Actual Journalism Performed by...YouTuber Leeroy
The first German journalist to ask Jens Söring probing, skeptical questions and check his answers...isn't a conventional journalist.
First, our new regular feature:
Jens Söring DNA Watch
On June 28, 2022, the podcast “Small Town Big Crime” revealed to the world that Jens Söring has been presented with a plan to use cutting-edge DNA analysis methods to test the evidence in his case and, possibly, secure fresh, definitive results. The plan was developed with the help of and/or approved by several members of Team Söring as well as the prosecution. It has now been
days since those episodes were broadcast, and Söring has still neither agreed to the testing nor explained why he refuses.
Söring’s Interview with Leeroy Matata
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming: This video interview.
I posted a link to this video a few days ago but just got a little time to actually watch it. Long story short: This is the most informative interview of Jens Söring we’ve ever seen. The host is Leeroy Matata, a former wheelchair-basketball player and current YouTube star, with a whopping 2 million subscribers. People praise Leeroy for his relaxed, friendly interviewing style and his willingness to tackle tough issues as well as lighter fare.
And as we see in this video, Leeroy and his team also take facts seriously. Matata has obviously familiarized himself with the case (including some of my articles and parts of the Wright report), and asks good questions. The questions are good because, while not aggressive, they generally aim at the weakest parts of Söring’s story: Why did both of you flee the country? Why are you unwilling to just come out and say Elizabeth killed her parents? Why didn’t you just decide to tell the police nothing at all? If you only discussed the crime scene once with Elizabeth, how did you know so many details about the crime? Why didn’t you ask for a lawyer during the London interrogations?
But there’s more — they subtly fact-check his answers! As he’s speaking, small text boxes appear underneath him providing more information, and even sometimes a corrective. For instance, Söring goes on about how he never got a lawyer in London because, as appellate courts ruled, he didn’t ask for a lawyer clearly enough.
But Leeroy’s team provides a fact-check box pointing out that Söring in fact waived his right to talk to a lawyer in writing at 12:50 pm on 5 June 1986, and even shows the picture from the Wright report showing Söring’s signature! When Söring says his confessions were the only real evidence against him, the producers insert a text box pointing out that, actually, there were also his injuries after the crime, the bloody sockprint, the “incredibly damning” (in Söring’s words) passages in the letters and diaries, and Elizabeth Haysom’s testimony:
This is a level of conscientiousness I’ve never seen before from any German journalist (or, for that matter, from 80% of American journos).
Perhaps as a result, the comments to this video are unlike anything ever posted under a Söring appearance. One reason, of course, is that Leeroy has over 2 million subscribers. Lots of people tuned in not because they were interested in or knew anything about Söring’s case, but rather because they wanted to see whom Leeroy would interview next. The viewers, therefore, were mostly totally new the case.
And they weren’t particularly impressed They run about 60-70% towards skepticism of Söring’s story. Commenters call his demeanor slick and unconvincing, pose additional thorny questions which Leeroy could have asked, and point out the inconsistencies and oddities in Söring’s own preferred narrative. Further, many of them point to the German-language Wikipedia entry and, of course, the podcast “The Söring System”. Söring’s Wikipedia entry (g) is now very long and contains extensive discussions of the evidence against Söring and the arguments of skeptics. Judging by the comments on the Leeroy video, most case newbies who read the German Wikipedia entry now come away convinced either that Söring is guilty, or that he has something to hide.
The Big Picture
As someone who’s been frustrated at the one-sided coverage of Söring for some time now, this video is a welcome revelation. It’s not perfect, but it’s light-years better than the norm. Finally, a German journalist (aside from the people who made “The Söring System”) who doesn’t simply accept Söring’s framing. And who bothers to do some independent fact-checking. And who pokes and probes at Söring’s story, pointing out some of its deficiencies. And who provides some independent fact-checking of Söring’s claims. Lots of it, actually.
And all of this from an amateur journalist. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am the last person who would ever say that you should only trust established mainstream news sources. First, there’s an enormous amount of information German journalists just aren’t interested in, and therefore never publish about. And second, mainstream German journalists routinely let their biases distort their coverage. Case-in-point: Jens Söring. For decades, German journalists actively misled their readers, instructing them that serious doubts existed about Jens Söring’s guilt. Leeroy Matata did a better job in this one video than all of those journalists — combined — did in tens of thousands of words in Germany’s leading newspapers.
When your entire profession can be pantsed by a former basketball player turned YouTuber, you have a problem.
Fact-Checking the Interview
Just for the record, I’ll do a bit of extra fact-checking and analysis here. As we know, Söring is constantly updating his story in ways both subtle and overt. When critics demolish one of his claims, he mothballs it and, as often as not, replaces it with a another, subtly different claim which is harder to disprove. And sometimes he invents entirely new arguments or facts which he apparently believes are appropriate for the specific audience he’s speaking to.
Here are a few of the passages which caught my eye:
5:28 Elizabeth was “almost immediately the prime suspect”. Söring claims Elizabeth was almost immediately declared the prime suspect because of her drug past and friction with her parents. This, of course, gives Söring the chance to talk about how Elizabeth was using horrible awful evil
One way in which Söring seems to be stuck in the past is he appears to believe Germany, in 2022, still thinks about occasional recreational drug use the way people did in Virginia in 1985. In the age of legalized marijuana and microdosing, the notion that “drugs” (odd how he never says which ones) can instantly turn the meekest nerdette into a knife-wielding parent-slashing maniac is badly out of date.
In any case, Söring’s claim is wrong. The first two prime suspects were females who had a connection to the Haysoms but were not Elizabeth Haysom. In fact, she was never considered a strong suspect until she fled the country.
7:08 Söring now has a weird new tactic to deal with his main PR problem: i.e., that if he falsely accuses Elizabeth Haysom of murder, he could be hit with a defamation lawsuit in Germany. Now, he coyly says that “one of us committed this crime”, but declines to identify who that is, except when paraphrasing his trial testimony. Leeroy seems somewhat confused by this weird turn of phrase, which is understandable.
11:00 Söring says that he and Elizabeth “never talked about” the crime after the night (and next morning) of 30 March 1985. This has always been a problem for him, since it seems unlikely he could have “learned” so many details from Elizabeth (as he claims) in just one conversation. Nevertheless, he usually sticks to this element of the story — one of the rare cases of Söring being consistent.
13:13: Leeroy asks the obvious question: Why did Söring and Haysom not simply refuse to say anything to the police? Söring just says “we didn’t think that would work”, although he doesn’t explain why. The fact-checkers helpfully inserts a text box telling the viewer, truthfully, that Söring implicated Elizabeth as an accomplice (sentence for this crime: potential life in prison) at the very beginning of his first confession on 5 June 1986 (here’s the passage):
13:45: Söring explains that he asked for a lawyer, but that appeals courts said he didn’t ask for a lawyer clearly enough. The fact-checker inserts a text box showing Söring’s signature on the form in which he confirms his willingness to speak to police without a lawyer present.
16:18: Söring claims that he was only allowed to speak to his lawyer after confessing. According to Söring, his lawyer then told him: “You have just committed suicide. You will be executed.” At this, I practically spat out my chilled alpaca-urine smoothie. I would love to hear from Keith Barker, Söring’s London lawyer, about this alleged conversation. As a lawyer myself, I can say with certainty that no competent lawyer would ever say something like this to a client. Lawyers are supposed to help and support their clients, not insult them and destroy all hope. This would be like an oncologist telling a Stage 1 cancer patient: “You’re a goner, there’s nothing we can do, you’ll be dead in 2 months, book a cruise,” or a schoolteacher telling parents “Your child is a total moron and will end up digging ditches — if they’re lucky.”
But on the off chance Barker did say something like this, then Söring can prove it right now. All Söring need do is sign a short form releasing Keith Barker from client confidentiality. Will he do it? (Spoiler alert: No, he never will, for the same reason he has never requested and will never request DNA testing).
18:12: Söring says he only told his lawyers that his confession was false “in 1989”. I think this may conflict with what he’s said elsewhere, but I can’t confirm that right now. I’m just writing it here to make sure it stays a part of the record.
28:56: In a text box, Terry Wright, myself, and Adrianne Bennett of the Virginia Parole Board get name-checked as people who “still consider Söring guilty”. Thanks, guys!
The rest of the interview contains Söring’s standard claims about the DNA, the blood typing, etc. While Söring delivers his shpiel about Virginia refusing to pardon him because they didn’t want to pay compensation, the producers note that the Virginia Board of Paroles explained why he didn’t get a declaration of innocence: Because he’s guilty.
At the end of the interview, Leeroy says the case is so complex that he’s thinking of interviewing Söring again, and asks viewers to submit questions for a possible Part II. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to participate! I already submitted a link to my article on one question remaining in the case: When will Söring sign off on the carefully-prepared plan for neutral, objective DNA testing?
In my view, this video was the best I’ve seen since Söring’s return to Germany. Matata has a gentle, encouraging interview style, but asked questions which never entered the minds of established German journalists. And either he or his team actually did do some independent research in an attempt to verify — or disprove — Söring’s claims. Finally, some polite pushback.
Based on this interview, I’ve subscribed to Leeroy’s channel!