Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
2ND UPDATE, 3 PM: Closing statements are over and the jury has left the court to begin deliberations. As a civil trial, the 12-person jury — 9 women and 3 men — does not have to be unanimous in its verdict, but at least nine must agree.
Wrapping closing statements earlier in the afternoon, Levin went for ABC’s bottom line in the wrongful termination trial: “The evidence does not show that Ms. Sheridan made a complaint about an unsafe work environment.” During his rebuttal, plaintiff’s attorney Mark Baute went after Marc Cherry, whom he called “vindictive”. He said Cherry “was out of control,” over objections from Levin, adding, “the company,” to protect Cherry and the success of the series, “orchestrated a story.” Sheridan “got retaliated against and clipped.”
UPDATE, 12:27 PM: 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,” Levin said, referring to the closing argument by Nicollette Sheridan’s lawyer. “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 (like the unfortunately worded “Steve drinks OJ”), Levin attempted to show the jury how the decision was made to kill off Sheridan’s character and how then-ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz and then-ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson approved the plan four months before the on-set head-hitting altercation.
Levin said allegations of the “fabricating of evidence and backdating of events” by the other side’s lawyers do not stand up to the testimony of Cherry, Pedowitz and McPherson. They testified that they believed “the Edie character had run its course” and “that Edie would die in Season 5.”
Levin made a district point of reminding the jurors the kind of money Sheridan was paid for work she did and didn’t do. The lawyer noted that Sheridan, who was fired on February 10, 2009, was paid more than $875,000 for the remaining five episodes of Desperate Housewives after she left “even though she only worked for a few minutes.” Sheridan briefly returned to the series to appear as a ghost for less than an on-air minute.
Levin’s closing statement, followed by rebuttal from the Plaintiff’s side, continues at 1:30 PM.
PREVIOUS, 11:25 AM: 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 today in the actress’ $6 million wrongful termination 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. It’s an altercation Baute contends led to Sheridan’s departure from the show. The defense’s contention that Cherry decided to kill off Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008 “is a story, it is not the truth,” the lawyer said. 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.
The two-week-long trial against ABC and ABC Studios (formerly Touchstone) will hear the defense’s closing statement from lawyer Adam Levin soon.