McDonnell won't intervene in Soering parole request
(The News & Advance, Lynchburg, May 24, 2011, Link)
Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday he would not intervene in Bedford County double murderer Jens Soering’s request for parole or any other form of clemency.
Soering’s 1990 convictions are being contested on several fronts, from the courts to the state parole board to the political arena.
“It is imperative that Soering serve out his punishment in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McDonnell said Tuesday in reaffirming his refusal to change Soering’s two life sentences in the stabbing deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom, his girlfriend’s parents.
Soering’s case took on new life in January 2010 when then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, during his final days in office, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to transfer Soering to a prison in his native Germany.
McDonnell, the incoming governor, revoked Kaine’s request the following week, and the Justice Department announced in July that it would not grant the transfer.
But the case did not go away.
After Kaine, a Democrat, announced in April that he would run in 2012 for Sen. Jim Webb’s U.S. Senate seat, Republican Party officials went looking for copies of his correspondence on Soering, who was the son of a German diplomat.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee filed five Freedom of Information Act requests for records related to Soering. The requests went to both federal and state agencies, along with Kaine’s office.
The NRSC has not said whether the requests produced any results.
The Republican Party of Virginia also asked Kaine to release the records, it said on Tuesday.
Kaine has told reporters that he asked for Soering’s transfer to Germany because he had assurances that Soering would be kept in prison there for two years. Kaine said he had no regrets about the request.
Kaine also said Soering’s native country should bear the cost of his incarceration.
Action on the legal front resumed in January when an attorney for Soering filed a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court, contending that McDonnell did not have authority to revoke Kaine’s request. McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell on Tuesday said the governor’s office had not been served a copy of the lawsuit.
Another Soering attorney, Gail Ball, sent McDonnell a letter in February asking him to review the case and consider granting clemency because DNA testing of the 25-year-old evidence failed to link Soering to the crime.
Ball also obtained a deposition from Tony Buchanan, a Madison Heights resident, who said he thought someone else might have been involved in the killings because a woman he believed to be Soering’s codefendant and then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, came into his automotive repair shop with a man other than Soering.
Neither the DNA tests nor the deposition changed McDonnell’s opinion of the case.
“At the request of Soering’s attorney, I have reviewed Soering’s request for parole, and nothing in the information provided by Soering or his attorney provides any basis for me to doubt the judgment of the jury in this case or the veracity of Soering’s own confessions,” McDonnell said in a statement.
“Under Virginia law, the parole board is responsible for determining whether parole should be granted. With this in mind and based on my review, I decline to intervene,” McDonnell said.
“Additionally, to the extent that Soering’s petition is a request for a pardon or any other form of clemency, that request is also denied,” McDonnell said.
“Consistent with my statement last year denying his transfer to Germany, it is imperative that Soering serve out his punishment in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McDonnell concluded.
A Bedford County jury, in a televised trial that attracted international attention, convicted Soering of the 1985 murders of the Haysoms in their Boonsboro-area home.
Elizabeth Haysom, who met Soering when they were honors students at the University of Virginia, had pleaded guilty as an accessory in the murders in 1987 and testified against Soering at his trial. She was the daughter of the victims.
Soering also confessed, but said later that he only did so because he thought he had diplomatic immunity through his father and wanted to save Haysom from the death penalty.
Soering is serving his sentences in Buckingham Correctional Center. Elizabeth Haysom is serving a 90-year sentence.