Comparative Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Evidence, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering, True Crime

2016: The Year Team Söring Could — And Did — Say Absolutely Anything

The resourceful Söringologists at Allmystery (thanks again!) dug out this amazing short news feature on the film “Killing for Love.”

The year is 2016. The names “Andrew Hammel” and “Terry Wright” are unknown to Team Söring. The movie Das Versprechen / Killing for Love is on its worldwide tour. Söringmania is at its peak. There are critics of Söring’s innocence claims, but nobody in the mainstream press is paying much attention to them, more’s the pity.

This means that both directors, Karin Steinberger and Markus Vetter, think they can get away with saying anything, anything at all. In this feature, they share their views about Söring, Elizabeth Haysom, and America. Their narrative was eagerly adopted by the narrator, who not only endorses Söring’s story wholesale but also takes a few potshots at the United States.

I have added subtitles to this excerpt, which is about 50% of the original piece:

This remarkable document speaks for itself, but I’d like to add a few remarks.

First, the factual errors.

The German “Bastard”? Markus Vetter says the press were calling Söring “The German Bastard” at the time of his trial. This is wrong on two counts. First, the supposed nickname for Söring was “The German Monster”, not “The German Bastard”. Second, as far as I can tell, no American news outlet has ever referred to Söring this way.

In fact, I can’t find a single news outlet anywhere which has ever referred to Söring as “The German Monster”. Maybe a British tabloid called him this in 1986, but…who cares? It’s not as if the American jury which convicted Söring were avid readers of four-year-old British tabloids. But whining about the label “German Monster/Bastard” is one of the ways Söring likes to tug at his fans’ heartstrings, and Markus Vetter is nothing if not a fan of Jens Söring, a man whose honesty he has repeatedly praised in public.

The President cannot pardon someone for state crimes. Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella, who really should know better, claims that Barack Obama could have pardoned Jens Söring. This false. The President of the United States can only pardon people convicted of federal crimes. Söring was convicted under Virginia state law. How a Washington Post (!) reporter could be ignorant of this distinction is beyond me.

Söring held back from filing an appeal so that his chance at extradition to Germany wouldn’t be affected. The narrator claims that Jens Söring decided to let the deadline for filing a Wiederaufnahmeverfahren (the equivalent to a habeas corpus appeal under American law) lapse so as not to interfere with Governor Tim Kaine’s consideration of his petition to be extradited to Germany to serve out his sentence.

Where to begin with this ridiculous claim? First of all, Jens Söring did file a habeas corpus appeal, in the 1990s. It went all the way up to the Virginia Supreme Court, which denied the appeal in a 1998 opinion you can read here. Söring then took this appeal to the federal courts. The United States Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit denied the appeal in 2000, in an opinion you can read here.

Under Virginia and federal law, you only get one chance to file a habeas corpus appeal. Once you’ve taken it all the way through the state court system then all the way through the federal court system, you don’t get to file another appeal unless you find convincing new evidence. And yet, Söring persisted! He filed yet another appeal, in 2003 or 2004, again claiming the trial judge was biased against him (if I recall correctly), an issue which had already been decided against him in 1991 by the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Federal Court for the Fourth Circuit denied this second habeas corpus appeal in 2004 in a decision you can read here. This time, Söring acted as his own lawyer, presumably because his lawyers had advised him this latest appeal had zero chance of success and didn’t want to be associated with it.

So no, Söring didn’t wait to file his habeas corpus appeal to give the Governor time to consider his extradition application. In fact, he’d already filed two habeas corpus appeals, and both were rejected by unanimous courts. He had no legal right to file another habeas corpus appeal unless he found convincing new evidence of innocence. He had none.

So much for the errors. Now for the arguments.

Markus Vetter suggests that Söring couldn’t get a fair trial because lots of soldiers from Virginia died during World War II. Jens Söring’s paranoid imagination came up with this “argument”, and Team Söring, amazingly, went along with it. “They convicted me because they still hate krauts” was even part of Team Söring’s “The Soering Case Made Simple” handout for a short while, before it was removed because it would obviously offend any reasonable Virginian. Any reasonable human, for that matter.

This is like me claiming I can’t get a fair trial in Düsseldorf because Allied bombers destroyed half the city during World War II. I mean, who thinks like this? The contempt Markus Vetter harbors for Americans is astounding. He seems to genuinely believe Virginians are so prejudiced — and, frankly, stupid — that they would frame a German citizen in 1990 based on resentments stemming from a war which ended 21 years before Jens Söring was even born.

Again, who thinks like this?1

The contempt for the United States implicit in Vetter’s comment becomes explicit in the narration, which denounces the United States as a “bigoted country” — the whole country — whose justice system is only out for revenge. This is naked hatred unworthy of any journalist, or even of any fair-minded person.

Think of this video as alternative history. Had William Holdsworth, myself, and most importantly Terry Wright not taken up our pens, this is what coverage of Jens Söring’s case would still look like in Germany, right now, this very day — a noxious brew of lies, insinuations, factual errors and baseless speculation, with a rancid dollop of anti-American prejudice floating on top like a wayward turd.

As for Karin Steinberger, she has never defended her work on Söring’s case from my critiques, and still refused to defend her work when the German media website Übermedien asked her for a response quite recently. I think we all can see why.

  1. Of course, the answer is Jens Söring. He was offended that cruel, heartless Americans — of all people! — were ruining his life because of a mere double murder, and was grasping for any argument, no matter how weak, to cast doubt on his conviction.

1 thought on “2016: The Year Team Söring Could — And Did — Say Absolutely Anything”

  1. “If I go to Germany and get convicted I will only go away for a few years”

    The film makers appear to be referencing a letter Soring wrote to Elizabeth whilst on remand and I assume it’s genuine.

    They then link to the fake diplomatic immunity because of course he didn’t put that in the letter as he knew it was rubbish.

    But he was hoping to be tried in Germany and get a much lesser sentence than in Virginia.

    So, very misleading.

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