Jens Söring has a brand-new media presence in Germany, assisted by his PR firm. He’s got an Instagram channel, Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. All of them appear to be monitored, either by an intern at the PR firm or by a supporter. Critical comments are quickly deleted; this is a place for true believers, not for informed debate.
So far, Söring has kept mostly to innocuous posts about his life in Germany and some of the things he’s gotten up to. I have no problem with any of that; it’s grand that he’s readjusting to life in freedom. However, he posted something fairly interesting last Saturday: A rant, both in English and German, about the US criminal-justice system.
The occasion was the news that the outgoing Democratic Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam has issued a series of pardons and executive clemency actions during his last days in office, which is standard in the United States. Overall, during his governorship, Northam pardoned about 1,200 people.
Jens Söring was not among them, and he’s hopping mad. Söring begins the video by thanking Northam for his release, but then goes on to complain that he never got a pardon from Northam, despite his (supposed) innocence. Söring then denounces the entire US criminal justice system as “political”. He points to the case of Joe Morrissey, a Virginia State Senator whom Northam pardoned of misdemeanor offenses relating to Morrissey’s affair with a 17-year-old female staffer. Söring claims that the only reason Morrissey got a pardon is because he’s a prominent Democrat with strong ties to the black community.
This immediately raises the question: What did Söring leave out? He always leaves something out. And in this case it’s the fact that Joe Morrissey’s own wife supported Morrissey’s pardon application. You see, Morrissey didn’t just have an affair with his 17-year-old staffer (which is obviously Not Done), he married her, and they have several children together. So although the affair had an improper beginning, Morrissey did the right thing later, and the “victim” of his crime was the prime mover in seeking to clear his record:
The conviction stems from an illicit relationship Morrissey, then 56, had with his then 17-year-old law office intern, Myrna Pride, that began in 2013. After the relationship came to light, Morrissey pleaded guilty to the charge in 2014 and resigned his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
By then, Pride was pregnant with their first child. Two years later they married and now have four children. The now Myrna Morrissey submitted an affidavit in December 2021 supporting her husband’s application for a pardon, along with pictures of him with their smiling children.
“Joe and I entered into a relationship which was entirely consensual and at no time did Joe ever manipulate, coerce or in anyway intimidate me into engaging in a relationship,” she wrote.
The petition argued that Myrna Morrissey was exceptionally mature, the relationship was consensual “and the law and the spirit of the law was not violated.”
That would seem to be a pretty important fact, no? Yet it’s inconsistent with Söring’s spin, so he doesn’t mention it. Bizarrely, he compares his own case with Morrissey’s, even though Söring’s crime — a double murder — is roughly infinitely more serious than Morrissey’s.
Now, was it possible politics also played a role in Morrissey’s pardon? Absolutely! Politics always plays a role in every executive clemency or pardon decision, everywhere in the world, and has done for all of human history. Once a defendant has been fairly convicted on sufficient evidence and sentenced, the defendant has no right to any sort of pardon or executive clemency. The decision to grand a pardon is an “unreviewable act of grace“. It’s intended to serve as a safety valve to remedy injustice in cases where the justice system erred, or when changing social attitudes undermine the reason for designating something (such as homosexuality or cannabis possession) a crime.
None of those considerations apply to Söring. There will never come a time when murder is considered acceptable — or at least we must fervently hope this time never comes. Söring killed the Haysoms, and was fairly convicted for doing so. Not only did he never convince a single judge during his many legal appeals, the Virginia Pardon Board conducted, in its own words, a “years-long exhaustive investigation for a genuine search for the truth” which “revealed that Jens Soering’s claims of innocence are without merit”.
Jens Söring did not get a pardon, and never will get one, for the simplest of reasons: he doesn’t deserve one.