1 August 1966 |
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Buckingham Correctional Center in Virginia|
|Conviction(s)||First degree murder|
Jens Söring (born August 1, 1966 in Bangkok, Thailand) is a German citizen who in 1990 was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in Virginia, United States. Söring denies having committed the crime and has written a number of books about prison life and religion.
Early life and education
Jens Söring is the son of German diplomat, Klaus Söring. He moved to the United States in 1977 and graduated from The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1984. He then matriculated at the University of Virginia and entered into a relationship with fellow student Elizabeth Haysom.
Crimes, confessions and extradition
Söring and Haysom were arrested on cheque fraud charges in London, England, on April 30, 1986. Under questioning by British, American, West German and Virginia authorities, both confessed to the murders.
Haysom waived extradition. Söring fought extradition (Soering v United Kingdom) and, when the United States agreed not to pursue the death penalty, he was involuntarily extradited to the United States on January 12, 1990.
Trial and conviction
At his Virginia trial, Söring withdrew his confession and explained that Haysom committed the murders and that he confessed in order to prevent Haysom from being sentenced to death and execution in the electric chair. Söring later claimed to have assumed he would be extradited to Germany due to his father's diplomatic immunity and be sentenced according to local juvenile criminal law to a sentence of less than 10 years.
According to the prosecution, Söring committed the murders and Haysom was the instigator. Although there were neither eyewitnesses nor usable DNA or fingerprints of Söring at the scene, the jury found him guilty on grounds of circumstantial evidence and his initial confession. Despite his later retraction of his confession, he mentioned that the killing involved a knife, that the Haysoms were drinking, and other details that were consistent with the facts. Söring was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
In 2009, the 42 pieces of DNA evidence from the crime scene were tested (technology was previously not sufficiently advanced). None of the 42 DNA pieces were from Söring.
Jens Söring has been eligible for parole since 2003. His twelfth parole request was denied earlier this year. 
A petition for an absolute pardon was filed on August 22, 2016, and is currently pending with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Chuck Reid, one of the original investigators of the Haysom murders, has occasionally agreed to be interviewed about the case. It was his participation in the 2016 documentary "The Promise" that led him to take his long-standing doubts about the outcome more seriously. Evidence, which emerged over the years, convinced him of Söring’s innocence.
On May 3, 2017, Albemarle County Sheriff J. E. "Chip" Harding released a 19-page report on a months-long investigation he had conducted on this case. He concluded that Jens Söring is innocent and asked Governor McAuliffe to pardon him.
Life in prison
Söring has published several books and articles while incarcerated. In 2007, his book The Convict Christ was awarded first prize by the Catholic Press Association of North America in the category, "Social Concerns."
- The Way of the Prisoner: Breaking the Chains of Self Through Centering Prayer and Centering Practice. Lantern Books, New York 2003, ISBN 1-59056-055-8. 
- An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay On Prison Reform from an Insider's Perspective. Lantern Books, New York 2004, ISBN 1-59056-076-0. 
- The Convict Christ: What the Gospel Says About Criminal Justice. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y. 2006, ISBN 1-57075-648-1. 
- The Church of the Second Chance: A Faith-Based Approach to Prison Reform. Lantern Books, New York 2008, ISBN 1-59056-112-0. 
- One Day in the Life of 179212: Notes from an American Prison. Lantern Books, New York 2012, ISBN 978-1-59056-345-8. 
- A Far, Far Better Thing, Lantern Books, New York, 2017, written by Jens Söring and Pulitzer Prize nominated Bill Sizemore, with a foreword by actor Martin Sheen, ISBN 978-1-59056-564-3. 
The Promise Documentary
A full-length documentary film about the case, "The Promise" by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger, premiered at the Munich International Film Festival and was released theatrically in October 2016. It had its North American premiere on November 5, 2016 at the Virginia Film Festival. In the U.K., the film was shown in March 2017 on BBC Four as part of the documentary strand Storyville. In The Netherlands, public broadcaster NPO2 showed the film in two parts in its documentary series 2Doc in April 2017.
In March 2017, The Promise won the "Öngören" Award for Democracy and Human Rights at the "Filmfest Türkei Deutschland" in Nuremberg. 
- Keith Humphry (28 February 2011). "Jens Soering: His life behind bars". WDBJ. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "After Conviction In Va., Soering Awaits Sentence". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Donald P. Baker (10 December 1996). "DIPLOMAT'S SON BACK IN COURT". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Former Virginia student extradited on murder charges". UPI. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "No hope for Jens Soering (Part 2)". The Virginian-Pilot. 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Christine M. Johnson (10 January 1990). "Soering to be extradited on murder charges". UPI. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Murder Case Takes on Air of Shakespeare". Associated Press News Archive. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Was Accessory in Murders of Parents, Heiress Admits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "HAYSOM SAYS BOYFRIEND KILLED PARENTS". Washington Post. 14 June 1990. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Girlfriend Describes Plot With Lover To Kill Parents". Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "McDonnell rejects latest appeal from Soering". The Washington Times. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Noreen Turyn (25 June 2014). "Elizabeth Haysom Denied Parole". WSET. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Dirk Beveridge (9 October 1987). "DAUGHTER IS SENTENCED TO 90 YEARS FOR ROLE IN VA. SLAYING OF PARENTS". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Soering's ex says he is guilty; new letter sent to governor". The Daily Progress. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Marc Pitzke, "Deutscher in US-Haft: 'Ich sehne mich nach dem ewigen deutschen Nörgeln'", Spiegel, February 28, 2012 (http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/0,1518,817151,00.html)
- Jens Soering, The Convict Christ: What the Gospel Says About Criminal Justice. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y. 2006, ISBN 1-57075-648-1.
- "Jens Soering". lanternbooks.com. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Peter Wagner. "An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison reform from an Insider’s Perspective, book review". prisonpolicy.org. Retrieved 3 September 2015.