Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
3RD UPDATE, 4:35 PM: Stephen McPherson killed Edie Britt. That’s according to defense lawyer Adam Levin in his opening statement late this afternoon. Levin claims that the former ABC Entertainment president gave Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer Cherry the OK to kill off Nicollette Sheridan’s character on the series — months before an alleged head-slapping incident between the actress and Cherry. Levin told jurors that on May 22, 2008, Cherry along with fellow Housewives exec producer Bob Daily went to then-ABC Studios boss Pedowitz and asked him if they could kill off Sheridan’s character in a “tentpole” Season 5 story arc. Pedowitz agreed, and that same day the group went to McPherson with the idea. “The evidence will show,” Levin said, “that Mr. McPherson agreed”. Along with Sheridan and Cherry, who were both in court today, Pedowitz, Daily and McPherson are scheduled to testify in the two-week trial. “People die all the time on television”, Levin said, citing the collective decision. “It can increase buzz and revenue”. Levin also all but claimed that Sheridan’s assertion that Cherry hit her on set in September 2008 was the actress attempting to generate buzz and revenue for herself. Sheridan, “suffered no injury” when Cherry “lightly tapped” her on the head while giving her on-set direction that day. “She didn’t even have a red mark; she didn’t even take an aspirin,” Levin told the jury, dismissing the plaintiff’s contention that the actress was “hit hard,” as her lawyer claimed earlier. “The evidence will show she went to her trailer and the first call she made was to check her voicemail”. Concluded Levin: “Ms. Sheridan was not battered nor wrongfully terminated”. The trial continues Thursday.
2ND UPDATE, 4:15 PM: Both opening arguments have ended. Sheridan is schedule to be the first witness on the stand tomorrow morning at 9:15 and is expected to testify all day Thursday and the entire half-day session Friday.
1ST UPDATE, 3:20 PM: Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute said in his opening statement this afternoon that the former Desperate Housewives co-star is “bravely” waging this lawsuit battle “largely alone in a town where no one wants to take on the networks”. In his presentation, Baute laid out a series of contradictions to Cherry, ABC Studios and ABC’s defense of Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery suit. He argued that Cherry never decided as he had claimed to fire Sheridan from the show in May 2008, nor that the actress acted unprofessionally or was fired as a “cost-cutting measure.” He also told the jury that if Cherry really had decided to get rid of Sheridan in May 2008, why did he exercise the actress’ $4 million Season 5 contract option “on June 3, 2008″? ”Bottom line, this is a retaliatory termination,” Baute said.
The lawyer also made reference to a reported head-slapping incident between Sheridan and Cherry on the set on September 24, 2008 — Cherry later admitted he “lightly tapped” Sheridan on the head while giving direction on a scene. Boute said Sheridan “knows the difference between getting slapped on the head hard and getting tapped.” Then-ABC executive Mark Pedowitz demanded an investigation into the incident a month later, but Baute told the jury that it was conducted without either Sheridan or Cherry being interviewed by ABC human resources, and that the “network, studio and everyone went along because a show like Desperate Housewives is a serious revenue-generating machine.”
Baute concluded his opening statement at about 3 PM, and was locked in an embrace with his client as the jury filed out of the courtroom.
PREVIOUS, 2:05 PM: A jury has just been seated in the trial that pits former Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan against series creator/executive producer Marc Cherry and ABC over her departure from the hit show. Nine women and six men were selected after three days in the downtown LA courtroom. Following instruction from Judge Elizabeth Allen White, will be the opening statement from Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute. The trial is expected to last until March 12.