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Prosecutors rest in Tim Ferriter child abuse trial; defense denied judgment of acquittal


Jurors watch more Ring camera videos showing Jupiter father's interactions with adopted son in box-like structure in garage

By: Jay Cashmere , Peter Burke

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Prosecutors rested their case Friday in the trial of a Jupiter father accused of locking his adopted son in a box-like structure in the garage, and the defense immediately sought a judgment of acquittal.

Tim Ferriter, 48, is on trial facing charges of child abuse, false imprisonment and child neglect. His wife is facing the same charges in a separate trial that has not yet begun.

The trial resumed Friday with jurors watching several more hours' worth of Ring camera videos showing the Ferriters' interactions with the teenager in the 8x8 enclosure specially constructed for him in the garage of the couple's Egret Landing home.

Immediately after Assistant State Attorney Brianna Coakley announced that the state rests, the jury left the courtroom and defense attorney Khurrum Wahid asked for a judgment of acquittal.

"The state in this case, I think, has failed to prove that Mr. Ferriter willfully, intentionally inflicted any physical, mental injury that resulted in great bodily harm," Wahid told Judge Howard Coates.

Coates questioned Wahid's request.

"So you're trying to convince the court at this point that no jury could ever find that being confined in an 8x8 room or box or however you want to refer to it, that no jury could find that to be torturous, because I'd really have to find that no reasonable jury could conclude that that was torturous under the facts that have been presented, again, which is why, at this stage, the state gets the benefit of all favorable inferences," Coates said. "Is that the leap you're asking the court to make at this point?"

"So, torture involves extreme or sadistic conduct, which is absent here," Wahid said.

"Well, I'm going to push back on that," Coates replied. "I don't know that it's absent. What I believe is that there's certainly enough for a jury to determine whether it's tortuous, evil or sadistic. I mean, the video displayed many repetitive instances of the father coming into the room, his son snapping to attention in demonstrable fear, a repetitive, consistent berating of the child. And I'm not judging the facts one way or the other. I'm just merely determining whether they meet the standard at this point so that they can be passed along to the jury to make that determination. And it seems to me that a jury could conclude that this is torturous, and it is something done with evil intent and malice. So, move on from that because you're not going to convince me that no reasonable jury could conclude that this is a torturous event here in the life of this child."

Before the jury returned, Coates asked Wahid if his client intended to testify. But Wahid deferred the decision until the conclusion of the defense witnesses.

Videos provide glimpse into child's life

In one video from Jan. 11, 2022, the teen could be heard screaming and talking to himself.

Tim Ferriter was later heard cursing and yelling at his son, who was angry about having his Chromebook taken away.

"But you've been stealing and lying and running away and calling yourself Richard," Tim Ferriter said in the video. "You're lucky you have anything. Give me a f---ing breaking."

He was heard arguing with the teen about tearing his room apart.

"So you're gonna buy yourself more time in here," Tim Ferriter said.

The nearly 12-minute exchange included Tim Ferriter chiding his son for breaking things in the room and screwing up in school. He then started breaking things to illustrate his point.

"You're a tough guy, right? You're going to break s---," Tim Ferriter told the teen in the video.

Tim Ferriter also asked the teen about pretending to be someone called "Richard."

"Is that another personality or are you just trying to lie all the time?" he asked the teen.

In another video from Jan. 19, 2022, Tim and Tracy Ferriter could be heard questioning him about an incident at school.

"Is there some other like person in your mind talking to you?" Tim Ferriter asked the teen in the video.

His parents were also heard confronting him about his lying.

"What else are you lying about?" Tracy Ferriter asked.

Tim Ferriter concluded the conversation with the following remark.

"Does it make you feel good to get to this point? Is this what you're always searching for?" he asked. "Do you always want to get – let me ask you this: Do you always like want to get back to this situation? Because you get here every time."

'Psychologically damaging'

A child psychologist testified Thursday that the teenager's treatment – essentially confined to a makeshift room without access to food, water or a bathroom – was "malicious" and caused severe psychological trauma.

"I felt it was severely harmful and very psychologically damaging to [him]," Dr. Wade Myers, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, testified.

"And why is that?" Coakley asked him.

"It was a longstanding pattern of harsh, cruel and demeaning actions toward this child, as well as close to three years of essentially solitary confinement when he was not in school, as well as really sadistic punishments while he was locked away in the room," Myers said.

Myers spent hours on the witness stand being cross-examined by Wahid, who tried to poke holes in the doctor's assessment.

"To opine that someone's malicious would not be a psychiatric opinion, correct?" Wahid asked. "It would not require your specialty, correct?"

"That's correct," Myers said.

"OK, so that opinion is you as a layperson," Wahid said. "That's your opinion, just as it would be, like, mine or anyone in the audience."

"No, I'm making a clinical assessment of a parent's behavior toward their child," Myers said. "It's a clinical observation based on video evidence, based on other evidence and based on working with abused children my entire career, as well as abusive parents."

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have tried to portray Ferriter's son as a problem child whose repeated behavioral issues impacted not just the home life but also the classroom.

The teen, who testified Wednesday, admitted to stealing, bringing a box cutter to school, injuring his baby brother while they were living in Arizona and, when the boy was 4, offering him a beer to conduct an experiment.

But he also described to jurors in detail what it was like living with the Ferriters, locked away from the rest of his family with nothing but a mattress, a desk and a bucket in which to defecate.

His older sister, who was also adopted, testified Wednesday that her brother was frequently in trouble, "hyper" and difficult to control.

Before the trial resumed Friday, Coates denied a motion to reconsider rulings.

"I find this somewhat unusual because it's literally a motion to reconsider almost every major ruling I've made during the course of this trial, so the motion is denied without further argument," he said.

The Ferriters were arrested by Jupiter police in February 2022, shortly after the family moved back to South Florida. They had previously lived in Jupiter before moving to Arizona for a few years.

Tracy Ferriter was seen crying in the courtroom while the videos were being played. She's been there throughout the trial, sitting close to her husband in the gallery and listening to testimony from her children and the state's witnesses.

The Department of Children and Families removed the Ferriters' children from the home after their arrest.

Because Monday is a court holiday, the trial won't resume until Tuesday.

2023 Oct 6