mr. Beever tell you that he would go and get you your solicitor? I’m talking about the June 6th interview.
A Yes. He said the same thing that Mr. Gardner had said at the second interview on Thursday, which was, you know, “We’re going to put you back down in the cells and get you a lawyer.” It was the same thing they said on both occasions.
Q And again, would you stand by what’s on the tape recording of that interview?
G Were you ever again interviewed on June 6th by the police. that Friday?
A Not that I recall.
Q Do you have any idea when the interview on June 6th ended?
A Early afternoon.
Q But again you had no ability to reference time, is that right?
A I had no watch and I don’t think there was a clock in the room that I could see.
Q You only knew If it was day or night?
A Right, and by meal times, approximately.
Q Were you ever aware that Mr. Barker was In the Richmond Police Station at about 4:30 In the afternoon on June 6th?
Q Were you ever given an opportunity to meet with Mr. Barker on June 6th?
Q Were you ever aware of the fact that Mr. Barker was representing Elizabeth Haysom during an interview conducted on the afternoon of June 6th in the Richmond Police Station?
Q On June 7th, Saturday, were you interviewed by the police?
Q Did you request that interview?
A No. I at no time requested to see any policeman, ever. I mean, that started in court, at the Richmond Magistrate’s Court, where my lawyer told them that I didn’t want to talk to them and I never, ever asked anybody.
Q Now, on June 7th of 1986, were you again led to the same interview room?
Q On June 6th let s go back again to June 6th — did Mr. Beever or Mr. Wright ever come to your cell on June 6th?
A Well, throughout that weekend both of the British officers came to my cell repeatedly. I mean, there was a custody sergeant who came at regular Intervals, but they would also come and talk to me at the wicket door.
Q What would you talk about?
A Well, Mr. Beever, for example, would say things like, “Elizabeth’s fine,” which I took to be a reference to our earlier conversation. They just asked me did I want to talk, things like that. They just showed their faces, really. These weren’t conversations, they just came by to remind me they were there. That was my interpretation. I just saw them.
Q Okay. Returning to June 7th then, you are brought from your cell?
Q To the interview room?
A Yes, I was.
Q Not at your request?
Q Were you asked to sign anything, sign the custody record on June 7th?
A I don’t recall. But, I mean, I always signed what they gave me to sign, because that was, as far as I knew, the only way to protect Elizabeth.
Q Now, on June 7th, do you recall a conversation with Mr. Gardner about how a lawyer would be appointed for you under Miranda rights?
Q How did you understand a lawyer would be appointed for you under Miranda rights?
A Well, what I understood what he said was that I could only get a lawyer, an American lawyer, once I was in America. You know, I had to actually be in Virginia to get a lawyer, an American lawyer.
Q Did you take what he said at that time to apply to even a request under the Miranda decision?
A Yes. I had no other way of knowing.
Q Did you understand Mr. Gardner to have been talking about the attorney advisement process here in Bedford County at that time?
A Well, I don’t know what the attorney advisement process Is. What I understood him to say is that I could only have an American lawyer once I was in Virginia.
Q Now. during this interview, did you ask the police officers various questions about what might happen to you?
Q And that interview ended at some point in time?
Q After that interview ended, were you taken back to your cell?
Q And did there ever come a time after you were taken back to your cell that any of the officers came to your cell on Saturday, June 7th?
Q Which officer came to your cell on Saturday, June 7th?
A Well, both officers did. I mean, at separate times.
Q By both officers do you mean both British officers?
A Yes. Mr. Gardner never came to the cell tract.
Q Now, when did Mr. Beever come to your cell after the June 7th interview?
A This is the Saturday interview?
A He came, I think, fairly shortly afterwards and took that piece of paper away.
Q Took a piece of paper away from you?
A Yes. A sketch I had made during the interview.
Q Did Mr. Wright come to you cell that day?
A Yes, he did.
Q Do you recall when It was that Mr. Wright came to your cell?
A I think it was some time afterwards.
Q When Mr. Wright came to your cell, how long did he stay at your cell?
A Well, Mr. Wright was actually locked Into my cell with me. This was nighttime. It was dark outside. I don’t know when the sun set. And he was in my cell for at least an hour.
Q What did you talk about?
A Well, he told me basically the story of his life kind of thing.
Q What did he tell you?
A He told me how he had worked as a bricklayer in Hamburg in Germany and, you know, how he traveled around, different places he visited in Germany. And he told me how he came back to England to join the police force out of idealistic reasons, serving the community, things like that, and about the problems with drugs in young people and things like that. And he told me that just a short time ago he had come back on the service after being off-duty in a hospital because during some sort of arrest somebody had stabbed him in the kidneys repeatedly and we talked about that. And he asked me questions about the drawing.
Q Were you ever given Miranda warnings before that interview?
Q Were you ever given the British caution before that interview?
A No. He tried to make it very friendly.
Q He was the good guy, huh?
A Well, yeah, throughout.
Q Did Mr. Wright ever give you a summary of that interview to sign?
A No. I don’t think I ever got anything, any summary of any interview to sign.
Q Then Mr. Wright left your cell?
Q Did you understand Mr. Wright to be able to speak German?
A Yes, yes. We spoke some German.
Q Was Mr. Wright present in the interview room earlier that day or earlier on whatever day it was that you spoke to the German Embassy from the interview room?
A Yes, he was. I mean, I knew Mr. Wright spoke German from a month earlier when he first arrested me for the fraud, because when he saw my German passport, you know, he said, “I speak German.”
Q Now, on Sunday, June the 8th of ’86, were you interviewed by Mr. Gardner on that day?
A Yes, I was.
Q Did you ask to be interviewed by Mr. Gardner on that day?
Q Prior to the interview, did Mr. Beever or Mr. Wright ever visit you at your cell door?
Q On June 8th?
A Yes, on Sunday. They visited, especially Mr. Beever, every day.
Q Do you recall what, if anything, Mr. Beever said to you at his last cell door visit to you before the June 8th interview?
A The same sort of things he said all along, that I had to talk and that I should tell them what I had done, things like that.
Q And would it be fair to say then that he spent
UPDIKE: I don’t like to object a whole lot on leading, but I haven’t raised any objections. I would ask counsel to restrain a little bit on leading.4
NEATON: I’ll rephrase the question, judge.
BY MR. NEATON:
Q Do you have any Idea of how long Mr. Beever spent at your cell wicket talking to you that afternoon?
A No. It was like always, very short.
Q Does very short to you mean a couple of minutes?
A Five minutes or less.
UPDIKE: Your Honor, I just made an objection
THE COURT: Sustained.
THE WITNESS: Five minutes or less.
NEATON: I’ll rephrase it.
UPDIKE: I don’t think there is any need to now. I’m just asking as to future questions. Your Honor.
BY MR. NEATON:
Q After this through the wicket conversation with Mr. Beever, were you taken again to the interview room?
Q And whom did you see in the interview room at that time?
A Well, I recall all three policemen.
Q At that point in time, did you ever ask the police not to tape record this interview ?
A No, that was their decision.
Q And were you read Miranda warnings at that interview?
A I think so, yes.
Q Did you sign a Miranda form at that interview?
A Yes, I think so. I signed all these forms.
Q Why did you sign all these forms?
A Because I believed that was the only way to keep Elizabeth safe.
Q Now, at this time , were there any conversations between you and the police concerning the subject of how much time they had to talk to you?
A Well, Ricky Gardner said something about this being the last day. But we all realized that the Judge, the Magistrate, had said four days back in Court on Monday and he made some reference about running out of time.
Q Do you recall exactly what he said?
A No, I don’t.
Q After that interview was over, were you taken back to your cell?
Q Did you willingly give that interview on June 8th?
A No. I didn’t give any interview willingly.
NEATON: Thank you. Your witness.
THE COURT: We’ll take a short break at this time. Step down and take a break, Mr. Soering.
END DIRECT EXAMINATION OF JENS SOERING, 2 MARCH 1990
- As Jens Söring has noted in TV appearances, American police are allowed to lie to suspects by suggesting, for instance, that another suspect has confessed, or that the suspect’s fingerprints were found at the crime scene. The Supreme Court has allowed this practice on the grounds that an innocent suspect will recognize the police are lying to him and will protest. Söring has a point here: the Court’s decision ignores reality. Many suspects, especially minors, can be intimidated by police lies into confessing.
Söring was not interrogated in the United States, and was never deceived by the police who questioned him, except as he alleges in this hearing.
- Söring refers here to popular American crime-drama TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Neaton refers here to the warning given to all American criminal suspects before interrogation. It is based on the 1966 U.S. Supreme decision Miranda v. Arizona. The standard version of the Miranda warning reads as follows: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.”
- During friendly direct examination, a lawyer is only supposed to ask open-ended questions to elicit a story, and not suggest answers within the questions.