LPI Secures Overturning of Client Jane Dorotik’s Murder Conviction
The Loyola Project for the Innocent (LPI) at LMU Loyola Law School has secured the release of client Jane Dorotik, whose murder conviction was overturned by San Diego Superior Court Judge Harry M. Elias. The conviction was thrown out after the San Diego District Attorney’s Office conceded that there was new evidence, including forensic evidence, demonstrating that Ms. Dorotik should never have been convicted. The evidence that had been presented at her trial was completely unreliable and did not support the conviction.
On Feb. 13, 2000, Ms. Dorotik’s husband, Robert Dorotik, went jogging in Valley Center and never returned home. Ms. Dorotik reported her husband missing, and after an all-night search and rescue effort, his body was discovered along his jogging route early the next morning. Ms. Dorotik was arrested 72 hours later and charged with his murder based on purported bloodstains observed in the bedroom of their home.
“After fighting for nearly 20 years to overturn my conviction, I am so grateful to finally see this day,” said Ms. Dorotik. “Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. I have maintained from Day One that I had nothing to do with my husband’s murder. Spending almost two decades in prison falsely convicted of killing the man I loved has been incredibly painful." She added: “I lost literally everything in my life that Bob and I had built together. Thanks to my great legal team at Loyola Law School, I feel like I can finally breathe and I’m able to start thinking about making plans for the future.”
LPI attorneys and students have been working on the case for the last four years. The clinic was scheduled to begin a hearing on Monday addressing the false evidence used at Dorotik’s trial.
“Our experts were prepared to show that the so-called bloodstains presented against Jane at trial were never even tested in a lab and shown to be blood at all,” said LPI Legal Director Paula Mitchell. “The experts were also going to testify that the jury was misled by the prosecution when it was told that all of the evidence was DNA tested and shown to be Mr. Dorotik’s blood, when in fact that was clearly not the case.”
“We were able to show that there was a mountain of false and unreliable evidence used to convict Jane at trial. The prosecution’s blood-splatter expert referred to numerous stains as blood, even though they were never actually shown to be blood, which is pretty outrageous,” explained Paige McGrail, an LPI Post-Graduate Fellow.
The phenomenon began early on. "Our team also showed the court that the entire investigation into Robert Dorotik’s murder was driven by tunnel vision. Investigators looked only for evidence that pointed to Jane’s guilt,” said LPI Staff Attorney Megan Baca. “However, there was plenty of evidence pointing to her innocence. They just refused to look at it. We located eyewitnesses who tried to give their information to investigators but they were ignored and that evidence was never heard by the jury.”
“We have an incredible team at LPI, and I am grateful to them. This case was especially challenging because Jane had been unfairly tainted by national media coverage. People need to learn that media coverage does not tell the whole story. Jane now has a chance to clear her name,” said LPI’s founder, Professor Laurie Levenson.
“Our team was ready with experts prepared to explain to the court at Monday’s hearing that numerous pieces of the forensic case against Jane were simply unreliable,” said LPI Staff Attorney Mike Petersen. “We are grateful to the D.A.’s office for doing the right thing here and recognizing that the conviction against Jane had to be overturned.”
The stakes loom large. “LPI is currently receiving a federal grant to use for DNA testing to help people like Jane," LPI DNA Staff Attorney Nikki Herst-Cook explained. "The DNA testing turned out to be pivotal in this case.”
“We could not be more excited with Judge Elias’s order today. We have worked tirelessly and for countless hours trying to untangle what went wrong in Jane’s case,” said LPI Program Director Adam Grant. “Seeing her conviction overturned today is such a relief, given all she has been through.”
About the Loyola Project for the Innocent
The Project for the Innocent (LPI) pursues claims of actual innocence on behalf of those wrongfully convicted of crimes. Students work under the supervision of founder Laurie Levenson, David W. Burcham Professor of Ethical Advocacy; Legal Director Paula Mitchell; Program Director Adam Grant and other supervising attorneys. Since 2011, the LPI has secured the release of 11 clients seeking justice after wrongful convictions. They include Johnathon Ramos (2020 release after 8 years in prison); Janet Dixon (2020 release after nearly 40 years in prison); Michael Tirpak (2019 release after 25 years in prison); Maria Mendez (2018 release after 11 years in prison); Jaime Ponce (2017 release after 19 years in prison); Marco Contreras (2017 release after 20 years in prison); Andrew Leander Wilson (2017 release after 32 years in prison), Kash Delano Register (2013 release after 34 years in prison), and Obie Anthony (2011 release after 17 years in prison). Learn more at www.lls.edu/ProjectfortheInnocent.