A state appeals court panel has declined to review a judge’s decision to limit the number of witnesses who may testify in the second child sex abuse lawsuit against Morning Star Boys’ Ranch.
George H. Minehart II has sued Morning Star, claiming to have been abused by the ranch’s former director, the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, and other staff members while a resident of the ranch in 1980 and 1981.
Attorneys for Minehart hoped to bring several witnesses who also claim to have been abused while living at the ranch.
But Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor ruled that only those witnesses who reported their alleged abuse at the time of the incident may testify. Minehart’s attorneys moved to have the state Court of Appeals for Division III review O’Connor’s ruling.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court denied the motion, saying the trial court “is in a far better position at this time to determine the value and prejudice of the information” that may be provided by witnesses.
The appeals court judges also denied a motion by Morning Star’s attorneys to review other rulings by O’Connor, including her decision to exclude a polygraph examination of Weitensteiner.
Neither side showed that O’Connor was in error, appeals court Judge Kevin Korsmo wrote. Judges Dennis Sweeny and Laurel Siddoway concurred.
Minehart’s trial was stayed last month while the appeals court considered the evidentiary ruling. The lawsuit, the second of 19 claims against Morning Star filed in Spokane County Superior Court, now will be rescheduled.
In February, a unanimous jury found against the first plaintiff, Kenneth Putnam.