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Jens Soering appeals to documentary makers
December 29, 2006 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Any aspiring filmmakers want to help exonerate a geeky German guy with no legal options left, falsely convicted of murder in Virginia? In 1985, Jens Soering confessed to the murder of the parents of his American girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom. He claims he was madly in love and confessed to protect her. Since 1995, Jens' very detailed description of events and the flaws in the case against him have been posted on the internet along with the former Virginian deputy attorney-general's (now his lawyer) endorsement. Jens' personal site maintains a list of articles and books Jens has written in prison. Elizabeth also has her own column.
posted by zaebiz (28 comments total)

 
only hollywood can save the day here. let's attach ben affleck to it. we'll call it "Jen Soering: Rise of the Silver Surfer".
posted by jcterminal at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2006


Pop Justice: Film at eleven.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2006


I lived in VA while this case was being tried, and according to all testimony and accounts, both Soering and Haysom should be incarcerated for life.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2006


i never pay attention to idiots who confess to crimes and then say they weren't telling the truth about that ... (unless they were tortured and this guy wasn't)

fuck him

(and remember that if he really did protect the real murderer then he's an accessory after the fact and JUST AS GUILTY)
posted by pyramid termite at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2006


Does anyone know if Mel Brooks will be doing a treatment of Saddam's life after the hanging?
posted by b1tr0t at 12:51 PM on December 29, 2006


wow, i hope you ain't gonna be on my parole board PT.
posted by nola at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


infinitewindow: "I lived in VA while this case was being tried, and according to all testimony and accounts, both Soering and Haysom should be incarcerated for life."

The sock print wasn't his size, the details of his confession contradicted the evidence many times, Elizabeth changed her story multiple times to suit new found evidence, Jens kept the tickets for the movie that Elizabeth used as her alibi, a frenzied knife attack seems an inefficient way to commit premeditated murder for a small, intelligent guy like Soeing, the evidence of two since-convicted murderers apprehended in the vicinity was withheld by the prosection, Elizabeth was addicted to drugs. Reading Jens' account was enough to convince the Deputy Attorney General (and me).

Yes he confessed, but did he murder anybody or even know it was going to happen? Or was just he a smartass, 18 year old, son of a diplomat who was stupidly in love with a deeply disturbed woman?
posted by zaebiz at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


i never pay attention to idiots who confess to crimes and then say they weren't telling the truth about that ... (unless they were tortured and this guy wasn't)

So I guess that means you think the ~200 people who voluntarily confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby were all telling the truth?

The fact is, false confessions can and do occur with or without coercion, and is becoming a more widely recognized phenomenon in both psychology and law enforcement. That doesn't necessarily mean Jens Soering confessed falsely, but it does mean that, counterintuitively or not, false confessions are far from the rare, only-under-torture occurence that many people would like to believe.
posted by scody at 1:10 PM on December 29, 2006


No one who speaks German could be an evil man.
posted by fire&wings at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2006


a frenzied knife attack seems an inefficient way to commit premeditated murder for a small, intelligent guy like Soeing

Please explain to the class ... What is an intelligent way to commit premeditated murder?

Intelligent ... premeditated ... the two don't often go together.
posted by frogan at 1:27 PM on December 29, 2006


Would have been intelligent to poison them. Woulda been easy, too, considering how drunk they were when they were brutally murdered. Maybe it's just me, but I associate knife murders with intensely personal hatred boiling over in the heat of the moment, not with premeditated anything.
posted by facetious at 1:30 PM on December 29, 2006


only hollywood can save the day here. let's attach ben affleck to it.

I dunno. I think the part of Jens should go to Moritz Bleibtreu (de) or perhaps Ulrich Matthes, the guy that played Göbbels in "Der Untergang".
posted by chillmost at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2006


zaebiz, Jens may be geeky, but from what I saw of his trial he also impressed me as hedonistic, impulsive, clever and dangerous. I'm sorry I can't cite any specific articles (although his frequent use of drugs with Haysom and post-murder disappearing act have stuck with me over the years).

Being smartass, 18, and stupidly in love with a deeply disturbed woman does not mean Soering's not a murderer. (At least that's what the jury thought.)
posted by infinitewindow at 1:38 PM on December 29, 2006


I associate knife murders with intensely personal hatred boiling over in the heat of the moment

Precisely.

Or was just he a smartass, 18 year old, son of a diplomat who was stupidly in love with a deeply disturbed woman?

Maybe he was that, and it led him to murder. Or to cover up a murder.

Everything, everything flowed from those first few hours Liz and I spent together: our grand, obsessive passion, the murders of her parents

How telling.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2006


dhartung: "Or was just he a smartass, 18 year old, son of a diplomat who was stupidly in love with a deeply disturbed woman?"

Maybe he was that, and it led him to murder. Or to cover up a murder.

Maybe he was (but a thorough reading of the evidence would appear to contradict that). What do the words "beyond reasonable doubt" mean to juries these days? Is it enough to be a smug little smart ass and call the local people "yokels" to sacrifice that standard of guilt?
posted by zaebiz at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2006


a thorough reading of the evidence

The evidence, as presented by the convicted and his defense attorney.
posted by dhartung at 1:50 PM on December 29, 2006


So I guess that means you think the ~200 people who voluntarily confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby were all telling the truth?

no, it means i don't pay any attention to them ... and they're STILL idiots

The fact is, false confessions can and do occur with or without coercion

he also ran ... his girlfriend ran ... they gave a preposterous alibi ... his girlfriend was convicted ... HE was convicted

i consider it far more likely that a murderer is willing to manipulate people for his own ends by changing his story than an innocent person is going to confess to a murder he didn't commit ...

believe it or not, sometimes our legal system actually convicts the right people ... i know that's hard to credit, but it does happen
posted by pyramid termite at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2006


When Haysom returned to the hotel after midnight, according to Soering, she told him she had killed her parents and that the drugs were to blame. Her arms were smeared with what looked like washed-over blood, he said.

"My first reaction was horror and shock and terror and fear," Soering said. "I did not want her to be executed."

"I considered myself guilty because I remained in Washington.and set up an alibi," he added.


from



Trial and Error
By Ian Zack

© The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia - January 21, 1990


which is on his website, although i can't link to the article directly because it was designed so badly

that article clearly has him state that he is an accessory to murder after the fact ... he did everything he could to screw up the case

he made his bed, let him lie in it
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2006


Pyramid termite, if you actually read what I wrote you'll notice that I made a point of saying that I am not asserting that Soering's confession was false; I'm not familiar enough with the case to have an opinion either way. (And I certainly made no such nonsensical claim that the legal system never actually convicts the factually guilty.)

What I am asserting is the broader issue of false confessions in general: they are not made solely by random "idiots" or people under torture, as your first comment implies. There are many complex reasons people confess falsely, and are sometimes even convicted based on those false confessions -- meaning not only that an innocent person is jailed (and sometimes executed) for a crime he or she didn't commit, but that the person who did commit the crime may go unpunished entirely. Problematic, no?
posted by scody at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2006


What I am asserting is the broader issue of false confessions in general: they are not made solely by random "idiots"

obviously your definition of intelligence is a lot more generous than mine
posted by pyramid termite at 2:11 PM on December 29, 2006


Obviously you're not interested in actually reading any of the facts that might contradict your own beliefs, Mr. President PT. (Which certainly raises an interesting definition of intelligence in its own right.)

From the Psychology Today article:
Suspects with low IQs are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of police interrogation: They are less likely to understand the charges against them and the consequences of professing guilt. One of the suspects in the Central Park attack had an IQ of 87; another was aged 16 with a second-grade reading level.

But intelligence is by no means the decisive factor. Suspects with compliant or suggestible personalities and anxiety disorders may be hard-pressed to withstand an interrogation, according to Gisli Gudjonsson, Ph.D., a professor of forensic psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Gudjonsson's suggestibility scale is used by courts around the world to evaluate self-incriminating statements. But he cautions against seeking only personality-driven explanations for confessions: "A drug addict may not be particularly suggestible but may have a strong desire to get back out on the street."

Self-incriminating statements are often the result of a kind of cost-benefit analysis. "False confession is an escape hatch. It becomes rational under the circumstances," says Saul Kassin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Williams College in Massachusetts. The most common explanation given after the fact is that suspects "just wanted to go home."

This often indicates an inability to appreciate the consequences of a confession, a situation that police cultivate by communicating that a confession will be rewarded with lenient sentencing.
Police may also offer mitigating factors—the crime was unintentional; the suspect was provoked.

The circumstances of interrogation are crucial. "Everybody has a breaking point. Nobody confesses falsely in an hour," says Kassin. The suspects in the Central Park case each spent between 14 and 30 hours under interrogation.
posted by scody at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2006


derail ignored
posted by pyramid termite at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2006


Scody, we're not talking about coerced confessions here--we're talking about someone who presented false evidence in an attempt to clear someone whom he believed to be guilty. That's as serious a crime as murder, and appropriately so.

pyrami'd termite conceded your point in his first comment. Nothing more to add.
posted by Epenthesis at 2:50 PM on December 29, 2006


Er, sorry? Something that pretty unequivocally shows how you're wrong is now a derail?

Good lord.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:50 PM on December 29, 2006


Epenthesis: "we're talking about someone who presented false evidence in an attempt to clear someone whom he believed to be guilty. That's as serious a crime as murder, and appropriately so."

Yes it's a serious crime but it's not two life sentences' worth. Barely an adult and his first love turns out to be a deeply disturbed girl who hates her parents. That's a pretty rough roll of the dice.
posted by zaebiz at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2006


Scody, we're not talking about coerced confessions here--we're talking about someone who presented false evidence in an attempt to clear someone whom he believed to be guilty. That's as serious a crime as murder, and appropriately so.
pyrami'd termite conceded your point in his first comment. Nothing more to add.


For the third time, I make NO CLAIM as to whether Soering's confession was false or not, nor that it was coerced, nor whether he is factually guilty or innocent. I don't know enough about the case to have an opinion.

My only argument has been to counter pyramid termite's oversimplistic and demonstrably false assertion that the phenomenon of false confession occurs solely for two reasons: either under actual torture (in which case such incidents are worthy of consideration), or because people are "idiots" (in which case they can safely be ignored).

On the contrary, there are a range of reasons (recognized by law enforcement, forensic investigators, psychologists, etc.) why a range of people make false confessions, whether voluntarily or under coercion, under a range of circumstances. Such false confessions -- including ones from people who were not tortured -- can and do lead to wrongful convictions. (And for the fourth time, in case anyone missed it the first three times: I am not asserting that Soering falls into this category.)

That is my point, and pyramid termite has certainly not conceded it.
posted by scody at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2006


Do people really believe that presenting false evidence or helping cover up a murder is as bad as actually murdering someone?

I mean, seriously, brutally stabbing someone 30 times is supposed to be equal to saying "Nope, she didn't do it" when you know she did?
posted by haveanicesummer at 4:28 PM on December 29, 2006


Yes it's a serious crime but it's not two life sentences' worth. Barely an adult and his first love turns out to be a deeply disturbed girl who hates her parents. That's a pretty rough roll of the dice.

Yes, it would be extremely wrenching to go to the police with your information.
posted by dhartung at 9:18 AM on December 30, 2006


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