Criminal Injustice?

Mar 21, 2018

Despite mounting evidence of his innocence, the state of Virginia has again refused to parole Jens Soering.  A former honors student at UVA,  Soering was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s parents in 1985.  He has spent more than 30 years behind bars, trying to prove his innocence. 

The Soering case will be considered during a panel discussion hosted by author, attorney and criminal justice advocate John Grisham.
Credit Virginia Festival of the Book

The parole board is charged with freeing people whose release would be compatible with the welfare of society – someone who would live a law-abiding life. Jens Soering has been a model prisoner – written ten books behind bars and organized a meditation group, but the parole board cited the seriousness of his crime in refusing to grant parole.  Soering is frankly baffled, since a growing body of evidence suggests he did not kill Derek and Nancy Haysom.  The state considers it dangerous to allow a reporter to record inside a high-security prison, so we spoke with Soering by phone.

“We’ve had Sheriff Chip Harding, Detective Sgt. Richard Hudson  and the University of Richmond's Institute for Actual Innocence all saying that I didn't commit this crime," Soering explains.  "We’ve also had Dr. Moses Schoenfield of George Washington University and Dr. Thomas McClintock of Liberty University saying that the blood at the crime scene was not left by me but by two other men.”

The parole board has offered no further explanation, but a pardon request remains before Governor Ralph Northam.  After working on the case, Liberty University Professor J. Thomas McClintock is hoping to start an Innocence Project there, and at the Virginia Festival of the Book, a panel called Criminal Injustice – Bias, Incompetence and Excess is expected to discuss Soering’s situation.  Participants include journalist Bill Sizemore who has written extensively about the Soering case and best-selling crime writer John Grisham.  

Here are details for Thursday's panel discussion:

Criminal Injustice: Bias, Incompetence & Excess

Thu. March 22, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PMJefferson School African American Heritage Center233 4th St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22903

Authors Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington (The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist), Brandon L. Garrett (End of Its Rope), and Bill Sizemore (A Far, Far Better Thing) discuss their work, exposing critical fractures in our American criminal justice system. John Grisham moderates.