Allmystery (g) unearthed another gem from 2016, an 18-minute German-language promotional interview with Marcus Vetter, co-director of “Killing for Love”, and the cinematographer on the movie, Georg Zengerling. The interview was conducted by a journalist named Deborah Ravell, as part of the series “Close to the Action”.
This was 2016, before anyone had taken a critical look at Jens Söring’s innocence claims. Which means, as we all know by now, that the directors of “Killing for Love” felt emboldened to say anything — anything — about the case, especially in front of German audiences, who are much less capable of fact-checking their claims than English-speaking audiences are.
This interview was quite the doozy! I counted 16 errors and falsehoods, for a rate of about 1 per minute. Let’s go through them! First the timestamp and statement, then the correction:
1. 0:42 Söring’s father was an “ambassador”.
False. Vetter seems unaware of the distinction between an ambassador and a consul, which is surprising, since it plays a huge role in Söring’s story. There can be only one ambassador to a country, since it’s the top job, and in 1985 that person was Günther van Well. The name for lower diplomatic officials in major cities is consul-general. And Söring’s father wasn’t even a consul, he was merely a functionary in the consulate.
2. 1:02 “Elizabeth killed her parents”
False. Elizabeth Haysom was not convicted of murdering her parents, and there is no evidence she did so. This statement is so clearly slanderous that Jens Söring is not allowed to make it anymore, lest he be sued for defamation.
3. 1:39 Söring thought he had diplomatic immunity.
False. During all of his interrogations in London in 1986, Söring never once suggested that he thought he had diplomatic immunity. In fact, he was explicitly warned by detectives that he would be returned to Virginia and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and stated that he understood and accepted this. Children of diplomats are invariably warned that any immunity they might enjoy will not protect them from prosecution for serious violent crimes. Söring made this claim up years after his confessions.
4. 2:02 Elizabeth Haysom was sentenced to 90 years because “she could not speak completely freely“.
Misleading. Here, Vetter suggests that Haysom was, for some reason, unable to come out and admit she murdered her own parents. This is false — she testified at length about her role in the crime took full responsibility for it. She was convicted as an accessory before the fact, not the killer.
5. 3:12 Both of us consider Jens Söring “very believable”.
Naive. Perhaps they do consider him believable, but that is only because they willfully blinded themselves to all of the inconsistencies and outright lies in his story. Further, it’s precisely their gullibility which has led them to make so many false claims about this case: Half of the tales they spin, whether in this interview or in others, came directly from Söring’s fertile, resentment-fuelled imagination.
6. 3:45 Virginia Governor Tim Kaine granted Söring a “pardon” (Begnadigung).
False. Vetter, remarkably, doesn’t understand the distinction between a pardon (governor officially vacates/extinguishes/cancels your conviction and sentence), clemency (governor reduces your sentence), and prisoner transfer/deportation (you remain a convicted criminal, but the governor sends you back to your home country to serve out the rest of your sentence).
Governor Tim Kaine never even came close to pardoning Söring, and also specifically denied that he had even considered offering Söring clemency (i.e., a sentence reduction). He had only signed an order transferring Söring to Germany to serve out the rest of his sentence.
7. 4:56 There is “no chance” for Söring to be released from this prison.
False. Söring was permitted to file applications for pardon and parole, which he did. One of them was granted in 2019.
8. 6:13 Prisoners convicted of murder in the USA stay in prison for murder forever and have “no second chance”
False. According to this 2016 study by the Office of Justice Statistics, the average prisoner convicted of murder in American state courts serves 13.4 years in prison.
9. 9:03 Judge William Sweeney was “a good friend“ of Nancy Haysom.
False. Nobody has ever alleged Sweeney was a “good friend” of Nancy Haysom. Sweeney was a casual social acquaintance of Risque Benedict, Nancy Haysom’s brother, whom Sweeney had met “four or five times” over a period of 40 years prior to the trial.
10. 9:24 Elizabeth Haysom had a “deal” with the prosecution: She would testify on the witness stand that her mother had never sexually abused her (thus clearing Nancy Haysom’s name, presumably to the relief of Lynchburg high society), and in return would receive a lesser sentence.
WTF? There is not a shred of evidence for this bizarre claim. Vetter has just just made this up — or more likely, Söring spun this ludicrous tale, and Vetter simply endorsed it without a second thought. Remember: Back in 2016, Vetter and Steinberger were willing to say just about anything about this case to anyone who would listen.
11. 9:32 Elizabeth faced the “death penalty”.
False. Haysom was charged with the crime of being an accessory before the fact to capital murder, which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison, not death.
12. 10:33 Söring’s only contact with outside world from prison was letters, „he has nothing else but that“.
False. Söring routinely placed and received phone calls from prison. Like all prisoners, he also had access to books, magazines, television, radio, news sources, and the prison library. Of course, he was also permitted to receive visitors and even to give interviews from prison.
13. 11:49 „Half“ of the German Bundestag supported Söring.
False. Vetter states that “half” the German Bundestag signed a letter of support for Söring, and estimates their number at “150-170”. In 2014, just over 160 Bundestag members signed a letter of support (g) for Söring. In 2014, there were 631 members of the German Bundestag, so about 25% signed the letter.
14. 12:35 Ravell asks Vetter and Steinberger why the justice system won’t look at new evidence in the Söring case.
Misleading. Söring filed numerous appeals of his conviction citing new evidence, and hearings were held to evaluate his claims. The Parole Board spent years in a “painstaking search for the truth” and came to the same conclusion as the courts: Söring’s claims were meritless.
15. 12:37 The primary reason the American criminal justice system won’t let Söring out or look at his claims is “revenge” (Rache).
False. Virginia state and federal courts did examine his new evidence, and simply found it unpersuasive. Virginia released him on parole in 2019.
Here is the official mission statement of the Virginia prison system:
We are in the business of helping people to be better by safely providing effective incarceration, supervision, and evidence-based re-entry services to inmates and supervisees.
A premier correctional organization where all individuals achieve their full potential.
Citizenship. Commitment. Communication. Ethics. Honesty. Learning. Safety. Support.
16. 13:00 convicted murderers will „rot forever“ in Virginia.
False. As noted above, the average convict sentenced for murder in U.S. state courts serves 13.4 years in prison. Virginia has a detailed system for calculating prison sentences depending on the severity of the crime and background of the offender, and all prisoners are eligible to earn sentence reductions for good behavior. Prisoners are eligible to apply for pardons or parole, and, as Söring’s own case proves, some are successful.
It was certainly possible that Söring, unlike the overwhelming majority of murderers in the USA, might have spent his whole life in prison. But that’s because his crime was much more serious than most murders: Acting in cold blood, he attacked two defenseless, unsuspecting people without justification, inflicting horrifying wounds. He has never publicy expressed remorse for his crimes. A crime like that, committed by an unrepentant killer, would attract an extremely harsh sentence in virtually all countries on the globe.
In other parts of the interview, Vetter and Zengerling make it clear that they considered the film a part of Jens Sörings campaign for release from prison, and Vetter considers Söring a close friend (er ist mir ans Herz gewachsen). This is what they say before friendly German-speaking audiences.
Whenever they are accused of lacking objectivity, however, the tell a different story — that is, that the film is merely a balanced and objective look at open questions about the case, and that they personally have no opinion on Soering’s guilt. Like Söring, they tailor their statements about the case carefully based on the type of audience they’re addressing. Here, they were facing a sympathetic German reporter, so they felt free to go hog-wild.
Marcus Vetter should distance himself from his misleading film, apologize to the people he and Karin Steinberger have publicly maligned, and renounce their endorsement of Jens Söring’s innocence claims.