Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor

Desperate Housewives Trial

UPDATE, 2:57 PM: Former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson told the court this afternoon that he approved the killing off of Nicollette Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008, months before a head-hitting incident between Sheridan and Cherry on the Desperate Housewives set. He then told Deadline after his brief appearance on the stand that he is surprised the case ever got this far. ”It’s kinda crazy,” McPherson said outside the courtroom. “Both parties are really nice people, and I’m surprised it even made it to trial,” he said. McPherson, who left ABC abruptly in 2010, declined to discuss the Cherry-Sheridan incident but told Deadline it had nothing to do with the actress leaving the series. “We made the decision to get rid of the character six or seven months before anything happened — whatever happened,” he said, echoing his testimony.

On the stand, McPherson confirmed Cherry’s and Pedowitz’s previous testimony that he gave his approval of the decision on May 22, 2008. “I was running the network, they needed my approval to kill of the character”, he told the jury. “I gave my approval.” The alleged Cherry-Sheridan head-slapping incident occurred in September 2008. Under questioning from Cherry defense lawyer Adam Levin, McPherson said he had no emails or memos about the decision because “we wanted to keep it confidential”. He testified that the only people at the meeting in his office that day were himself, Cherry, Pedowitz and Housewives producers Sabrina Wind and Bob Daily. He added that he would have done exactly the same thing in regards to the killing off of any major character on any major network series. “We didn’t want it to get out”, he said.

Earlier in the afternoon, ABC human resources exec Volk continued her testimony over her hearing of the Sheridan-Cherry incident and the subsequent investigation weeks later. “I concluded that the story I was hearing was consistent”, she told the jury. “It appeared to be a minor incident that was resolved and I had received no further complaints, and I considered the matter closed.” Volk reiterated she never interviewed nor heard from Cherry or Sheridan about the incident.

PREVIOUS, 1:42 PM: ABC human resources executive Lynne Volk testified today that the network did not open an investigation into the head-hitting confrontation between Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer Marc Cherry and series star Nicollette Sheridan until weeks after it occurred. “I recall being told that Ms. Sheridan and Mr. Cherry had an interaction,” Volk told the courtroom as she recollected her conversation with Housewives line producer George Perkins hours after the incident on September 24, 2008. “Ms. Sheridan had been upset by their interaction, there had been an apology and everything was fine.” The subsequent investigation was launched only after Volk had a conversation with network business affairs executive Howard Davine in mid-October 2008, after then-ABC Studios boss Mark Pedowitz read an article about the incident in the National Inquirer. That probe, according to earlier testimony from Pedowitz, did not include questioning Cherry or Sheridan and concluded that the complaints around the incident were “baseless”.

Volk testified at Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial against Cherry, ABC Studios and ABC that during the official probe she spoke to Housewives director Larry Shaw and Cherry’s assistant Jason Ganzel, both witnesses to the incident, during “relatively short” interviews November 15, 2008. She said though that she never spoke to Cherry or Sheridan. Volk said that Ganzel told her, as confirmed by her notes of her interview, that the incident was “inconsequential” and Cherry did not slap Sheridan. Pedowitz earlier testified that he received an “oral report” from Volk in early December 2008 that said complaints about the incident were “baseless”, and no further action was taken by the studio.

Steve McPherson is expected to take the stand this afternoon for what is expected to be brief testimony. Judge Elizabeth Allen White told the jury earlier in the day that she expects to conclude by Tuesday.

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