Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Transfer of Jens Soering

In 1985, a couple was brutally killed in Bedford County, Virginia. In 1990, the former boyfriend of the victims' daughter, a German exchange student named Jens Soering, was charged.

At trial, he revoked his confession and claimed that he had confessed to protect his girlfriend who had committed the murder. There was no DNA, fingerprints, or witnesses connecting him to the scene, and today he maintains his innocence. After a three week trial, a jury convicted him and he was sentenced to two life terms in state prison.

In one of his last acts of office, Former Governor Kaine, approved the transfer of Soering back to Germany. Upon inauguration, Governor McDonnell took steps to revoke this transfer. The U.S. Attorney General is currently evaluating the request. It appears that if Soering were transferred to Germany he would be eligible for parole in two years.

During the session, Delegate Rob Bell circulated a letter indicating support for Governor McDonnell's efforts to revoke the request for transfer to Germany. I signed that letter.

While Presidential and Gubernatorial Pardons are always possible, they do not happen frequently and usually only for good cause. If the American Criminal Justice System is going to operate as it should, punishments rendered by our system must be upheld unless overturned on appeal or new evidence conclusively establishes that a jury's decision was wrong. There is no reason for this person to be spared any clemency at this point in time.

I am still not clear what the rationale was behind approving the transfer to Germany. Governor McDonnell is right to oppose it and to continue to lobby the U.S. Attorney General to stop it.

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