California woman’s conviction for murdering her husband overturned after two decades in prison

[ad_1]

Jane Dorotik has spent two decades fighting for her freedom. The California mother and wife was convicted of murdering her husband Bob in 2001, but always maintained her innocence.

From prison, where she was serving a sentence of 25 years to life, Jane spent years filing motions pushing for a new examination of the evidence.

Working with Loyola Project for the Innocent, new testing of evidence was done, including of blood found in the couple’s bedroom. They said it revealed some of the spots were never tested and others were not blood at all.

“If you just look at all of the pieces of evidence that Loyola was able to absolutely take apart, and yet we know what was told to the jury in the original conviction,” Jane Dorotik tells “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty, who has has covered the case for 24 years.

“Jane, how would you describe what the last 22 years have been like for you?” Moriarty asked.

It’s been torturous in many ways,” explained Jane. “I suppose many moments when I thought, “How do I keep going?’

WHO KILLED BOB DOROTIK?

When “48 Hours” first met Jane Dorotik in 2000, the life she had once found so serene in the foothills outside of San Diego — a life she had shared with her husband Bob — had taken an unimaginable turn.

Jane Dorotik: How can this be? How can this happen? Surely I’ll wake up and it’s a dream.

Jane had been become the prime suspect in Bob’s murder. Authorities believed that she viciously attacked him in their home.

Jane Dorotik:  I certainly didn’t do this. I loved my husband.

Jane and Bob Dorotik
Jane and Bob Dorotik

Family photo


Jane, 53 years old at the time, and Bob, 55, shared more than half their lives together.

Jane Dorotik: I was 23 when we were married … Bob was a wonderful, loving, creative person.

Bob spent most of his career as an engineer. Jane worked as a nurse, and later, as an executive in the health care industry. The couple raised three children, Alex, Claire and Nick.

Jane Dorotik: The family has always been incredibly important to both of us.

Also important to Jane, were their horses. While Jane’s passion was breeding and riding, Bob was an avid jogger. And that, says Jane, is the last image she has of her husband.

Jane Dorotik: Bob was sitting, actually, in this chair, facing the TV.

Although Jane was under suspicion, she allowed “48 Hours” into her home.

Jane Dorotik: He said he was going out for a jog, and he was actually — had his jogging suit on, was tying his shoes. … That was the last I talked to him.

It was around 1 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2000, when Jane says Bob left to go for that run. As hours passed without any word from him, Jane says she grew concerned.

Jane Dorotik: It was beginning to get dark … I — decided to go out and look.

Jane says she searched for Bob, driving up and down the hill where he sometimes ran. By 7:45 p.m., Jane’s concern turned to fear.

Jane Dorotik: I said, “Enough. This is enough. Something is wrong.” … And that’s when I made the call to the Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy James Blackmon: My first … thought that night was maybe this man had a heart attack and … fell down the embankment along  Lake Wohlford Road .

As Deputy James Blackmon, and others from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, searched for Bob, concerned friends and family gathered at the Dorotik house.

Claire Dorotik: The minute I saw my mom’s face, I knew right away something terrible had happened.

The Dorotik’s daughter, Claire, 24 at the time, had spent the weekend visiting her aunt and returned home to a distraught Jane.

Claire Dorotik: She was freaked out, she was scared, she was nervous, she was crying.

Jane Dorotik: It was a horrifying feeling that got more and more horrifying when he wasn’t found.

And then, in the predawn hours of Feb. 14, Deputy Blackmon turned into a driveway, several miles from the Dorotik home, and noticed a body off the road.

Bob Dorotik T-shirt evidence
The T-shirt Bob Dorotik was wearing when his body was found on the side of the road several miles from their Valley Center, California, home. He had been bludgeoned in the head and strangled.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department


Deputy Blackmon (2001): At this point, I could see the shirt, the … pants … And he was laying on his back.

From Jane’s description, he immediately knew it was Bob Dorotik.

Det. Rick Empson: I got there a little after seven in the morning.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Detective Rick Empson was called to the scene.

Det. Rick Empson: There was no evidence of any type of vehicle accident.

The evidence Empson did find suggested something else.

Det. Rick Empson: I could see that he had blood on his face … there was blood near the back of his head, and I could see that there was a rope around his neck.

Bob Dorotik had been bludgeoned and strangled. The one-time missing person case had turned into a homicide investigation.

Erin Moriarty: Is there anybody you could think who would want to see your husband dead?

Jane Dorotik: Nobody. Nobody.

As law enforcement asked Jane questions about Bob, she let them into her home.

Jane Dorotik: “Come in. Search. Look for anything.”

Detective Empson noticed a piece of rope hanging from the porch that caught his attention — thinking he had just seen something similar on Bob Dorotik.

Det. Rick Empson: It appeared to be the exact same type of rope that was found around his neck.

And when investigators got to Bob and Jane’s bedroom, they found something more troubling. They believed they were looking at blood spatter.

Det. Rick Empson: There was no question in our mind that this assault occurred in the master bedroom.

They documented their findings in a diagram, taking photos along the way of what they believed to be blood on various items in the bedroom, and of what appeared to be a large blood stain on the underside of the mattress.

Jane Dorotik: I do know when Bob had a nosebleed he made a comment about getting  some blood on the mattress.

Jane says there was a logical explanation for some of the other blood, too — they had dogs who were injured and had bled.

Jane Dorotik: This little dog had an abscess on her cheek that was openly draining at the time and little drops of blood we’d find when she sat on the couch. … The carpet pieces are what the detectives removed, feeling that there was blood on the carpet.

dorotik-bedroom.jpg
Investigators quickly determined Bob Dorotik wasn’t killed where his body was found, because there wasn’t enough blood there. When they searched the Dorotiks’ home, they found spots of blood all over the bedroom.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department


The spots of blood investigators said they found  all over the bedroom surprised Jane.

Erin Moriarty: Do you have any other explanation of how that blood spatter could have gotten there?

Jane Dorotik: Not really.

Erin Moriarty: On the ceiling, on the window, on the walls?

Jane Dorotik: No.

Adding to authorities’ suspicions was the bloody syringe found in the bathroom garbage. Jane told “48 Hours” she used it to medicate her horses.

Jane Dorotik: I know that I give the horses shots all the time … if you go look in my fridge right now, you’ll find horse syringes.

Investigators theorized that Jane hit her husband with an object in the bedroom and strangled him. She then dressed him in his jogging suit, put him in their truck, and dumped him along the side of the road where his body was found.

Erin Moriarty: Why do they believe you killed your husband?

Jane Dorotik: You know, I guess I’ve been through that one a billion times. I don’t know.

But investigators thought they knew, believing the motive was money, and escaping a troubled marriage. Jane was the main breadwinner, and they learned the couple had split up for a year in 1997.

Jane Dorotik:  I don’t make any apologies for the fact that we had rough times. But that doesn’t change the fact that we loved each other.

And that love, says Jane, is why they reconciled. They had been back living together as a couple for a year-and-a-half before Bob was killed.

Jane Dorotik: I really think the separation caused us to really regroup and think about what was important.

Claire Dorotik: They were getting along better than they ever had in the past. I was living there. I can tell you that.

But law enforcement was unmoved, and three days after Bob Dorotik’s body was found, Jane was arrested, and charged with first-degree murder.

Jane Dorotik: I know I didn’t do this. I know there is a killer out there … but how am I going to clear myself?

Kerry Steigerwalt: She’s baffled ’cause I don’t think she knows what happened.

Released on bail, Jane started preparing her defense, hiring attorney Kerry Steigerwalt.

Kerry Steigerwalt: She knows she’s placed as the killer and she’s not the killer.

And at trial, Jane’s attorney would present a surprise suspect, who he felt was responsible for Bob Dorotik’s murder.

THE TRIAL OF JANE DOROTIK

Jane Dorotik: I know that I am innocent, but I don’t have any more faith in the legal system. I believe I could be convicted for something that I didn’t do. And that’s very scary.

While Jane worried about her outcome at trial, Claire Dorotik was much more confident about her mother’s chances.

Claire Dorotik: My mom could not have done this crime. She didn’t have the motive, and she didn’t have the opportunity.

But when the case went to trial in 2001, a year after the murder, prosecutor Bonnie Howard–Regan described the Dorotik’s marriage as seriously troubled and told jurors that Jane didn’t want to pay Bob alimony in a divorce.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Bob Dorotik never went jogging. And he never left that residence alive.

According to the state, Bob had actually been killed Saturday night, nearly a day before Jane reported him missing. The autopsy performed, by Dr. Christopher Swalwell, showed undigested food consistent with what Jane said they had for dinner that night.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Are you able to give us an estimate of how long after Mr. Dorotik ate, how long after that, he — he was killed?

Dr. Christopher Swalwell: Yes. It was very shortly after he ate. …I would say it was probably within a couple of hours.

And he wasn’t killed on the side of the road, the prosecutor said. There wasn’t enough blood there. Instead, she said Bob’s blood was all over the bedroom. Lead detective Rick Empson testified he had asked Jane to explain that.

Det. Rick Empson (in court): She indicated initially that she had a dog that — had been bleeding, and then indicated that approximately a week prior, Bob had a bloody nose over in the corner by the stove, and that Bob had cleaned it up.

There was evidence someone cleaned the bedroom. The carpet next to the potbelly stove and tiled floor was wet and had blood stains underneath.

Erin Moriarty: Did any of the blood from his nosebleed get on the carpet?

Jane Dorotik: Uh huh (affirms).

Erin Moriarty: Do you know where?

Jane Dorotik: Uh huh. Right next to the tile. ‘Cause I — I’m the one that helped him clean it.

Authorities dismissed Jane’s explanations. Their theory was that Jane hit Bob in the head in their bedroom with an object while he was lying in bed, although they never identified or found any weapon. Charles Merritt, a criminalist and bloodstain pattern analyst for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Crime Lab, recounted 20 locations where he saw blood stains.

Charles Merritt (in court): On one of the pillows … on a lamp … this particular nightstand. … on the potbelly stove … on the ceiling itself. … and then on the underside of the mattress.

The jury was also shown this evidence of tire tracks found near Bob’s body. The state’s expert Anthony DeMaria said he matched the three different types of tires on Dorotik’s truck

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Are you saying the measurements taken at the scene were equal to the measurements … taken off the actual vehicle? 

Anthony DeMaria: Yes.

Bob Dorotik evidence: bloody syringe
A bloody syringe found in a garbage can in the Dorotik’s bathroom.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department


The most telling evidence connecting Jane to the murder, according to the prosecutor, was that syringe found in the bathroom. It had traces of a horse tranquilizer inside. And even though there was no evidence that Bob had been injected with anything, it had Bob’s blood and a bloody fingerprint on it.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): The evidence will show that the fingerprint on this syringe was Jane Dorotik’s.

Erin Moriarty: Can you explain that?

Jane Dorotik: I can’t really explain it, other than – I know that I helped Bob clean up a nosebleed. And if that’s the same time when I took the syringes and threw them in the trash … and there was some blood on my hand, that could have — made that happen.

But perhaps the most powerful witnesses were the Dorotiks’ two sons, Nick and Alex. They both testified against their mother.

Bonnie Howard–Regan (in court): Did you say anything specifically about the syringe?

Nick Dorotik: Well, I asked her — how it got there and what it was doing there.

Bonnie Howard-Regan: And what was your mother’s response?

Nick Dorotik: She said that — her biggest fear in all this was that the — that us family members would start questioning her.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): Your mother always settled things logically, tried to?

Alex Dorotik: No.

Kerry Steigerwalt: — you wouldn’t agree with that statement?

Alex Dorotik: Nope. …It would be my mom basically saying, “This is what you have to accept.”  And then my dad would either accept it or there would be threats of divorce or something. That’s what I remember from growing up.

Jane’s attorneys Kerry Steigerwalt and Cole Casey admitted it was a big blow.

Erin Moriarty: Would you say that’s been the most damaging testimony?

Kerry Steigerwalt: Yeah.

Cole Casey: It’s not what they said. It’s the fact that they were there testifying for the prosecution.

When it came time for the defense to present its case, Steigerwalt actually agreed with the prosecution on a major point — that the murder took place in the bedroom. But he had a jaw-dropping alternative suspect: Claire Dorotik.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): Ladies and gentlemen, Claire hated her father.

He claimed Claire, an avid horsewoman, hated her father because he threatened to sell the animals she loved – and suggested that she was capable of murder.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): That’s what Claire is. A hot-tempered, explosive individual.

It was a risky strategy that Jane reluctantly agreed to.

Jane Dorotik: All I can do is trust what Kerry says is the best way to go.

Erin Moriarty: Are you at all concerned that the jury will wonder about a woman who would allow herself to be defended by pointing the finger at her daughter? Could that work against the two of you?

Kerry Steigerwalt: It may. I don’t know. …  I think it is the most viable defense. And I think it’s supported by the best evidence.

Steigerwalt insisted Jane wasn’t physically able to commit the murder, but Claire was.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): She runs marathons. And she’s a personal trainer. She is as fit a woman as you will see at the age of 24.

But remember, Claire and her aunt said they were together, two hours away.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): They called the aunt …That’s the extent of the investigation on the alibi of Claire Dorotik. … That alibi is nonsense.

The jurors never heard from Claire, who took the fifth, or Jane, who chose not to testify. But they did hear from a woman who said she thought she saw Bob the day he disappeared – sitting between two men in a black pickup truck not far from where his body was found.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): Who killed Robert Dorotik? … Was it Claire Dorotik? … Or ladies and gentlemen, was it someone else?

In his closing argument, Steigerwalt accused investigators of dismissing witnesses like that woman and focusing only on Jane.

Kerry Steigerwalt (in court): The prosecution had focused on one person and that’s not the way to conduct an investigation. That’s not the way to run a case.

Bonnie Howard-Regan (in court): Jane Dorotik and Bob Dorotik were the only two people in that home that weekend.

Bonnie Howard-Regan said there is no need to investigate further when you have sufficient evidence.

Bonnie Howard-Regan (in court): They searched that bedroom and they saw all the blood and they knew that was the crime scene … What more investigation do they need to do?

It took the jury four days to return a verdict.

Jane Dorotik
Jane Dorotik reacts as the guilty verdict was read in court.

CBS News


COURT CLERK: We the jury in the above titled cause find the defendant Jane Marguerite Dorotik guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree in violation of penal code …”  

Erin Moriarty: Did Jane Dorotik get a fair trial?

Matthew Troiano: No. No. … Because fairness means that you’re presenting things accurately, and it — it appears like it was not done accurately.

JANE DOROTIK ADVOCATES FOR HER INNOCENCE

Jane Dorotik (jail interview with Erin Moriarty): It almost didn’t register for a minute. It’s like “No, this can’t be.” … I was so certain that I was walking out … I thought they would see the truth.

Jane Dorotik never imagined she’d be found guilty.

Jane Dorotik (jail interview): It’s hard to keep going (crying).

jane Dorotik jail interview
“I just, I can’t see my way clear to a life in prison. I just can’t see it,” Jane Dorotik told “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty in an interview in jail.

CBS News


At the time of her conviction for the murder of her husband, she was 54 years old and sentenced to 25 years-to-life.

Jane Dorotik (jail interview): I mean, I just, I can’t see my way clear to a life in prison. I just can’t see it.

Determined to prove the jury got it wrong, Jane became her own advocate, working on her case for many years. “48 Hours” spoke with Jane again two decades later about her efforts.

Jane Dorotik: All through the prison — my prison journey, I continued to write to … all  innocence projects I could think of, asking for help. … At the same time, realized … that I had to fight for myself.

Jane filed motions from prison citing such issues as insufficient evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Jane Dorotik: I would describe my defense as limited and inadequate.

In her filings, Jane indicated that she wanted to testify at her trial but had left that decision up to her attorney. And that had she testified, she could have explained Bob’s stomach contents — stating that he sometimes ate leftovers from the previous night. She also described her attorney’s alternate suspect theory, pointing to her daughter Claire as the killer, as absurd.

Erin Moriarty:  Do you believe that your daughter Claire had anything to do with the death of her dad?

Jane Dorotik: Absolutely unequivocally not. And my defense attorney, everybody knew she was away for that weekend.

In regard to that defense strategy, Claire, later wrote in a book, “how could I be angry at my mother, when all I did was worry about her.” Jane’s lawyer, whom “48 Hours” interviewed at the time of her trial, did not speak with us again. 

Jane Dorotik: That was the worst strategy of my life ever… I said to my attorney, “If anything happens to Claire, I’m gonna stand up and say I did it.”

In her filings, Jane also questioned why her defense attorney accepted the “bad forensics “pointing to the bedroom as the murder scene, rather than presenting other scenarios as to where and how Bob Dorotik could have been murdered.

Erin Moriarty: Did the defense too easily accept the bedroom as a crime scene?

Matthew Troiano: That is a very legitimate argument.

CBS News consultant Matthew Troiano, a former prosecutor and current defense attorney, was not involved in the Dorotik case, but he reviewed some of the court documents at “48 Hours”‘ request.

Matthew Troiano: The defense made a strategic decision. … Are we going to dispute that a crime happened in this location or … are we essentially gonna concede that it happened there and then come up with a different narrative of how it happened there? And they chose the latter.

And that decision, Troiano says, likely led the defense to point the finger at Claire for the murder.

Matthew Troiano: They had to blame somebody else for something that happened in a specific location. … And they, at least, as it relates to the daughter, you know, went back to her, having some disagreement with her father about something. … And it was – it was a risk.

Erin Moriarty: Have you ever seen that kind of defense?

Matthew Troiano: You don’t — you don’t see it. I mean, it could happen when there are clear facts and evidence to support it, but when there are none … that’s, you know, that’s a showstopper.

And, in fact, Claire was never charged with any wrongdoing in connection to her father’s murder. The defense accepting the bedroom as the murder scene is especially puzzling to Troiano, as there were reports from several eyewitnesses who said they saw a man jogging that day — accounts consistent with Jane’s depiction of events, not the prosecution’s.

Matthew Troiano: That’s critical, critical evidence.

Jane Dorotik: And all of that was really not pursued. … And … I didn’t know of all the witnesses. … Had there been a thorough investigation initially, all of that would have come out.

Through the years, in filings, Jane raised problems with the entire case against her, arguing that authorities focused on her from the very beginning of the investigation and failed to follow other investigative leads. But motion after motion was denied. And regarding Jane’s ineffective counsel claims,  the judge rejected them all, ruling that her attorney’s performance was not deficient, and that his actions had not affected the outcome of the case.

Jane Dorotik: There were many moments where I doubted when is this ever going to turn around. Many, many moments.

Still, Jane didn’t give up. She continued looking for new evidence to clear her, especially as DNA testing became more advanced. In 2012, she filed a petition for DNA testing of that rope found around Bob’s neck, and other items, like Bob’s fingernail clippings, which had been saved, but never tested. And in 2015, the motion was granted.

Erin Moriarty: Is that unusual that she finally even got testing based on her filing motions on her own?

Matthew Troiano: Yes, it’s — it’s very atypical.

It was at this time that Jane finally got the attention of a wrongful conviction group, Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.

Jane Dorotik: I get this wonderful letter from Loyola saying, “You’ve contacted us and we’re interested in your case. … And after that, Loyola took over. Got the testing done.

And what that testing revealed, as well as a fresh examination of other evidence, would change the course of the case.

Matt Troiano: That’s really what flips the script to say that there’s more here. This is more than just an inadequate investigation. There is a different narrative that’s running through these test results. … there is evidence that another person could be involved.

A NEW LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE

Matthew Troiano: When you talk about the evidence in this case … the subsequent testing reveals that you might have a different explanation for things … that really shed light on what may have happened here.

Jane Dorotik spent years behind bars asking for a new examination of the evidence used to convict her of her husband Bob’s murder. Now, working with a team from Loyola Project for the Innocent, the court allowed them to have new DNA testing on items such as the rope found around Bob Dorotik’s neck, his fingernails, and clothing. Appeal filings state that foreign male DNA was found on several items.

Bob Dorotik
Bob Dorotik

Family photo


Jane Dorotik: The results of that — none of my DNA anywhere.

Matthew Troiano: There is physical evidence … from fingernail clippings … from a rope … from his clothing, that is foreign to Jane.

The team from Loyola Project for the Innocent declined to be interviewed. We asked Nathan Lents, a Professor of Biology and Forensic Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who was not involved in the case, to review court documents about new evidence, such as the DNA on the rope.

Nathan Lents: While they didn’t get a profile that would be good enough to search a database or even match to a suspect, they did get enough DNA that is not attributable to Bob or to Jane.

But while Jane and her team believed the results pointed to her innocence, the state came to a different conclusion, stating in filings: “… the DNA obtained was too low level to make any reliable interpretation.”

Lents agrees the DNA levels were low, but he believes it was enough to exclude Jane, and that the absence of Jane’s DNA on the rope, as well as under Bob’s fingernails or on his clothing, is significant.

Nathan Lents: With the theory of crime that they presented, you would expect a lot of Jane’s DNA on Bob … and if — if she had moved his body, there’s a lot of DNA transfer that might have taken place there — that wasn’t found.

The appellate team also reviewed the bedroom blood evidence the prosecutor told the jury was fully tested and was Bob’s.

Prosecutor Bonnie Howard-Regan (in court):  Now, the evidence will show that all this blood that has been described to you, the observations made in this bedroom, that it was all sent out for DNA analysis, and it all came back Bob Dorotik’s blood.

But according to the appeal, not every single spot in the bedroom believed to be blood was tested. Instead, representative samples were tested.

Nathan Lents: There were cases where just simply one swab with a control was taken and it was representative, uh, of a variety of spots. That’s not good practice … it just invites misinterpretation.

Matthew Troiano:  When you’re talking about blood spatter and you’re trying to analyze how it got there … you need to do a fairly comprehensive test to be able to draw the conclusion that you’re drawing.

Erin Moriarty:  But I think the prosecution could argue … You can’t afford to test, can you, every single drop that looks like blood?

Matthew Troiano: Right. … But when you say we did everything … and that’s not accurate, that’s where the problem lies.

In fact, the appellate team says that several blood-like stains on items including a pillow sham, the nightstand, a lampshade, turned out not to be blood.

And there were those stains on the bedspread, which criminalist Charles Merritt pointed to at trial and described as Bob’s  blood. Jane’s lawyers learned those particular spots were never tested at all, and due to improper storage,  the bedspread could not be tested again.

The handling of the evidence, over the course of the entire investigation, was also raised on appeal.

Nathan Lents (looking at photo with Moriarty): This one is hard to even look at. Um, you have an investigator who definitely should know better, um, handling murder evidence with his bare hands. … In addition to obviously depositing his own DNA all around this crime scene, he’s also risking transferring evidence from among the various spots that he’s collecting.

dorotik-syringe-evidence.jpg
The contents of the Dorotik’s bathroom garbage can.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department


And there’s that syringe, with Bob’s blood and Jane’s fingerprint, found in the bathroom garbage — something the appellate team, and Lents, thought could be explained.

Nathan Lents: And if you throw that syringe in the garbage can … Bob throws a — a bloody Kleenex in that garbage can, they could transfer. Transfer of DNA from one object to another in a trash can is not unexpected.

Lents feels the fact that syringe was even found in the garbage, points fingers away from Jane.

Nathan Lents: If you’re cleaning up after a murder, you won’t leave the bloody syringe in the waste bucket — basket.

But the state stood by its original investigation, maintaining the bedroom was the murder scene, stating that the evidence still points to Jane Dorotik as the killer, and that the defense “arguments are largely derived from speculation and misstatements of fact.”

Jane’s appellate team, though, maintains the bedroom did not even look like a crime scene, something Lents also believes.

Nathan Lents: There is not a consistent pattern to the evidence that indicates a violent bludgeoning that took place in that bedroom. … if Bob were alive today and investigators had walked in his room, no one would say, oh, this looks like someone was murdered here.

Jane Dorotik: If you just look at all of the pieces of evidence that Loyola was able to absolutely take apart … and yet we know what was told to the jury in the original conviction …  So — how can that happen?

As her attorneys reviewed evidence, Jane Dorotik, in 2020, was temporarily and conditionally let out of prison due to COVID health concerns. The question now became, was the new evidence her lawyers were finding enough to make her release permanent?

JANE DOROTIK’S FINAL PUSH FOR FREEDOM

In the summer of 2020, Jane Dorotik and her team hoped a court would overturn the jury’s verdict, turning her temporary release from prison into lasting freedom.

Erin Moriarty: What were their major points?

Matthew Troiano: The testing that was done initially was insufficient. The way that that testing was presented to the jury was inaccurate. There were a number of different arguments that they made.

A hearing was scheduled, but then suddenly the state requested an unplanned virtual hearing.

PROSECUTOR KARL HUSOE (remote hearing): The people are willing to concede petitioner’s new evidence claim…

The prosecution admitted what Jane’s lawyers had argued all along.

PROSECUTOR KARL HUSOE (remote hearing): The DNA evidence as it exists now, in 2020, is much different in quality and quantity than presented at trial in 2001. 

That the new DNA test results – as well as issues with how the Sheriff’s Crime Lab handled evidence — cast doubt on the verdict. But what came next was even more unexpected. The state requested that Jane’s murder conviction be overturned … and the judge agreed.

Jane Dorotik: I always believed that at some point … the truth would come out.

But Jane’s ordeal wasn’t over. Three months later, in another shocking move, the DA’s office decided to retry her.

Jane Dorotik: I don’t think any of us thought … that San Diego County would attempt to retry me. But they did.

Matthew Troiano: The state believes that she did this, and they want to pursue it. … Then you have this battle … in court. … If you’re conceding that there were problems … how are you going to do it again, essentially with the same evidence?

Jane Dorotik: It was astounding to sit in that courtroom and see what they try and put forward as actual evidence. And then also thrilling to see my team take it apart.

Dorotik tire tracks
Tire tracks near the site where Bob Dorotik’s body was discovered.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department


Jane’s attorneys questioned the credibility of several of the State’s experts, including Charles Merritt of the Sheriff’s Crime Lab. The judge ultimately ruled that the new trial could go ahead, but that some key evidence presented in her original trial would not be admissible — including those tire tracks near where Bob’s body was found that were linked to Jane’s truck.

Matthew Troiano: You have a number of different trucks that could be consistent with those tire tracks … It’s in essence kind of junk science-y.

In May 2022, just as jury selection was about to begin, the prosecution surprised everyone yet again.

Jane Dorotik: We go into court as the jury is assembled and ready to come into the … courtroom Monday morning. And everything’s changed.

Deputy DA Christopher Campbell (in court): We no longer feel that the evidence is sufficient to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt and convince 12 members of the jury. So we are requesting that the court … dismiss the charges at this time. Thank you.

Judge: Ms. Dorotik, you are free to go. Good luck to you ma’am.

Jane Dorotik
Jane Dorotik address reporters after her conviction was overturned.

Aleida Wahn


JANE DOROTIK (to reporters): It just is overwhelming to realize that now I can determine my own future. It’s something I’ve prayed for and hoped for.

After the hearing, Jane’s attorneys spoke about her decades-long fight.

MICHAEL CAVALUZZI ( to reporters) Jane’s dignity in standing up and stoically fighting for her innocence against every risk and every threat. That’s why this case got dismissed today and … as far as we’re concerned, we’re moving on.

The District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department declined to speak with “48 Hours.” The case against Jane Dorotik was dismissed without prejudice, which means, if new evidence surfaces, charges could be brought again someday.

Erin Moriarty: But then, doesn’t that leave still a shadow over Jane Dorotik?

Matthew Troiano: Oh, sure, it does. I mean, there’s no question about it. … From a practical perspective, do I think it’s over? Yeah, I think it’s over. But from a legal perspective, no.

Jane Dorotik is working to rebuild her life after spending nearly two decades in prison.

Jane Dorotik: My entire family has been blown apart by this hurricane of events. … It’s been heartbreaking on so many levels.

Claire Dorotik did not respond to”48 Hours”‘ request for comment, but Jane says they are still close. Her son Nick died in 2023. Alex Dorotik did not provide a comment to “48 Hours,” but according to filings by the state, he remains convinced his mother killed his father.

Erin Moriarty: Do you have hope that your family will come together at some point?

Jane Dorotik: Of course I do. Of course I have hope.

Jane also has hope that she can make a difference in other people’s lives, as she works with advocacy groups that help incarcerated women.

Jane Dorotik: To me, it’s not just about my story. And yes, we can all sit here and say, “This is so horrendous.” And “How did this happen to this woman?” … But unless we look systemically, how many others are we gonna find? And to me, that’s critically important.

Many unanswered questions about this case remain, including, perhaps, the most important one.

Matthew Troiano: What happened here? … We don’t know what happened to Bob Dorotik. … Where’s justice for Bob? Where’s justice for Robert Dorotik?

Jane Dorotik has filed a civil suit against the County of San Diego. The suit also names several members of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and its Crime Laboratory.


Produced by Ruth Chenetz and Dena Goldstein. Atticus Brady, George Baluzy and Joan Adelman are the editors. Greg Fisher and Cindy Cesare are the development producers. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer. 

[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Comment