A murder case more than 20 years in the making will have wait a little longer.
On Tuesday morning, a San Diego Superior Court judge continued the preliminary hearing till Thursday for 73-year-old Jane Dorotik, who spent nearly two decades in prison after being convicted of killing her husband, Robert.
Her original conviction in the case was overturned last year, paving the way for a new trial. A jury convicted Jane in 2001 and she was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
For nearly 20 years, Jane insisted the jury got it wrong. Now, newly discovered DNA evidence has forced a retrial.
Early on, detectives felt Robert's death was no accident.
"There's some kind of trauma to the head,” a police detective told reporters at the crime scene. “At this point, we're treating this a suspicious death."
Robert's body was found on the side of the road in Valley Center a day after Jane reported him missing. A medical examiner determined Robert had been hit in the head and strangled. The prosecution believed the killer used a hammer and a rope.
"Jane Dorotik was motivated by her selfishness and greed,” a prosecutor said during the 2001 trial. “And in doing, so she cut short a life of a 55-year-old man."
In court, prosecutors argued that Dorotik killed her husband in their bedroom and then dumped his body. They said the motive was to avoid paying him 40% of her income after a divorce. The problem with the prosecution’s theory, according to the defense, was that at least one witness saw him alive after prosecutors said he was dead.
"I saw Mr. Dorotik running on the side of the road,” said a woman who testified she drove past Robert in the early morning.
The witness also said she saw Robert inside a pickup truck, seated between two men.
"Given the blood evidence,” stated the original trial judge, Joan Weber, who said the defense witness’ testimony wasn’t believable, “given the spatter, given everything we know about the crime scene back at the house, this man definitively was killed in that bedroom."
It's that very evidence that is now in question.
In a hearing to overturn her conviction, Dorotik's attorneys said new DNA testing of Robert's fingernails and clothes, and one of the alleged murder weapons, showed no presence of Jane's DNA -- excluding her from the crime scene.
As for Robert's bloodstains in the bedroom, Jane's attorneys argued that most of that blood was never tested, much less confirmed to be blood at all.
"Your honor, I'd like to say that I'm innocent,” Jane said at her sentencing. “I loved my husband. I love him still. This has not been justice that's been served here. I would like to encourage the prosecution and the detectives to explore their souls and their hearts, and what motivation they had to accuse and try me, and leave free a killer in the community."
"Someday the truth will come out,” Dorotik’s sister said after the sentencing. “I know Jane is innocent. I know my sister. And she didn't kill him."
"We found the truth,” a prosecutor told reporters after the hearing. “We already found the truth. We have no doubt about it."
Jane was released from prison on her own recognizance last April due to the pandemic. The preliminary hearing is now set for this Thursday at 9 a.m.