Book Excerpt: 'Prison of My Own'

September 1997 -- Cleveland, Ohio

The double doors to Courtroom A on the fifth floor of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse opened. Mr. Ghazoul, my ex-husband's attorney, nodded toward me. I stood, smoothing the lines of my navy blue dress rumpled from hours of sitting, waiting, and wondering when I would ever awaken from this nightmare.

Ghazoul had met me that morning after I arrived in Cleveland from Florida. He took me to a hurried lunch in a cafe across from the courthouse to review what I was to say on the stand. With only minutes to spare before John's trial was to resume, he gobbled a ham and Swiss on rye and explained my husband's chances. The odds were severely stacked against him. And I was the strength of his entire defense -- me, the unsuspecting wife on the other end of Carol Roman's ill-fated phone call. He wanted emotion. It was a non-jury trial, so I only had to win over Judge Griffin, who was known for his compassion. I had to bare my pain, speak from the heart if my children's father was to be spared from a life behind bars. But I entered the hushed courtroom completely devoid of emotion. I took my place in the witness box where I was sworn in with my left hand on the Bible.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • Diane Nichols' life changed forever in August of 1996 when her husband John shot and killed Carol Ramon, his 19-year-old mistress.

    Diane shares her experiences after the murder in her book "Prison of My Own: A True Story of Redemption and Forgiveness."

  • Here is an excerpt from the book's first chapter "A Stranger on Trial."

"Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

Truth. … Did I even know the meaning of the word anymore? There had been none in my marriage since John's affair with this girl started two years ago. The man that I loved and shared a bed with every night turned our life into a complete lie. My gaze shifted to John as he sat next to his other court-appointed attorney, Mr. Markstrom. John had lost so much weight that he looked skeletal. I realized he was wearing the gray suit I'd bought him for Christmas, but it was baggy and hung on him as if he were a young boy in his daddy's clothes. The thirteen months in county jail waiting for trial had changed him. The man I married was handsome and athletic with stunning blue eyes, but in his place sat someone I barely recognized, a gaunt and broken soul who had orchestrated his own destruction. He slumped over, clutching a wadded tissue as he wept.

"Ma'am?" The bailiff waited for an answer.

"I do." All eyes were on me as I settled into the witness box. I could hear the judge writing on a legal pad. I wondered if anyone else had caught the irony of my last two words, the same words that began my marriage fourteen years ago to the man seated in front of me now began the testimony that could save him from life in prison.

Mr. Ghazoul approached me with a soft smile, trying to put me at ease. "Hello, Diane. Please tell the court your relationship to the defendant."

"I'm John's ex-wife." The words echoed through the microphone in front of me.

"How long were you married to the defendant?"

"Thirteen years."

"And do you have children from this marriage?"

"Yes, two daughters, ages four and eleven."

"What are their names?"

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