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  • Jim Ferraro

A Sudden Change of Plan

As I prepared for the Castillo-DuPont hearing date, my life was hectic. My alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. every single day. I was living a no-frills lifestyle in my Coconut Grove apartment. By this time, I was making millions of dollars a year and was living like a guy making $40,000—well beneath my means.

I didn’t have time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, let alone the desire to indulge myself beyond enjoying the company of a beautiful woman every now and then.

My days were long, and my stress levels were exceedingly high. Sleep had become a luxury I could no longer afford. I was out the front door and hitting the pavement hard by 5 a.m. to run my six miles. I’d jump in the pool at my apartment complex afterward, then take a quick shower and head off to work again.

The trial was nearly two weeks away, and all systems were in overdrive. My relationship with Marjorie had been fizzling out for a while—at least, it had been for me. Maybe she was holding on to hope, but I had started dating other women. There was one lady I really liked. I had met her at the beginning of the year, and enjoyed the fact that she wasn’t connected to my work. When we went out, it was a complete and total disconnect from everything that pulled at me, which was an escape I very much needed.

I had been struggling with telling Marjorie that things were totally over. I knew she would take the news hard, but I wanted to be straight with her. I didn’t want to be hiding something from someone I cared about and worked with so closely.

A couple of my buddies thought I was nuts for rattling the cage so close to the trial. They suggested that I wait until after the case ended to break the news to her, but it didn’t feel right to me. I knew our relationship wasn’t going any further, and I didn’t want her life to be on hold. I called her on a Sunday morning eight days before the trial was set to start and told her it was over. At first I thought she took the news as well as could be expected. I knew she wouldn’t be happy about it, but once we hung up I thought it had gone much better than I had anticipated. We had left things professional. Or so I thought.

That same day, I expected to meet Marjorie at the office around 11 a.m. to go through evidence and prepare for the trial. She wasn’t there when I arrived, which was unusual. Ten minutes later, I called her cell phone. It went right to her voice mail. I called her a few more times without reaching her before I began to worry. This wasn’t like her at all. She wouldn’t just fail to show up—not now, not this close to the trial.

Out of concern, I finally reached out to her mother, who told me Marjorie was in Charter Hospital, though she wouldn’t tell me why. She said she thought she’d be okay in time, but she didn’t expect to return to work for a while—certainly not for the trial. This was very bad news.

I hung up the phone and sat in my office for hours, doing nothing but staring at the walls. I went into a funk wondering what had happened and what I could have done to change the outcome. I also questioned what I would do in the courtroom without Marjorie. She had been with me every step of the way for three years. She understood this case very well. She knew every witness, each piece of evidence we had sought together, every scientific theory, and so on. I thought about Johnny Castillo, the case, and all the changes in my life since Donna and Juan first walked through my door. So many things were different—including me.

Four hours passed by in what felt like only a few minutes. Strangely, I didn’t run to Marjorie. I didn’t rush to be by her side. Her mother made it painfully clear that she didn’t want me there anyway. She blamed me for what happened to her daughter, which made me feel horrible. I hadn’t anticipated this. I surely didn’t see this type of reaction coming. How could I?

I defended myself in my mind, recalling how I was always honest with Marjorie about my intentions. I never promised her more than I was willing to deliver in our relationship. Even when I finally filed for divorce from Diane, I told Marjorie not to see that as something I was doing for her. We’d spent several years together—good years. As I sat and thought about those fun times, I couldn’t help but take my share of responsibility for what had happened. And still, I didn’t feel guilty. Not for any of it.

I didn’t realize how fragile she had been throughout our relationship or in the time leading up to its ending, but at the same time I was extremely upset that she would cast aside the Castillos just days before trial. She put her personal relationship over the Castillos and their heart-wrenching situation. It was clear that she was aware I was relying on her as a critical component in the presentation of the case. Frankly, I hadn’t expected her to act so selfishly.

“I really fucked up this time,” I thought as I sat staring at the four walls of my office, which now felt as if they were closing in on me. Perhaps I should have kept my dick in my pants and never gotten involved with someone I worked with in the first place. Then none of this would have happened.

I knew it was stupid to be sitting there feeling so low. It wouldn’t change the outcome. Besides, I didn’t have the time right now to get caught up in thinking about it further. I either had to man up and figure out a way to handle the case myself or find someone to assist me in the courtroom. I’d have to take each day as it came until I could work it out.

It would take everything I had to pull off this Herculean feat all on my own, but what choice did I have? I wasn’t about to let the Castillos down. I was suddenly overcome with a rush of adrenaline and felt a little like Rocky Balboa, so to speak. There was no doubt I was the underdog, yet everything inside me told me I could win this fight. My mind went into overdrive, and I immediately adjusted my game plan.

In my next post, I recount what I did next. You can find a lot more about my strategy in this case in my book, Blindsided, from which this blog post is adapted.


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