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Former U.Va. student petitions McAuliffe for pardon in 1985 murder case

Jens Soering uses DNA evidence to request absolute pardon

<p>Jens Soering, as pictured in a 1986 article in The Cavalier Daily.&nbsp;</p>

Jens Soering, as pictured in a 1986 article in The Cavalier Daily. 

Jens Soering, a former University student, is petitioning Gov. Terry McAuliffe to grant him an absolute pardon in light of new DNA evidence he says he believes proves his innocence. Soering is currently serving two life sentences for the 1985 murders of his ex-girlfriend’s parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom.

Soering originally confessed to the murders, but later recanted his confession and claimed innocence. According to Soering, his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, who was also a University student, murdered her parents and told him after the fact.

Soering’s conviction resulted from the prosecutor’s argument stating Soering’s Type O blood was found at the crime scene. However, in 2009, then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration created a post-conviction DNA review for those convicted when DNA testing was unavailable and who still had evidence that could be tested.

Soering was eligible for the review.

Soering’s attorney, Steven D. Rosenfield, said the DNA review did not test all of the evidence available due to aging.

“The scientists at the state lab took all of the samples that were still available, there were 43 of them, and determined that only 11 of them were testable,” Rosenfield said. “The rest were too degraded after 31 years.”

Because the DNA reports do not include the blood types, Rosenfield compared the results with the original serology reports used in 1985. When he looked at the blood type for the two most relevant samples, he found that although they had the same blood type as Soering, they did not match his DNA.

Rosenfield said the Type O blood was the only evidence used against Soering in the 1990 trial.

“Now we know that [the blood analysis is] inaccurate scientifically,” Rosenfield said. “We know that Jens is not the contributor of the blood that the prosecutor told the jury was Jens’s.”

Although the test results have been around for several years, this is the first time the 2009 DNA test and the 1985 blood typing test have been compared to each other, forming the basis for the claim in the petition.

This is not the first time Soering has petitioned a governor to grant him a request. His most recent request was for Kaine to send him back to Germany, his native country.

The request was granted by Kaine in 2010 on the condition that he remain in jail for at least two more years while in Germany. However, this decision was reversed by Kaine’s successor, Gov. Bob McDonnell, and McAuliffe also denied his request.

Although Soering’s petitions have repeatedly been denied, Rosenfield believes McAuliffe may grant this request due to the DNA analysis and a German film covering new findings of the case.

He also believes the findings by an expert hired by Soering will influence the governor’s decision.

“We have an internationally renowned specialist in police interrogations and confessions who analyzed all of the relevant data in the Soering case and has concluded that Soering’s confession was unreliable,” Rosenfield said.

Rosenfield said if McAuliffe grants the request, it will be an exoneration for Soering.

“It is a recognition that the person who receives the absolute pardon is not guilty of the offenses for which he was convicted,” Rosenfield said.

Although McAuliffe told NBC 29 News Thursday that he did not agree with Kaine’s reasoning of granting Soering’s request, he said the case would receive a thorough review and a decision that’s in the “best interest of justice.”

“I don't believe we should just send him back for the sake of sending him back, and then he could be released after committing heinous crimes here in Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “But if there's new evidence that comes out that exonerates him, then I'll look at that.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.