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'Desperate Housewives' case: Jury begins deliberating

March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jurors began deliberating Wednesday in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former "Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan.

Sheridan's attorneys allege the actress was fired because she complained that the show's creator, Marc Cherry, struck her in the head on set. Cherry maintains that it was just a tap for creative direction.

From the defense representing Touchstone and the show producers, the death of Sheridan's character Edie Britt was planned in May 2008. Studio heads and many writers testified they knew about it 8 months before Britt's fatal accident was scripted.

In closing statements, Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute focused mainly on Touchstone's witnesses, questioning their motivation and their credibility.

Baute said when he questioned them on the stand, they were evasive and didn't remember many of the details, but when Touchstone attorneys questioned them, Baute said they "sang like birdies."

He also said witnesses hid important facts from human resources personnel investigating the case because "no one wants to disrupt the revenue machine generating $1 billion for Touchstone."

Baute wrapped up his closing arguments after about 1 1/2 hours at around 11:30 a.m., leaving Touchstone's attorneys to make their final statements and try to reframe the past nine days of often-conflicting testimony to the jurors.

The judge threw out the battery claim against Cherry on Tuesday, ruling there was insufficient evidence to support Sheridan's claim.

"Obviously, I am thrilled by the judge's decision, but I am going to withhold commentary on this matter until the entire case is resolved," Cherry said outside the courthouse Tuesday.

Sheridan's case also got a boost Tuesday when the judge allowed testimony from ABC employee Michael Rinehart, who contacted the actress' lawyer on Sunday, saying he remembers receiving an email two years ago that he believed called for the destruction of evidence related to Sheridan's termination.

"It regarded having I.T. come in and wipe clean the hard drives of the producers in response to the correspondence that they've had email-wise about firing Nicollette," Rinehart was heard saying in a voicemail played in court.

Under cross examination by an attorney for Touchstone, Rinehart, who constructs sets for "Desperate Housewives," ended up conceding that he did not remember many details regarding the email and may have even misinterpreted it.

Touchstone attorneys suggested the email was just the opposite of what Reinhart recalled, that it could have been a message to preserve documents, not delete them.

Rinehart said he hadn't wanted to get involved in the case earlier because he feared for his job, but his conscience forced him to come forward.

"I've been doing this a long time. It's very rare for somebody to come forward at the last minute and say, 'I'm having a crisis of conscience. I know that these were all deleted, and I'm going to tell the truth,'" said Mark Baute, Sheridan's attorney. "I feel really badly for him. Nicollette is stunned. She feels badly for him as well."

Forensic experts were ordered to examine Rinehart's computer to see if they could find any evidence of significance. However, there was no mention of this examination on Wednesday.

Disney is the parent company of Touchstone Television and ABC7.


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