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Kaine further explains Soering transfer effort

(Graham Moomaw, The Daily Progress, April 19, 2011, Link)

On Tuesday, former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine further explained his decision to approve the transfer of convicted double-murder Jens Soering from the Buckingham Correctional Center to a German prison shortly before leaving office in early 2010.

A commitment from the German government, a desire to save taxpayer money and a U.S. policy that encourages international prisoner transfers were the reasons behind the transfer approval, said Kaine, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate.

Soering is serving two life sentences in connection with the 1985 murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom, the parents of Soering’s then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, in their Bedford County home. Soering has said that he confessed to the killings because he thought his father’s status as a German diplomat would protect him and keep his girlfriend out of the electric chair, but he has since maintained his innocence.

Soering and Haysom were honor students at the University of Virginia at the time of the killings.

Kaine said German officials approached him about nine months before the end of his term to request a transfer, but he originally turned them down because he wasn’t convinced that Soering would remain behind bars.

“They then went back and they did something fairly extraordinary in the German system, from what I understand,” Kaine said. “And they were able to get a commitment that if he was transferred that he would be imprisoned for a period of time and wouldn’t even be eligible to come and seek parole or ask for adjustment of his sentence, I believe it was for a period of two years.”

Kaine said he was also struck by the fact that Virginia taxpayers had been footing the bill for Soering for two decades.

“I thought it was time for Germans to take over the cost of his incarceration,” Kaine said.

A lesser factor in the decision, Kaine said, was a U.S. policy of responding to those types of requests in order to get reciprocal treatment.

“It’s been a longstanding policy of the attorney general and the reason is obvious … there are Americans who are imprisoned overseas as well that we’re sometimes trying to get transferred back to the United States,” Kaine said. “It’s never a one-for-one. You don’t do one because you’ll get somebody back. But it does make it easier to approach other nations about getting Americans returned if you have responded favorably to an appropriate request of a foreign government.”

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Bob McDonnell revoked the transfer.