|March 15||Trial Eleventh Day Recap|
It is over now boys and girls. The case is now in the hands of the jury after the lawyers did their closing arguments. As you might already know, the battery charges against Marc Cherry were tossed Tuesday by the Judge, but the incident still plays a mayor role on the wrongful termination cause between Nicollette and ABC.
Marc Cherry is a “liar” and “Touchstone is not particularly concerned if a woman gets hit by a man who runs a billion dollar show,” Nicollette Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute said during his closing statement in the civil suit. Baute said ABC did nothing about the alleged September 24, 2008 head-hitting incident between Cherry and Sheridan on the Desperate Housewives set until an article about it appeared in the Nation Enquirer the next month. He said that ABC and Touchstone Television conspired to create a false record that would justify improperly killing off the actress in retaliation. Citing a lack of documents, supposed secrecy, compromised witnesses and an ABC human resources investigation he called a “whitewash,” Baute said “their story doesn’t hold water, there was no decision.” Baute told the jury he believed the revelation that actor James Denton’s longtime Housewives character would suddenly be killed off the show this past Sunday “goes to show you how far they’re willing to go to manage the story.” The Plaintiff contends major characters are not killed off series unless it is due to personal circumstances — like Charlie Sheen’s meltdown that saw him leave Two And A Half Men last year — or the series is about to end.
In a nutshell, he told jurors it all goes down to two questions: do you believe it was a hit or a tap? When do you believe the decision to kill Edie off was made? His argument was focused on the fact that it was a hit and even Marc Cherry admited it was an ugly incident and that the idea may have been tossed around in May but no decision was made. “Whenever a witness goes from ‘I don’t know to singing like a rehearsed little birdie, take caution.” In regards to the fact that everyone on defense claimed they saw no emails or correspondance, “this is a TV show It’s not a Navy Seal 6 team figuring out how they are going to kill Bin Laden in a secret operation.” He also pointed to the very little variations in the testimonies, which were based in their recollections since they didn’t keep a written record.
Defense attorney Adam Levin said during his closing statement that “the decision to kill off Edie was made long before the Sept. 24, 2008 incident”. “Mr. Baute has told you a complicated story of conspiracy, what is the truth is much more simple.” Calling it “desperate” to allege that “10 good citizens of California” would concoct a fake story to get rid of Sheridan’s character after the actress complained about Marc Cherry allegedly hitting her in the head, Levin took a much more professorial tone that the passionate Baute earlier in the morning. Employing props like on-screen transcripts, a giant timeline board, Post-It notes and Housewives’ writers’ story index cards Levin attempted to show the jury how the decision was made to kill off Sheridan’s character our months before the on-set head-hitting altercation.
While all the cards with ideas for Season 5 from summer 2008 Levin thinks work strongly on his favor, Baute in his rebuttal brought up writer’s assistant notes from January 13, 2009 for the season finale in which Edie was alive
Now it’s all in the hands of the jurors, 9 out of 12 have to agree for veredict (9 of them are women). They delivered yesterday before heading home for the day. Deliverations will continue today.
|March 14||Trial Tenth Day Recap|
Michael Reinhart, longtime Desperate Housewives construction coordinator and known on Monday as ‘Mystery Caller’, said that he “was trying to get the truth out”. Reinhart was added as a last-minute witness after he left a voicemail for Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute over the weekend saying he was inadvertently copied on an email that indicated ABC planned to delete references to the killing off Sheridan’s Edie Britt character. Despite strenuous protests from the attorney for Marc Cherry and ABC, the judge allowed him to testify because, while he was “out of the blue” and “nothing the plaintiff invited,” she was “losing the jury” and delaying this trial any more could result in a mistrial.
In halting testimony, Reinhart, whose voicemail said there was “definitely a conspiracy to cover up correspondence” related to Sheridan’s firing, said that the only words he recalls now from the spring 2010 email are “Nicollette Sheridan,” “IT” and “delete”, though he did confirm the bulk of what he told Baute on Sunday. Judge Elizabeth Allen White ordered Reinhart’s computer to be brought in for forensic examination. He testified that he “received an email, possibly in error, regarding possible deletion of information on hard drives in relation to this trial.” Reinhart, who expressed in court and to Baute concerns feared that by testifying, he was “performing professional suicide” and worried that he would not be able to find a job after Desperate Housewives concluded its season, said he immediately deleted the email because “I felt it wasn’t intended for me, I didn’t feel it was my business and I didn’t want to make it my business.” Visibly uncomfortable on the stand, Reinhart, however, insisted the email was “bothering him” and he “began to lose sleep” as the trial went on and felt that if he didn’t do something, he would “have to live with that for the rest of my life.” And he felt it was important information to reveal to Sheridan’s team because he wanted “equal footing for both parties.” After he made the phonecall to Bauter, he got his work computer and left his house to avoid a subpoena. He said he told his wife and Housewives production designer Erik Carlson as well as another crew member about the e-mail.
Defense attorney tried to suggest it could have been an e-mail about preserving documents, but Reinhart said he didn’t remember it saying anything about preserving. Levin asked if it was possible he had misunderstood the contents of the e-mail, and Reinhart said, “Yes, it is possible I misunderstood it.”
Then it was turn for VP Litigation Jean Zoeller who said on the stand that she would “absolutely not” tell anyone to delete or erase any correspondence or documents related to Nicollette Sheridan being fired from Desperate Housewives. Under questioning from the defense, Zoeller, who sat at the defense table every day of the two-week trial, told the jury she sent out four document preservation memos to make sure everything related to the matter was maintained. Those were sent out to ever expanding distribution lists on June 30, 2009, twice on April 6, 2010 — when Sheridan filed her lawsuit — and again on July 6, 2010. Those who received the emails were asked to “forward on to other people with knowledge of the matter.”
Zoeller was followed on the stand by Alex Myers from Disney’s Electronic Discovery department. Myers detailed the extensive and pervasive efforts by the company to harness all correspondence and documents on the Sheridan matter on company computers and servers as well as personal accounts and computers of staff members and contract employees.
Closings arguments will be done today, each lawyer having 2 hours to sum up their case before it goes to the jury. Remember now it’s only about wrongful termination since the Judge threw out the batter claim.
Computer technicians, however, were searching Reinhart’s work computer late Tuesday with the possibility that the case could be reopened if new evidence is found, Sheridan lawyer Mark Baute said.
|March 13||Cherry 1 – Nicollette 0|
Judge Elizabeth Allen White has thrown out the battery charges against the creator of the prime-time soap, so that means he is no longer a defendant in the multi-million dollar trial. If you ask me, I thought this was the one suit she was going to win. Maybe if jury would have decided…
Judge today deemed the battery claim did not meet the standards of workman’s compensation statutes that apply to these matters. When court resumes this afternoon, lawyers from both sides are expected to reaffirm the matter with White. “Obviously I’m thrilled by the judge’s decision,” said Cherry. “But I’m going to withhold further comment until this matter is resolved completely.”
Sheridan took the stand briefly before the lunch break to give a concise version of the alleged head-hitting incident between her and Cherry on the Housewives set on September 24, 2008. “He was dismissive and he hit me”, the actress said in a quivering voice.
That leaves only the question of whether Sheridan was retaliated against by ABC when she was dismissed.
Sheridan’s attorneys were clearly unhappy about the judge’s action but lead lawyer Mark Baute said that the move didn’t really matter. The jury will still be asked to rule on the question of whether or not ABC’s decision to kill off Sheridan’s character of Edie Britt was retaliation that rises to the level of wrongful termination. “You hit me, and I complained,” Baute said, “and you fired me because of it. After initially saying that there was an “85 percent chance” of getting to closing arguments this afternoon, Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, tells us that the chance of that happening is now about “30 percent.
|March 13||Trial Ninth Day Recap|
Most people have been thinking this trial is better than the show itself and Monday session sure didn’t dissapoint.
Mark Baute and Patrick Maloney played a voicemail from a “low-level” Desperate Housewives employee who said he was mistakenly included on an email that indicated ABC intended to use its IT department to wipe everyone’s hard drives of all communications in regard to the killing off of Sheridan’s Edie Britt character. Baute and Maloney told the court they want to bring the caller in as a witness tomorrow and that the staffer has been dodging service of a subpoena since yesterday. Defense attorney Adam Levin expressed shock at the voicemail and told Judge Elizabeth Allen White that this was “the first we’d heard of this.” White took both sides into chambers after the revelation, after which the trial resumed. The lack of electronic communication in the matter has been surprising. When asked on the stand last week if she sent or received emails about killing off the character, Wind told the court that she “could not recall.”
This is the official transcript of the call:
Hi Mark. I’m an employee of Desperate Housewives. I received an email soon after Nicollette filed suit; I think it was meant for a much narrower distribution, but it regarded having IT come in and wipe clean the hard drives of the producers in response to the correspondence that they’ve had e-mail wise about firing Nicollette. Um, I think I got it by mistake; I believe they were going to have the Disney IT person come in to do the sweeping of the hard drive .. that’s about all I know; you obviously can check this number and figure out who I am but I really don’t want to get involved. I’m a real low level employee there and I shouldn’t have got that e-mail, I’m on the general email list. but there was definitely a conspiracy to cover up the correspondence on email wise in regards to Nicollette. See ya.
Attempts to contact Reinhart were unsuccessful, so Judge Elizabeth Allen White instructed her clerk to try to reach him directly at the end of the day today in hopes of having him appear in court tomorrow. They want him for what is known as a 402 hearing — it does not require a seated jury to be present — to determine whether he has information that is relevant.
In a statement issued outside the courtroom, lead defense attorney Adam Levin questioned the validity of discovery of the witness. “Today’s antics by the plaintiff, conjuring up mysterious emails, appears to be a last ditch effort save her case. At the 11th hour, we saw the plaintiff handing out transcripts and it all seemed very orchestrated.”
Sheridan’s lawyer said it’s not clear if he kept the email. If he did, that will be big for Sheridan. Her lawyers have asked every single witness about any emails regarding Sheridan’s departure and no one ever saw any. Which seems weird considering they were talking the departing of a top castmember.
After that bombshell the trial resumed as expected with defense’s witness taking the stand. EP Joe Keenan testified he is certain he heard about Edie’s death at the writers retreat in Vegas, “I believe everybody thought it was a big deal and an interesting plot development in the history of the series,” he said.
Then it was turn to a CPA hired bySheridan to estimate her lost wages, residuals and interest from Season 6 (she was not under contract for 7 or 8). That figure was nearly $6 million-which is the cap the judge has set.
Next was former EP Alexandra Cunningham who said she missed retreat but was told of the Edie death storyline her first day back to work in June. She wrote 5.18, the death episode.
And the last witness was script supervisor Linda Leifer (nicknamed by Nicollette as “Tattle Tale”), she was on set for the rehearsals the day of the hit though she didn’t see the incident. She said she observed Cherry giving Sheridan instructions on how to hit her husband on the side of the head and Sheridan was not understanding what he wanted. They moved away, she stopped paying attention and the next thing she saw was Sheridan running out.
Later it was turn for Jason Ganzel (former Cherry’s assistant and now a writer) who saw the incident. He echoed Cherry’s story that he was giving her directions, she didn’t understand and was physically showed by “tapping her on side of head”. Ganzel says Sheridan said words to the effect of “You can’t touch me!” and ran off. He drove Cherry to apologize to her but didn’t listen.
EP Bob Daily, who runs the show now Cherry is working on pilots, said Cherry brought the idea of killing Edie in mid-May when the to producers met for the first time before pitching to the network and the studio.
Lawyers agreed to trim other writers from stand and is very likely Neal Baer won’t restify after all, so it’s very possible to have closings arguments this very afternoon.
To end the day, after the jury was sent home, lawyers discussed jury instruction. Debate wether jury will decided workers compensation versus batter. Cherry’s lawyers argue it’s workers comp claim because the incident occurred by employees during work hours. Sheridan’s side argued getting “punched on head” is battery no matter where or by whom.
Judge didn’t allow for jury to hear anything about Cherry and Sheridan’s relationship prior to and subsequent to the incident but the journalist present at the jury instruction session got to hear some of the dirt. Cherry used to ignore Sheridan, once grabbed her by the arm, was rude to her and would not speak to her after the hit. At the sexual harassment seminar Sheridan attended a week or so after the hit, she walked in, saw an HR exec, removed sunglasses and said: “Who the f*** are u?”
|March 12||Trial Weekend Recap|
Since I missed posting the recaps of the last 2 days of the trial, here are some excerpts from The Daily Beast article on the last week events.
Jason Ganzel, who was Cherry’s assistant at the time and is now a writer, has not testified in the trial but in an email to his other bosses wrote: “Marc was demonstrating one of the options, which included tapping Nicollette on the head.”
Director Larry Shaw testified that Cherry and Sheridan “were going back and forth pretty quick. They were both a bit frustrated trying to communicate with each other to find a solution.” Shaw demonstrated in court how Cherry’s open right hand came into contact with the left side of Sheridan’s face and head. Shaw called it a “tap,” but his reenactment of it matched Sheridan’s, though it was less forceful.
“I decided to go apologize because I needed to get her back to that set,” Cherry testified about visiting Sheridan in her trailer. “I kept one foot at the top of the steps and one below because I didn’t feel comfortable being alone with her.”
The lawsuit’s second claim—that after Sheridan complained about what happened, Cherry began making plans to kill off Edie—is also tricky and will leave jurors sorting through the conflicting statements and recollections of some of the show’s top producers. Sheridan’s lawsuit claims Cherry didn’t decide to kill off Edie until later that fall, after a National Enquirer story broke in October and a subsequent human resources investigation quickly exonerated Cherry.
But in addition to Cherry, four senior-level producer-writers have testified that all of the writers began discussing in the summer of 2008 that Edie would die at the end of the fifth season. Cherry, executive producer Sabrina Wind, then–ABC president Steve McPherson, and then–ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz have all testified about meetings on May 22, 2008, in which they claimed McPherson and Pedowitz approved of the storyline.
Consulting producer Joe Keenan testified that he learned at the writers’ retreat in Las Vegas at the end of May that Edie would die. Perkins testified that Cherry told him about Edie’s death sometime that June or July. “He didn’t specify that it was final, but I walked away believing the decision was final, approved by the studio and network.”
Consulting producer Jeff Greenstein said he remembers that the idea of Edie’s death began floating later that summer, but even then no decision had been made.
“As fall went on, there were a lot of discussions about whether this was a good idea and when it would occur,” testified Greenstein, who worked on the show part time and considers himself a good friend of Sheridan’s for 20 years. “I do recall that in October, November, December this was not a matter [Cherry] was totally at rest with. Because the debates continued, I believe his mind was not made up.”
If there is one aspect of the case that is sure to bewilder the jury, it is the so-called human-resources investigation that ABC Studios conducted, a seemingly lazy effort that amounted to what appears to be an exercise in Hollywood taking care of its own. Sheridan never reported the incident to the network or studio, but she did ask her entertainment lawyer Neil Meyer to call ABC Studios executive vice president Howard Davine.
For his part, Cherry immediately told executive producer Sabrina Wind that Sheridan had gotten upset when he “tapped” her during a rehearsal. He also stopped by Perkins’s office.
“He was quite distraught and gave me his description of what happened,” Perkins said. “He was nervous, spoke quickly.” Asked if Cherry was speaking loudly, Perkins replied: “Yes, he has a tendency to do that.”
Wind testified that she spoke to Lynne Volk of human resources about what Cherry told her, but did not share that there were plans to kill off Edie. “I considered it to be a secret we weren’t telling people,” she said.
That night Perkins sent an email to Volk, two ABC publicists, and Wind describing what happened as a “very minor incident.”
“I don’t expect any repercussions from it,” Perkins wrote. “I would like the loop to be held closely though and not take this wider unless something comes of it.”
Perkins testified he felt comfortable sending the email before hearing Sheridan’s point of view because, after speaking to others, his “gut feeling” indicated it was a “misunderstanding between someone trying to give direction and the actor. I know that Nicollette is emotional at times, and I felt that emotion probably played into that.”
The next day Sheridan called Perkins, whom she considers a confidant.
“She was upset. She used the word ‘hit’ and told me her perspective,” Perkins testified. He did not tell Sheridan about the email he wrote to human resources. When Sheridan asked Perkins to talk to Cherry and ask him to apologize again and send her flowers, he agreed because he thought it was a “reasonable request.” But Cherry disagreed.
At Pedowitz’s request, Davine asked Volk to look into the matter. Almost a month later, on Nov. 14, Volk arranged interviews with Ganzel, Shaw, and script supervisor Linda Leifer, who did not witness the incident. She did not request to speak to Cherry or Sheridan.
Satisfied that Ganzel, Shaw, and Leifer were all telling the same story, Volk concluded the matter was resolved. On Dec. 5, Davine wrote Meyer a letter that stated in part:
“Marc simply gave her a light tap on the side of her head for the sole purpose of providing direction for a scene they were rehearsing … while you did not seek any action on ABC’s part, I did want you to know that … we found no reason to take any action based on our findings.”
Cherry and Sheridan’s relationship had deteriorated—even after Cherry convinced the studio to raise her salary by $65,000 an episode in the third season and fought for her to become a participant in all of the show’s profits, according to copies of her contracts displayed in court. When she left the series, she was earning $175,000 an episode.
But Sheridan had grown unhappy with the direction of her character and was not shy about voicing it. Over the years the writers told Sheridan that they were “frustrated,” because they’d write funny scenes for Edie and Cherry would nix them, she testified. Sheridan said she approached Cherry “very gingerly and very tentatively, because it’s a touchy subject with Marc sometimes. He would coldly cut me off. He had a very different demeanor with the boys than he had with me.”
Before the Sept. 24, 2008, incident, “things were already difficult,” Perkins conceded in court. Sheridan had often arrived late to work from the first season and frequently did not know her lines.
“She would often tell me that she felt her call time was too early and she wasn’t needed as early as we called her.” But Perkins said other actresses were late, too. Cross, for instance, is late to work 25 percent of the time, he testified.
When Cherry finally broke the news to Sheridan, she took it well, by all accounts. Perkins even sent Sheridan a handwritten note later complimenting her on the “classy” way she handled herself.
Then, Cherry got the idea to bring her back for a 15-second ghost scene for the finale, which Sheridan couldn’t turn down because she was under contract for all episodes that season.
“I told Marc that I felt the story could be told without bringing Nicollette back, and I felt it was not kind,” Perkins testified. “I just personally felt as though we were not being as gracious as we could be on the show.”
Cherry stuck to his plan.
|March 8||Trial Sixth Day Recap|
On Wednesday session, Cherry continued his deposition questioned, this time, by his own lawyer. Then it was turn for former writer and co-executive producer Lori Kirkland Baker, who has always backed Nicollette’s timeline of events and EP Sabrina Wind, Cherry’s “right hand gal”.
The Desperate Housewives creator resumed his testimony asnwering more questions about the timeline of the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character Edie Brit. Cherry continued to claim that the main reason he decided to kill off the Britt character was “creative”, because “the purpose of the character was over” by Season 5. But Cherry said financial considerations and concerns about Sheridan’s “egregious” and “unprofessional” behavior also factored into his decision; that seemingly contradicts testimony Tuesday from former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz, who told the court killing off the Britt character was a purely “creative” matter. Pressed for specifics Wednesday, Cherry cited Sheridan making remarks about scripts that were “insulting” to writers, a time she was seemingly unprepared for a scenes, and he specifically talked about a clash during Season One between Sheridan and Hatcher, “In the first season, I was called to the set because there was a problem between Nicollette Sheridan and Teri Hatcher. They were shooting a scene for when they dumped Martha Huber’s ashes. They were furious with one another. Nicollette said she thought Teri Hatcher was the meanest woman in the world for how she was treating her. I was shocked by Nicollette’s behavior, because I had seen her upsetting co-stars.” He thought Britt’s death would give the show “some juice” and “open up” possibilities for new characters. The defense also introduced various sets of writer’s assistant’s notes and other bullet-point documents, dated May 14, 19 and 22 of 2008, that mentioned “Edie’s death” as a part of that season’s storylines. Cherry told the court that while some storylines and ideas were abandoned as the season progressed, he never wavered in his plan to kill off Britt, especially after he received permission from Pedowitz and then-ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson on May 22, 2008.
Lori Kirkland Baker testified that she never saw a supposed writer’s index card saying “Steve drinks OJ,” until January 2009 and there was not talking of killing Edie in the Vegas writers retreat. At that retreat, the plan for Edie was to return to Wisteria Lane with a new husband and they’d buy a lot of houses (story that was later used for character Paul Young) and the body dumped on the street was going to be a stranger. Baker, who was with the show from 2007-09, also said Cherry first announced his plans in December 2008, after “just being given permission by Steve McPherson to kill off the Edie Britt character.” She recalled hearing about the hit when National Enquirer printed the story that Sabrina Wind said “this is not going to go well for Nicollette.” Then, in January 2009, Cherry walked in to the writers room and said he had changed his mind and Edie would die on 518 instead of the finale. Baker said she was surprised “It felt like it was just getting stuck into any old episode. Didn’t seem like we were building to something special.” She doesn’t recall whose idea it was to do strangulation/car crash/electrocution death. Baker also said she didn’t think the show would actually kill Edie because “I believed Edie Britt to be a popular character.” She was not asked about hitting incident.
Next on stand was Sabrina Wind, a Desperate Housewives producer and Cherry’s self-described “right-hand gal,” who contradicted several statements her boss made during his testimony. Wind, visibly nervous, said she could not recall getting a call from Cherry shortly after the alleged head-hitting incident between him and Sheridan on September 24, 2008. Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute then read from Wind’s deposition last year, in which she said she “did not” receive a call from Cherry as he previously testified. She said the first she heard of the incident was when Cherry later returned to the writers room, after he had already apologized to Sheridan. Wind also said she was the one who, along with another producer, notified ABC human resources about the Sheridan incident right after it happened. However, she said she did not know anything about the investigation that cleared Cherry until it was over; and did not keep him informed. Wind, who is Cherry’s partner in Cherry/Wind Productions, also said she knew of no discussions about financial savings or “unprofessional behavior” on Sheridan’s part as reasons for killing off the actress’ character though she did indicate there were discussions about Sheridan’s professional competence. Most of her testimony was “don’t recall” or “don’t remember.” She returns to stand today along with director Larry Shaw.
Mark Baute said testimony by Lori Kirkland Baker was “devastating” to the other side. He also said the testimony at the end of the day by Sabrina Wind, an executive producer on the show and Cherry’s partner in a production company, showed that Cherry and ABC are lying about what really happened during a 2008 altercation that Sheridan believes led to her firing from the hit show. Baute’s law partner Patrick Maloney, who led the questioning of that witness, said Baker’s “story didn’t vary” from what she said in her earlier deposition. “There’s a moment in a trial which is an inflection point when everything changes,” said Baute, suggesting Baker represented such a moment. “You could feel the goose bumps,” he added. “It’s the first testimony that shows the corporation was willing to lie.”
After court concluded for the day, defense attorney Adam Levin issued this statement: ”Three witnesses have testified on behalf of the defense that the final decision to kill Ms. Sheridan’s character was made in May of 2008. One witness has testified for the plaintiff under perjury and penalty that she wasn’t in the room when the discussions took place.”
While different actors from the show are on the witness list, it’s likely they won’t be called to testify. Judge Allen White wants to wrap things up as soon as possible, and the witness lists are long so only those with something to add will be called. However seems like James Denton will be the only actor taking the stand. Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, told RumorFix, “I don’t think that James Denton knows anything about the case. I’ll just have to see if they actually bring him to court.”
Friday will be the day almost everyone has been waiting for, former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson is slated to testify on Friday at 1:30 PM. Another interesting witness is producer George Perkins, who, at the very least, has heard both sides of the story and seems to be in the known of what happened.
I keep thinking that, for a character that had only done one thing (stealing other people’s husbands), there were more things she could do if they really wanted to expand said character. And as The Daily Beast reporter mentions, it’ll be interesting if someone asks Marc Cherry why he told almost everybody Edie was being killed off but not the actress protraying her.
|March 7||Trial Fifth Day Recap|
On yesterday session Marc Cherry was supossed to continue his testimony but instead it was turn for TV expert Richard Olshansky, Nicollette’s entertainment lawyer Neil Meyer and former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz. The most important testimony was the latter, which, truth be told, didn’t do any favors to Nicollette’s case; who in these last days has been accompanied in court by her boyfriend and her best friend.
First on stand was Neil Meyer. He testified that after he was called about the hit, he contacted Howard Davine, the business affairs executive at ABC Studios that handles contracts. He told him that Sheridan was “extremely upset” and relayed her version of events. Meyer said: “It must have been pretty bad because she wouldn’t just call me.” He also said Sheridan wasn’t looking for any action because “she was concerned about retribution from Mr Cherry and he had apologized and she wanted to put her head down and go back to work.” Meyer just wanted to make Davine aware of the incident. “We weren’t asking ABC/Disney to do anything because Nicollette was concerned about retribution from Mr. Cherry,” Meyer said. “She was concerned if we brought this up, her job would be in jeopardy.“ “She told me Mr. Cherry was a very vindictive man,” her attorney added, a remark that the judge then struck from the official record at the request of Cherry’s lawyer. Meyer said his client was worried not just about herself but also that Cherry might do the same thing to others. “She was very concerned that if it could happen to her, it could happen to other people,” he testified.
Davine sent Meyer a letter in December 2008 saying he had investigated and determined it was a minor incident in which Cherry lightly tapped her as an instruction and the matter was closed. Meyer says he didn’t respond because the letter was self-serving and Sheridan was not looking for anything to actually be done. Davine never informed Meyer that a decision to kill of Sheridan had already been made as Cherry claims. When Sheridan called Meyer to tell him she’d been fired in February 2009, he was shocked. “It struck me as retaliatory.” He called Davine again: “Really? You fired her?” Davine didn’t engage him in conversation but wanted to know if their professional relationship was ok.
As a business lawyer, Meyer says it makes no sense that if a decision has been made to kill off a character in May 2008 that the actor’s contract would be renewed for a year requiring network to pay $4million no matter how many episodes she is in.
He also testified that he has not been able to get her an acting job “for several years” in the wake of her firing from Desperate Housewives. He revealed Sheridan’s difficulty finding an agent or employment.
Sheridan’s attorney Mark Baute then called Richard Olshansky to the stand as an expert witness. Olshansky was exec vice-president of business affairs at NBC from 2004 to 2009. He worked with shows including “30 Rock,” “Law and Order” and “Parks and Recreation” testified that it was extremely unusual for a comedy show to kill of a main character. “It’s virtually unprecedented as far as I can tell, for a lead character in a comedy to be killed off in a show,” Olshansky said. He then explained how hard it is for a TV show to even get on the air, saying that for every 100 scripts commissioned, one makes it on the air. “Once you get something that works, you tend to not want to mess with it,” Olshansky said, and noted that there were other reasons for not killing off a main character. “The audience tends to form a bond with various characters, so when you take a character off the board,” Olshansky testified, “you are effectively alienating some portion of the audience that you may nor may not be able to get back.”
And last, but definitely not least, was Mark Pedowitz’s turn. He said he “was not pleased” to first hear about the alleged on-set incident between Cherry and Sheridan from the National Enquirer. “That would be an understatement.” Pedowitz said his role on Desperate Housewives during his time at ABC was to “oversee the creative, the business and the production for the studio.” He answered plaintiffs lawyers’ questions in a concise, clipped manner, was seen earlier in the day in the halls shaking hands and laughing with Cherry and his lawyers; but also greeted the actress with an embrace, “Hey, sweetheart, how are you?”
While claiming he had never heard of the “Steve drinks OJ” reference for killing Edie, he confirmed Cherry’s testimony than he aproved Edie’s death in May 2008. Pedowitz said that he signed off on Edie Britt’s death during a meeting with Cherry and then-president of ABC Entertainment, Steve McPherson, on May 22, 2008—four months before Cherry supposedly hit Sheridan on the head during an argument on set, as Sheridan alleges. “Who ultimately was the one who killed off Edie Britt from ABC Studios?” inquired Cherry’s attorney, Adam Levin. Replied Pedowitz: “I did. [Edie] was a main series regular and it required the network studio to sign off” on her character’s exit, he explained. Pedowitz said that he was the one who told Cherry, when he approached the exec about killing Edie in season three, that “there was more storytelling left” for Sheridan’s character. But while Cherry testified yesterday that Sheridan’s Edie was killed off for creative, financial and H.R.-related reasons (he claims Sheridan’s behavior had become increasingly unprofessional), Pedowitz testified today that he only signed off on the move for “creative” purposes and Cherry never brought up the other two. But, Pedowitz added, he did mandate that all ABC series cut costs by 2 percent in 2008. He testified Cherry wanted Sheridan gone sooner rather than later but he was told to wait for May sweeps. Pedowitz said they wanted it to be a secret and a surprise for everyone, and were concerned word would leak out. When asked if keeping a secret was an issue, Pedowitz quipped, “I have a concern about anybody keeping a secret.”
Pedowitz said he did have a moment when he reconsidered the decision. He personally only found out about the Sept. 24 incident when Cherry struck Sheridan when he read about it in the National Enquirer tabloid at the end of October while he was standing on a supermarket checkout line. He recalled he was surprised he knew nothing about the incident and immediate got on the phone and called a meeting with his top internal staff to discuss it. At that meeting Pedowitz ordered that an investigation be done into the incident by the human resources department. That was the appropriate way to handle the situation he felt, so he made no effort to contact Cherry or Sheridan or anyone else directly. However, it did concern him that when word got out that Edie Britt was going to be killed, it might cause an issue. “We did not want the decision to play out like it did today in court,” he lamented. In November, the head of HR reported back to him verbally that an investigation had been completed, there were no more outstanding complaints to deal with and that there was no further action to take. HR and Pedowitz at that point determined the matter was closed.
At the end of the day, Cherry returned to the stand and was asked if he agreed with Olshansky that Desperate Housewives was a comedy in the same way Seinfeld or 30 Rock or Golden Girls, on which he had worked, was a comedy. “Absolutely not,” said Cherry adamantly. Cherry said those comedies for the most part are half hour shows usually shot in front of a live audience, that are all about doing a set up and then a joke, a set up and a joke, again and again. He said Desperate Housewives, on the other hand, had comic elements but also told dramatic stories and involved a mystery element. “That’s why,” said Cherry, “its not a typical comedy.”
Trial resumes Wednesday, with Cherry, a producer that backs up Sheridan’s events and possibly Neal Baer.
Ted Casablanca has some information on his column ‘The Awful Truth’ coming from sources close to the case that she might not have lost the battle yet, contrary to the recent speculation that she’s fighting a lost cause.
While Cherry and his lawyers have stated that he had planned to kill Edie for a long while and the onscreen death had nothing to do with the incident that ocurred on set.
Story outlines proving that seem a piece of evidence against Sheridan.
“I think anyone can create notes dated whenever they want them to be,” the source claims, careful not to state that the documents actually are counterfeit—just that they possibly could be.
But there may be more to Cherry’s decision to kill off Sheridan’s character than telling some network execs. Or at least a case of bad etiquette.
The source continues: “I would also think there is something in her contract that says to the effect if this is my last year I get to know so I can look for other work.”
Especially since Cherry apparently let costars Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria know months before Nicollette that he was planning on giving Ms. Britt the boot (to which he claims they were “relieved”).
Nicollette’s personal attorneys and Cherry’s people have been reached out for clarification on her contract but haven’t answered back yet.
|March 6||Trial Fourth Day Recap|
With a small change in the jury (one juror was sick and had to be replaced) and a little delay, the session start with the conclussion of Nicollette’s testimony and the beginning of Cherry’s.
The main focus was a December 5, 2008 letter from ABC’ Human Resources that concluded its investigation into the on-set incident between Cherry and Sheridan. In the letter, the network found that the producer’s apology over the incident had effectively ended the matter and no further action would be taken for “inadvertently upsetting [Sheridan].” Sheridan said it was “an appalling and outrageous lie.”
For Sheridan’s final day on the stand, opposing counsel interrogated the British thesp on how she could claim in her deposition that the producer told her that he “wanted to shake things up” when he informed her that he was going to ax Edie in February 2008—when Levin pointed out Sheridan painted a very different impression in her testimony last week all hinging on the word “just.” “You were making that up, weren’t you?” Levin asked her accusingly before warning her that she again was contradicting herself and could face a penalty of perjury. What subsequently unfolded was some heavy jousting over whether “just” was in her deposition with the lawyer trying to shake Nicollette’s composure and undermine her credibility and Sheridan firing back, noting “‘Just’ was not in what you just read,” in reference to the deposition statement he uttered aloud.
Levin also argued that Sheridan had her attorney, Neil Meyer, take care of her complaint against Cherry after the fateful September 2008 incident on set when she alleged that Cherry decked her on the side of the head instead of the thesp personally contacting human resources or her union herself. “I felt that [having Neil handle the situation] was the safest hands to be in,” Sheridan said, in response to why her attorney handled contacting H.R. and she didn’t.
Once her redirect was complete, the actress cried on the stand and was handed a tissue from Judge Elizabeth Allen White—this after reading a letter line producer George Perkins gave her after her last table read relating how blessed the staff were to have her on the show.
Every now and then I’m blown away by something someone does.
Today you blew me away at the read through.
Your grace, dignity and class shined the brightest light in the room.
You’re a very special person Nicollette and I’m blessed to know you.
And then Cherry’s turn started. He was upbeat and his answers were short. Under questioning by Sheridan’s attorneys, he often said, “I don’t recall.” He did however say he “tapped” Sheridan’s head with his fingers. And, Cherry claims Sheridan was relieved of her contract because of “creative desires” to make the story arc better.
Cherry also revealed the five reasons, Sheridan was fired:
• She’s not punctual
• She forgets lines
• He witnessed her being nasty to a prop man.
• She’s critical of the scripts
• She’s critical of one of her co-stars
Cherry didn’t reveal which co-star, and he said he personally did not witness her being tardy.
The admission came in a contentious line of questioning from Sheridan’s attorney Mark Baute in Los Angeles Superior Court. It began when he asked Cherry if he used his right hand.
Cherry said, “Used to what?”
Baute said, “I’m not going to get into adjectives like hit…”
Defense attorney Adam Levin objected as vague and Judge Elizabeth Allen White sustained the objection.Baute re-phrased and asks what portion of Cherry’s body came into contact with Nicollette Sheridan.
Cherry said, “My fingers.” Baute asked, “On your right hand?”
Cherry said, “Yes, they are attached to my right hand.”
Asked what part of Sheridan’s body he made contact with, Cherry said the left side of her head, with an open hand.
Baute asked if Cherry asked permission to make contact with Sheridan.
Cherry said, “I felt I had permission.”
When Baute repeated the question, Cherry said “permission was understood.”
After Baute repeated the question in various forms, and the judge ordered Cherry to answer directly, Cherry said that “no,” he did not ask permission to make contact with her.
Under questioning, Cherry recalled that Sheridan said, “You hit me. You can’t hit me.” before leaving the set upset immediately.
Cherry said his assistant Jason Ganzel, script supervisor Linda Leifer and director Larry Shaw were then talking to him about it and the issue of apologizing came up. Cherry testified that he went outside and called his assistant Sabrina Wind, and she said they needed to report it to HR immediately. In explaining the contact, Cherry said that his intent was to demonstrate a “physical bit of business” to end the scene. He said Sheridan seemed confused with the verbal directions she was given, so he gave her a physical demonstration. His deposition was read out loud by Baute: “I resorted to demonstration to get my point across.” Cherry was visibly flustered and appeared frustrated several times, in contrast with his testimony earlier in the day. Asked if there are any emails or memos documenting the alleged unprofessional behavior, Cherry said he hasn’t seen any. When questioned further about her alleged unprofessional conduct and killing her off the show, Cherry said, “It wasn’t my primary reason for my decision, but it was something I was aware of.”
Marc Cherry also told the court that Nicollette Sheridan’s Desperate Housewives co-stars Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman were “relieved” to hear that Sheridan’s character would be killed off the hit ABC series. They were, he testified, concerned that their deals might be affected by salary demands Sheridan might have been considering at the time. He testified that on or around the series’ 100th episode party on December 10, 2008 — more than two months before Cherry said he told Sheridan that she would be leaving the show – he told Longoria and Huffman that Sheridan’s character was being killed off to “calm them down”. Longoria and Huffman were in Cherry’s office that December day to discuss conversations they had with Sheridan about all five stars renegotiating their contracts together to get a better deal out of the network.
Meanwhile, over a month after the meeting with Longoria and Huffman, a January 27, 2009 email went out from Housewives producer George Perkins, quoting Cherry, that said “any attempts to diminish” Sheridan’s Edie Britt character’s role “is false”. Cherry confirmed that that the quote came from him.
Testimony concluded with a much more relaxed Cherry answering questions from his defense lawyer Adam Levin about his background, how he came up with the concept for Housewives and about how Sheridan was so great in the show’s pilot that Cherry decided to make her a series regular. His testimony continues tomorrow. Former ABC executive Mark Pedowitz, now entertainment president of The CW, is expected to testify next.
I find very interesting he was willing to give out names about Huffman and Longoria being relieved Nicollette was being axed but he didn’t name who Sheridan was supposedly badmouthing.
|March 4||Trial Third Day Recap|
Nicollette Sheridan was unable to maintain her composure on the witness stand on Friday when Marc Cherry’s attorney, Adam Levin, pressed her on why some documents filed in her wrongful-termination case claimed that she was “slapped” by her former boss while others claimed she was “violently hit.”
“I don’t know why they’re different!” the former Desperate Housewives star fired back. “You are such a stickler for details!”
“Miss Sheridan, calm down, you’ll get your chance on redirect.” interjected L.A. Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White.
During cross-examination, Levin inquired as to why one complaint filed with the California Fair Employment and Housing Department stated that “Cherry, a gay man, slapped [her], a heterosexual woman,” and in a supplementary document she said she was hit.
Sheridan testified on Thursday that she was “hit upside the head”—a change in testimony that could qualify as perjury, Levin warned her. “Sorry, this is ridiculous to me,” Sheridan barked back, accusing him of “misconstruing” her deposition. “I said from the beginning that Cherry hit me,” she continued. “I am not sure why the word slapped is in there.”
The defense pursued her in questioning, suggesting that she was difficult, pestering the big boss for better lines. Sheridan said she was just trying to make the show funnier.
“Were you so intent on getting a funny line that you never considered that Marc’s dismissiveness meant that Edie did not need a funny line?” Levin wondered. “[Cherry] did not yell or shout.”
He noted that Sheridan never reported Cherry’s alleged actions to the police or human resources at ABC, but only talked to Desperate Housewives line producer George Perkins about it.
Then, just as Sheridan’s attorney played a five-minute montage of Edie’s seductive scenes over five seasons, Levin pointedly played a video montage of every character every killed off the show (48 of them), further demonstrating that Sheridan was one of many axed by the show.
Levin has argued that his client “tapped” Sheridan on the head, but did not strike her hard—and that, contrary to what Sheridan thinks, Cherry had been considering killing off Edie since season three, long before he supposedly killed her off in retribution for Sheridan complaining about him.
The defense also asserted Nicollette Sheridan was never one of the stars of Desperate Housewives. He went to great lengths to show that the actress was not of the same stature as Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman and Teri Hatcher on the hit ABC series. Levin cited pay differences; that she was not featured in a group shot in the show’s opening sequence; and that she was only nominated for a best supporting role by the Golden Globes in 2005 and never a best actress Globe or Emmy, as others on the show were.
Following the session, Sheridan’s lawyer addressed reporters, accusing Cherry’s camp of purposely riling the actress up on the stand. “I think it is total poppycock,” Baute said. Sheridan will return to the stand at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. While the defense spent 12 minutes questioning Sheridan about the degree of the alleged battery, Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, maintains there is no difference between a hit and a slap under the law, saying “a hit is a hit.” He also said a request for script changes is part of the business. “Your collaborative goal is to improve the show, the women on the show should not be conditioned to be afraid to raise that view point and share that viewpoint at the risk of getting hit in the face,” Baute said.
The defense declined comment Friday but said they look forward to Cherry’s testimony. “We believe strongly in the merits of the case and we’re looking forward to an airing of the evidence,” said Cherry’s attorney, Mark Levin. Cherry said he “lightly tapped her [Sheridan's] head in giving her direction for a scene.” His defense team showed the jury a scene Sheridan shot after her continued demands for a better line in the dialogue and after the confrontation.
Next week, both sides will bring in experts. Sheridan’s witness will say producers never kill off key characters, Cherry’s expert is expected to say just the opposite.