Lead investigator Chuck Reid fights for release of Jens Soering

Former University student petitions McAuliffe for an absolute pardon

nssoeringcourtesywvtf

Former University student Jens Soering.

Courtesy WVTF

Jens Soering, a former University student, is currently serving two life sentences for the 1985 murders of his ex-girlfriend’s parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom. He submitted a petition for an absolute pardon to Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Aug. 23.

Soering originally confessed to the murders, before recanting and claiming his then-girlfriend, University student Elizabeth Haysom, committed the murders.

Soering was convicted based on the prosecution’s argument stating Soering’s Type O blood stain was found at the scene. However, in 2009, former Gov. Tim Kaine allowed a DNA review of cases which were decided before DNA testing of evidence was possible.

This summer, Soering’s attorney Steven D. Rosenfield reviewed the serology report from 1985, which only detailed the blood types found at the scene of the crime. Of 11 items available to be DNA tested, only two were Type O. Neither sample matched Soering’s DNA.

Rosenfield said the new DNA evidence indicates an additional suspect at the scene of the crime.

“This information contradicts what the prosecutor told the jury, which was that Soering’s blood was found at the crime scene, and no one else had Type O blood that was considered,” Rosenfield said. “While that was the science at the time, we now know Soering’s blood was not found at the crime scene.”

Chuck Reid, an investigator on the Haysom homicide case until Oct. 1985, said Soering’s conviction was based on the Type O blood found at the scene of the crime, as well as a bloody footprint of a sock-covered foot, the size of which closely matched Soering’s feet. However, the sock likely swelled larger than the size of the suspect’s foot due to the blood. Reid noted Soering’s bare feet were compared to the bloody footprints.

“All the experts, any expert that looks at that will tell you that that is scientifically unreliable,” Reid said. “The way it was done back then would never been held up in court today.”

Reid also said he believes not all available evidence was presented in Soering’s defense in court. While he was not involved in the investigation of the murders after Oct. 1985, he was subpoenaed to the trial, but never called to testify about the evidence he saw as an investigator.

“A lot of the evidence that supports Jens wasn’t presented in the courtroom,” Reid said. “I was never called to testify. The FBI profile wasn’t brought up in court.”

Brandon L. Garrett, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Law prof., said there are no set rules concerning pardons.

“The governor has discretion whether to grant a pardon or not,” Garrett said in an email statement. “There is a process and it involves internal review by the attorney general and others, but it is not like a motion seeking post-conviction relief from a court where there is a defined legal standard. Instead, it is a discretionary decision.”

Rosenfield also acknowledged the lack of set rules concerning pardons, and said there is no way to know how long the governor’s office will take to consider the petition.

“This governor is very conscientious,” Rosenfield said. “I know from his conditional pardon of Robert Davis. Because he’s conscientious, I think that this may take a while.”

However, Soering is also eligible for parole, and there is a chance he could be granted parole before the governor’s office begins to consider the petition.

“The parole board is separate and apart from the governor,” Rosenfield said. “It’s possible that the parole board could act favorably and the governor won’t need to act.”

While there has not yet been a change in Soering’s petition status, both Rosenfield and Reid remain optimistic of Soering’s chance for release.

“I would hope that people’s reputation and politics don’t get involved in determining the outcome,” Reid said. “The whole thing isn’t about me, or public opinion or politics. This is about fair and equal justice and due process.”

A documentary about Soering’s trial called “The Promise” will premiere Nov. 5 at the Paramount Theater during the Virginia Film Festival. Reid and Rosenfield will both be in attendance for a discussion after the film.

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