First, an update. As many of you will know, the new podcast Das System Söring (The Söring System) drops in under a week. I am quite excited about it. For years now I have been basically a one-man German Press Ethics Council, since I seemed to be one of the few people in the German media who actually cared whether Söring was telling the truth or not.
Well, those days are over. Other people with deep insights into the case and into Jens Söring’s media strategy are coming forward. Keep an eye on the German media-criticism website Übermedien, which will have some eye-opening reporting on how German journalists have handled Jens Söring’s claims. It’s going to be uncomfortable reading for some people who should have taken their journalistic duties more seriously.
More recently, I noted with extreme disappointment that the German-American Institute of Heidelberg, Germany, decided to give Jens Söring a platform to dispute his guilt and recycle his bogus innocence claims:
Amusingly enough, the announcement by the GAI points people to the film about Jens Söring on the German newsmagazine “Galileo” — which was scrubbed from the Internet after complaints about its deceitful and defamatory content.
The announcement simply swallows Söring’s “I confessed to protect Elizabeth” narrative whole. The speech wasn’t recorded by the Institute, but perhaps someone in the audience recorded it? If so, I would appreciate it if you could get in touch with me. I have received many important tips from readers, for which I am thankful.
In any event, Söring himself posted a short excerpt of his speech on Instagram here, in which he predictably says that he “caused so much suffering” by “lying to the police” in 1986:
View this post on Instagram
When I saw this announcement, it took me a while to pry my jaw up off the floor. An institution devoted to deepening transatlantic cultural ties and dialogue invites a man who murdered two people in the United States to lie about his case and about the American criminal justice system? Who’s next on the guest list, O.J. Simpson?
I could have understood this level of ignorance and bias back in 2019, when there wasn’t very much accurate online information about Jens Söring and his innocence claims (except, of course, for Jens Soering Guilty as Charged). But this is 2022: A 5-second Google search delivers a mass of information showing that Jens Söring is guilty and cannot be trusted to fairly describe his case. Whoever invited him deserves a reprimand.
Fortunately, I have some extra time right now, so I was able to fire off a “sternly-worded letter” to the top staff at the GAI. It is far too late in the game for any German institution or media outlet to give Jens Söring a stage to broadcast his one-sided and deceitful arguments without any critical questioning or objective moderation. Yet that is exactly what the GAI did. I find that little short of outrageous.
Here is the letter I sent off, with slight editing:
“Dear Mr. Kollhöfer, Dear Ms. Stolz (and others),
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Andrew Hammel. I live in Düsseldorf, Germany. I am a licensed attorney in the State of Texas, a former public defender, a former full-time law professor and current occasional adjunct professor. I have published extensively both in scholarly and popular publications about criminal-justice policy and comparative constitutional law. I am fully fluent in German and am a sworn translator certified by the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf. I am also an expert on the case of Jens Söring. I have chosen to write in English because I assume the staff of the Institute must all be bilingual, given its mission. Feel free to respond in German if you like.
I note with alarm and dismay that you invited Jens Söring to give a speech at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut in Heidelberg. Before I go further, I note with interest that in the Instagram announcement from the DAI itself, you advertise the feature about Jens Söring on “Galileo.tv”, the ProSieben program. After numerous complaints to ProSieben (by myself and others) and the Bavarian media regulation agency concerning the lies and defamatory comments in that feature, it was removed entirely from the Internet, not only on Galileo’s own archive but also Youtube.
Go check and see, your Instagram post points to a dead link.
That might give you an idea of what you’re about to read.
Although the DAI event appears to be invite-only, Mr. Söring posted an excerpt of his speech on his Instagram account. True to form, this excerpt contains at least one proven lie; namely that Jens Söring falsely confessed to the murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom. This is untrue. Söring confessed extensively to personally stabbing Derek and Nancy Haysom to death, and his confessions include guilty criminal knowledge which only the person who committed the crimes could have known. This knowledge could not have been obtained through the press or from Elizabeth Haysom.
Jens Söring was convicted upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1990. The evidence against him included (1) his four confessions, to London detectives, to two British psychiatrists, and to Dr. Bernd König, the public prosecutor of Bonn, Germany – all of which were lawfully obtained and corroborated; (2) the testimony of Elizabeth Haysom; (3) the presence of Type 0 bloodstains in he places where Söring’s confessions said they would be; (4) the guilty statements in Sörings letters and travel diary, which even Söring himself, in his interrogation on of July 7, 1986, described as “incredibly damning”; (4) a bloody sockprint consistent with Söring’s foot; and (5) Söring’s suspicious post-crime behavior, in which he wiped his fingerprints from his apartment and car and fled the USA, sacrificing a full scholarship to the University of Virginia, rather than give the police fingerprints and blood samples.
This is only a brief overview of the evidence against Söring, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit described as: “overwhelming evidence that he personally killed the Haysoms.” Söring filed appeals of his conviction before the Virginia Court of Appeals, the Virginia Supreme Court, the Federal District Court, the Federal Court of Appeals, and even the United States Supreme Court. All were denied unanimously by every single judge, without one dissenting vote. When Söring was released on parole in November 2019, the Virginia Parole Board stated that it had engaged in a “years-long” search for the truth, and come to the conclusion that Söring’s innocence claims were groundless.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Jens Söring personally stabbed Derek and Nancy Haysom to death, inflicting dozens of stab wounds, nearly decapitating both victims, and tearing off a portion of Derek Haysom’s face, as postmortem photos reveal. Incidentally, Söring is also a convicted fraudster and has committed perjury before American courts on two occasions.
Is this the sort of speaker you regularly invite to the Institute?
Söring is now touring Germany, reciting half-truths, falsehoods, and fake news in order to try to rewrite history. His media campaign is financed by wealthy supporters and a six-figure deal to sell his story to Netflix. To assist him, he has hired the German media lawyer Stephan Grulert and a dedicated team of public-relations professionals. Doubtless you or your representatives were contacted by some of these people and provided with a dossier of one-sided information called the “Press Pack” (which I have read).
What you failed to do was to verify whether that information was accurate and balanced. It is not; it selectively plucks facts and quotations out of context to generate doubt where there is none.
If you had made the decision to assist Soering’s public-relations campaign in 2019, I would have some understanding for your mistake, since there was little information publicly available to show the falsehood of Jens Söring’s assertions. Yet this is early 2022, and there is a mass of information publicly available in a 5-second Google search to reveal Söring’s claims as fraudulent and defamatory. I have written about the case in German for the FAZ, the Berliner Zeitung, and Übermedien. I have written about it in English for Quillette. More importantly, former Scotland Yard detective Terry Wright, who helped take Söring’s confessions in 1986, has released a 454-page report extensively analyzing all of Söring’s innocence claims and finding them wanting. This report is available not only in English but also in an unofficial German translation.
I am currently trying to obtain a full recording of the event with Söring at the DAI. However, since I follow Söring’s statements about his case closely, I know his standard litany of complaints about his conviction. The speech will doubtless contain other false and defamatory allegations, such as:
- Virginia denied him a pardon based on full innocence only because it wanted to save money and avoid political embarrassment (false, Virginia has pardoned and compensated dozens of unjustly-convicted persons)
- Elizabeth Haysom killed her own parents and confessed this crime to Jens Söring. This claim is so obviously defamatory that Elizabeth Haysom’s German lawyer has complained about it repeatedly, to the extent that Söring no longer falsely accuses her in public. However, I suspect that in a more private setting, he might feel free to make this accusation.
- The prosecution in his case made a “deal” with Elizabeth for her testimony and that it suppressed evidence favorable to him. These allegations are proven lies. The man who prosecuted Jens Söring in 1990, James Updike, is now The Honorable James Updike, Bedford County Circuit Judge. One of the reasons Galileo withdrew the feature about Söring is that I promised to provide certified English translations of these grossly libellous comments to Judge Updike to permit him to take legal action. Once I obtain a recording of the DAI event, I will do the same thing, if Söring slandered (now-) Judge Updike during his talk, as I suspect he did. Obviously, under the German law of the right of personality, there is little difference between repeating a false, defamatory accusation on a television show or to an audience.
- Söring was convicted solely based on the “junk science” of the “bloody sockprint” in his case. This is a lie, as I have pointed out above.
These are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. If I am able to obtain a recording of the entire event, I will surely discover more ways in which Söring deceived your audience.
Söring’s allegations are a crude group-insult of both the English and American criminal-justice systems. Söring was given a full and fair opportunity to make his defense, with two experienced and committed private lawyers at his side. He was convicted because the overwhelming evidence showed he murdered two defenseless, wholly innocent people. His trial was reviewed by dozens of judges, who held hearings to give him a chance to prove his claims. He was treated with eminent fairness by the Virginia and US federal courts.
To give Söring an opportunity to complain about his conviction without any sort of balance or neutrality or objective evaluation is a gross insult to the people who worked to bring this guilty killer to justice. It is also an insult to the memory of the only victims in this case, Derek and Nancy Haysom and their family members. The surviving relatives of Derek and Nancy Haysom have been forced by Jens Söring’s media campaign to relive the terrible events of March 30, 1985, over and over. They will doubtless have seen this announcement and been deeply hurt.
You will notice that I confine my complaints solely to comments Söring has made about his case. I have no objection to Söring describing his life in prison or his new beginning in Germany. In fact, I have publicly declared that I support his release, since I view 33 years in prison as a suitable punishment for his crime. My objection is to Söring’s false and defamatory statements about his case. Söring is an inveterate liar, and must never be permitted to discuss his case without a contrary viewpoint based on the actual documents and evidence which prove his guilt. Yet this is what you did. That is a disservice to your audience, and to the truth.
I hereby request that the DAI perform the following actions:
(1) provide me with a full recording of the speech so that I can provide critical corrective commentary;
(2) remove all promotional material for the speech from all websites;
(3) Publish a statement in which the DAI acknowledges that it was an error to invite Mr. Soering without a neutral moderator or opposing view; and
(4) Invite me to give an address at the DAI about Söring’s allegations and about the American criminal justice system in general. I have spoken on these issues before dozens of groups in Germany and my speeches have generally been extremely well-received. Incidentally, I have critiqued the American criminal justice system in public many times; I am not a cheerleader or a propagandist. But some attacks are justified, and some are not. Söring’s are not.
If prompt corrective action is not taken, I will take the following steps:
(1) I will publish this letter in its entirety on my blog about the Söring case, which is read by thousands of people every day. I may also address this issue for a prominent German news outlet.
(2) I will print a version of this letter out and send it to the American Embassy in Berlin and the US Consulate in Frankfurt. I note that the American Embassy is one of the sponsors/partners of the DAI Heidelberg. I believe the Embassy may wish to rethink its cooperation with an association which sponsors convicted murderers who spread lies and disinformation about the American criminal justice system, without any balance or objectivity.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I possess a large archive of material about the case (including the full verbatim trial transcripts of both Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Söring), and will be happy to furnish documents and evidence supporting the claims I have made in this email.
I expect a prompt and satisfactory response from the DAI. In the meantime, I can recommend to you the upcoming podcast called “Das System Söring”. It describes in detail how Söring and his expensive lawyers and consultants mislead and manipulate the public. This group of victims, unfortunately, now includes the Deutsch-amerikanisches Institut.