A Family Heritage
In 1997, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (now known simply as Public Justice) named me a national finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year because of my work in Castillo. I didn’t win, but it was an honor to be nominated by such a prestigious organization.
I often marvel at how life always comes around full circle. One of the most important and sentimental moments for me during the trial was when my 10-year-old son, James, watched my closing argument from a premier seat in the courtroom. I don’t know whether or not this was an inspiration for him, but in 2013, nearly 20 years after the initial Castillo verdict, James became an attorney and a member of the Florida Bar. On the day he passed his bar exam, I couldn’t help but think about my father and his great accomplishment in becoming the first college graduate in our family. Now, here was my son—someone who could have chosen any profession—consciously deciding to follow in my footsteps.
My son Andrew, who is the same age as Johnny Castillo, started law school in the fall of 2016. His strength and courage is a source of great inspiration to me. My daughter, Alexis, graduated college in 2015 from a top business school in Boston. She has an undying passion for technology and charity work. Her dream is to someday run her own foundation that will help her fulfill her life goal of helping people in need. My son Dmitri who is 5 years old, speaks four languages already, and, like all my children, is surely destined to do amazing things with his life. Last year was also a charm as my newest addition, my son Mateo, was born. I hope the work I do makes the world a better place, not only for my children, and some day their children, but for all of us.
In August 2015 as an associate from the Ferraro Law Firm my son James participated in his first jury trial with me. The case was Roy Taylor-vs.-Georgia Pacific. I hadn’t tried a case in several years and was feeling a bit rusty, but I decided to take this one on because the client was a very good human being and the case involved dealing with a difficult set of circumstances and facts that were very hard to prove.
I also wanted to take James through his first trial and show him what I believed was the right way to perform in a courtroom. In just under two weeks, we received a verdict for the Taylors in the amount of $17,175,000—a verdict that was not appealed. Unlike in the Castillo case, I knew we won this time when we received a jury question that simply read, “Can we have a calculator?”
Hands down, this was by far the best jury question I had ever received in my entire career.
Just as Court TV covered the Castillo trial from inside the courtroom, CVN, the Courtroom View Network, now televises every jury trial in the state of Florida. Much to my surprise, CVN named me the 2015 Florida Trial Lawyer of the Year because of the Taylor trial.
For me, it was the experience of a lifetime and truly an honor to be a part of my son’s first trial. How extraordinary it was to share this victory with him. It gave me such great pride to see how he embraced our clients and shared their emotions throughout the trial. His compassion and wisdom astounded me. When the verdict was read, all the pent-up feelings and anxiety faded away as the Taylors and James embraced each other in an ocean of tears.
As a trial lawyer, I know how challenging it can be to succeed in law. I can’t put words to the sentiment I held for my son James during that trial as I watched him launch his own career, knowing he has what it takes to be even better than I will ever be in a courtroom.
As for me, it’s been 20 years since Castillo, and the thing that still sits heavy on my mind is that corporations like DuPont, tobacco manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies are still hiding behind the shield of junk science.
It’s so unfair to the public that a corporation can test its products however it sees fit; submit that science to governmental agencies such as the EPA to get a license to sell those products to us, the unsuspecting public; and then, when things go wrong, claim that the very same science is nothing but junk.
This is one of the frailties of our legal system, a cancer developed through many years of big money lobbying to keep this sham in place. My goal going forward is to educate the public about this travesty of justice and to create enough public awareness to get a federal law passed that reads as follows: “Any scientific studies or information submitted by anyone to a governmental agency for purposes of licensing a product shall be admissible in a court of law.”
Currently, I am on a mission to get a bill sponsored and passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate that calls for this very important change in our legal system.
What happened to Johnny Castillo could have happened to any of us. Without change, history will continue to repeat itself.
In my book, Blindsided , you’ll find a full narrative from an insider’s perspective of the landmark Castillo-DuPont case. I’ve adapted this post from my book.