In 2001, Jane Dorotik was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of her husband. She always maintained she was wrongly convicted. Decades later, new defense lawyers successfully challenged the state's case, discrediting some of the evidence that had been used to convict her. On May 16, 2022, prosecutors abruptly dropped the charges against the now 75-year-old mother of three.
Outside of the courtroom, Jane Dorotik told CBS 8 San Diego, "This has been a torturous journey for 22 years and it's finally over. And that's a huge relief."
Jane's nightmare began on February 13, 2000, when her husband, Bob, went out for a run near the family's horse ranch in San Diego County and never returned. The next morning Bob's body was found in a wooded area several miles away. He had been bludgeoned and strangled. Three days later, police stunned the grieving family when they arrested Jane, and charged her with his brutal murder. "I was like, 'What?' ... And I just couldn't believe this would happen."
"48 Hours" began following this case shortly after Jane Dorotik was released on bail back in 2000. As Jane told "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty, "I know in my heart that I'm innocent ... and everybody that knows me knows I'm innocent."
Jane was a successful health care executive who loved horses. Bob was an engineer with a passion for hiking and jogging. Over the years the Dorotiks' relationship had weathered some rough patches, but Jane said at the time of the murder their marriage was "better than ever." It wasn't what investigators believed. They said the Dorotiks' marriage was in trouble again, providing a possible motive for murder: money. If the couple divorced, Jane would have had to give Bob part of her income.
The prosecution called it "a calculated, premeditated, deliberate murder." They believed Jane killed Bob in the couple's bedroom and then moved him to the wooded area where his body was discovered. At trial prosecutors told jurors about tire impressions found near Bob's body that were said to match Jane's truck; a piece of rope hanging on the porch that appeared to be the same the kind of rope found around Bob's neck; blood in the bedroom said to belong to Bob; and a syringe with Jane's fingerprint in Bob's blood.
While Claire Dorotik never believed her mother could have killed her father, her brothers had doubts. At trial, Alex and Nick Dorotik were the state's star witnesses against their mother. After deliberating for four days, the jury convicted Jane of first-degree murder.
Moriarty spoke with Jane after she was found guilty.
"It's like 'No, this can't be ... I was so certain that I was walking out," said Jane.
"But what made you feel that during the trial?" Moriarty asked.
"Because I'm innocent. Because I thought they would see the truth," Jane replied.
Jane Dorotik went to prison, but she never stopped fighting to overturn her conviction. The Loyola Project for the Innocent took up her case. In 2015, new DNA tests were done on the rope used to strangle Bob Dorotik, scrapings from under his fingernails and his clothing. DNA was found, but it didn't belong to Jane. Her lawyers discredited the validity of some of the forensic evidence used against her - like the tire impressions and blood found in the house. Questions were also raised about some of the criminalists who worked on the case, as well as the lab that processed some of the evidence.
In 2020, Jane's murder conviction was overturned, and she was released from prison. But prosecutors planned to re-try her for Bob's murder. On May 16, 2022, instead of a retrial, the case against Jane Dorotik was dismissed. After the judge ruled certain evidence inadmissible, the prosecution concluded it could no longer ethically proceed to trial because it believed the remaining evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Moriarty spoke with Jane a few days after the charges were dropped.
"Do you believe your life was stolen from you? Is that a good way to describe what happened?" Moriarty asked Jane.
"Absolutely it was stolen from me. Absolutely stolen. I was going along in my life. I lost my husband. And somehow I'm accused. And then convicted. That's the worst theft ever," Jane replied. "Thank God for Loyola Project for the Innocent, who's willing to delve into all of the evidence. ... When you are thinking about taking away someone's freedom for life, putting them in prison, don't you owe them a thorough investigation?"
A new episode of this "48 Hours" story is in the works for the fall.
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