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James Denton takes stand in 'Desperate Housewives' lawsuit

Nicollette Sheridan appears in a still from 'Desperate Housewives.' (ABC)

March 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Actor James Denton took the stand Thursday in a $6 million lawsuit filed by his former "Desperate Housewives" co-star, Nicollette Sheridan.

Sheridan is suing the show's creator and executive producer, Marc Cherry, for alleged on-set battery and wrongful termination. She claims she was fired from the ABC series in 2009 after complaining that Cherry hit her during rehearsals for a scene in September 2008.

What the jury must decide is whether the plot line to kill off Sheridan's character, Edie Britt, was planned nearly nine months in advance, or if Cherry killed her off because of the alleged clash with Sheridan.

Denton, who plays Mike Delfino, was called to testify for Cherry and Touchstone Television Productions on Thursday.

"Dreading it is a little strong, but I was not looking forward to it, you know, seeing Marc sitting there or Nicollette sitting there, two people that I have huge respect for. It's not any fun," Denton said outside the courtroom.

On the stand, Denton described a warm relationship with Sheridan. He was on set the day of the incident, but testified he only heard about it much later, telling defense lawyers that Sheridan never told him Cherry had hit her.

Denton's testimony was very brief, lasting less than 15 minutes.

Cherry was also questioned Thursday by his own lawyer. He testified Sheridan was upset that a funny line in which she would quote a Beatles song was cut. Cherry said it was a money issue, that the show would have had to pay royalties if the line was used.

He also testified that he demonstrated physical action that would be funny too -- a tap on the head. Cherry maintains he was giving her artistic direction, and that he did not slap Sheridan's face, nor did he violently hit Sheridan across the head.

The timing of the incident is crucial in the case.

Executive producer Sabrina Wind testified that she learned in May 2008, four months before the alleged battery, that the studio approved Cherry's request to kill off Sheridan's character as a way to boost ratings. But the plot twist was kept secret to keep potential demands for more money in Sheridan's final contract at bay, according to Wind.

On Wednesday, Lori Baker, a former head writer who was in show meetings referenced by Cherry, testified that there was no plan to have Britt eliminated. Baker said that the notion of killing off Britt did not come until Dec. 2, months after the alleged battery. She said Cherry announced the move to writers in a closed door meeting.

Under cross examination, the defense asked Baker about a possible ulterior motive in testifying. Baker was not hired for season six. After Britt died and Sheridan's contract was not renewed, Baker's role as a head writer was over too.

Disney is the parent company of the show's production company, Touchstone Television Productions, and ABC7.