Roanoke Times Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: TUESDAY, March 17, 1992 TAG: 9203170160 SECTION: VIRGINIA PAGE: B1 EDITION: METRO SOURCE: MONICA DAVEY STAFF WRITER DATELINE: LENGTH: Medium
"Actually, he seemed to be pretty upbeat," lawyer Rick Neaton said of his client, who had telephoned from Mecklenburg Correctional Center. "Like me, he really didn't expect anything favorable or fair out of the appeals courts in Virginia."
Soering, son of a German diplomat and a former University of Virginia honors student, was sentenced in 1990 to two life terms in prison for the slashing murders of his girlfriend's parents, Nancy and Derek Haysom.
The state Supreme Court Monday turned down Soering's appeal request in a one-paragraph ruling that offered no specific references to the legal issues raised in the request.
Soering's lawyers had argued that the jury in Soering's case should not have heard confessions he made to British investigators and should not have seen evidence related to a bloody sock-print found in the Haysoms' Bedford County home.
Neaton said that he was "extremely disappointed" with the court's decision. "I thought that somebody would have the courtesy to at least grant a hearing on the appeal," Neaton said.
Still, Neaton said, Virginia's appellate courts have a history of leaving alone lower court rulings in first-degree murder cases. "I wasn't expecting any sympathy on the appellate level from the state of Virginia," he said.
Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney James Updike, who prosecuted Soering after a long battle for Soering's extradition from Europe, was out of town and could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Soering and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, fled to Europe after Bedford County authorities began to focus their murder investigation on the pair, who were then sophomores at UVa.
They were arrested near London in 1986 and Elizabeth Haysom Soering returned to the United States in 1987 to plead guilty to her role in the killings. Soering fought extradition and was finally returned to stand trial here in 1990, on the condition that he not face the death penalty.
The Supreme Court's ruling probably marks the last of Soering's requests for state court appeals, but by no means signals an end to his appeals, Neaton indicated.
Soering may now appeal to the U.S. Supreme or to the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Neaton said.
Neaton and co-counsel William Cleaveland have yet to decide what tack to take next, Neaton said. "We haven't had time to decide."
Soering might even request a rehearing with the Virginia Supreme Court if he did so within two weeks, Neaton said.
But such a request would be made solely for technical reasons - so that the case could be taken to a higher court, he said. "We might have to jump through that hoop and waste our time on that," he said.
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Soering is spending his time in Mecklenburg exercising, writing letters and watching television, said Neaton, who talks to Soering by phone twice a month.
"Right now, he's feeling OK," Neaton said. "Other times, he hasn't been."
"He's perplexed," Neaton said. "Here's a guy sentenced to two life terms and he can't even get a hearing on the merits of the case.
"People can have their doubts about whether he did it or didn't do it, but setting that aside, there are questions of law to be decided here."