I’ll be talking up my true-crime book at the 24th annual Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville March 21-25.
A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?, the book I co-wrote with Jens Soering, will be one of three books featured in a panel discussion, “Criminal Injustice: Bias, Incompetence and Excess,” moderated by novelist John Grisham at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, 233 4th St. NW.
That same evening at 7, the related documentary film Killing for Love will be screened at the Violet Crown theater, just a few blocks away at 200 W. Main St. I’ll be on hand for a Q&A after the movie.
The book and movie tell the tangled story of the notorious Haysom murders near Lynchburg in 1985 and of Jens’ three-decade quest for exoneration and freedom. My co-author, who has been locked up since 1986, has a pardon petition pending with Gov. Ralph Northam.
Jens and his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom were honor students at the University of Virginia when Elizabeth’s parents were slashed and stabbed to death in their Bedford County retirement home. Elizabeth pled guilty as an accessory before the fact, testified against Jens, and was given a 90-year sentence. Jens recanted his initial confession, saying he had falsely taken the blame to save his girlfriend from the electric chair, but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In A Far, Far Better Thing, Jens gives his firsthand account of the saga and I analyze the evidence in the case, much of which emerged after the trial and buttresses his claim of innocence.
Jens and many of the other key players in the case appear on camera in Killing for Love, which is nearing the end of its U.S. run after screenings across Europe and in film festivals around the world.
Joining me for the post-film Q&A at the Violet Crown will be Jens’ attorney Steve Rosenfield and Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding, one of many prominent supporters of his pardon petition.
My fellow panelists at the afternoon session will be Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, co-authors of The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South, and Brandon Garrett, who wrote End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice.
The Festival of the Book, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, will feature more than 300 authors, illustrators and publishing professionals. The five-day program of mostly free events is expected to attract an audience of more than 20,000.