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Attorneys weave conflicting tales of truth, lies and conspiracy in 'Desperate Housewives' case
LOS ANGELES (AP) ' Jurors considering Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful termination case were urged Wednesday to award her millions of dollars after her attorneys alleged her bosses on "Desperate Housewives" lied and conspired against the actress.
Sheridan's lawyer Mark Baute accused several witnesses of lying when they said the decision to kill Sheridan's character Edie Britt was made four months before the actress accused show creator Marc Cherry of striking her on the set.
Cherry and others testified that the death of Britt had had been decided during the earliest planning stages of the fifth season.
Britt, however, claimed the move came as retaliation for Sheridan's complaints about being hit hard in the head.
"You don't make decisions on killing one of your top five actresses early," Baute said. "It's a game-day decision. You wait."
Cherry testified during the two-week trial that he merely tapped the actress to give her artistic direction.
Adam Levin, lead attorney for Cherry and ABC, said during his closing argument that the actress and her counsel were resorting to desperate theories.
"Desperate is claiming that 10 good citizens of California conspired to get their story straight," Levin said.
He said the theory involved a "complicated story of conspiracy, perjuring witnesses, backdated documents and photographs" that simply wasn't true.
Sheridan looked directly at the jurors as her attorney argued that she should be awarded roughly $6 million for being dumped from the primetime comedy/soap opera.
Nicollette is here today because she got hit," Baute told jurors. "She didn't want to be here."
The attorney also said it didn't make sense that ABC officials had renewed Sheridan's contract for the fifth season of the show if they intended to kill off her character. Her contract guaranteed her a full season's pay and a share of profits for the entire series.
Jurors have been presented conflicting testimony throughout the trial, much of it based on the memories of witnesses
Each side tried to claim their witnesses had more credibility.
Levin said people such as former studio head Mark Pedowitz and former ABC network chief Steve McPherson had no reason to lie about giving Cherry a green light in May 2008 to kill off the Britt character.
In addition, Levin noted that two of Sheridan's key witnesses, both former writers on the show, disagreed on when discussions began about ditching the character. Jeff Greenstein said the talks began a month or two before Sheridan and Cherry had their dispute in September 2008, while Lori Kirkland Baker said no discussion occurred until December 2008.
During that same month, a human resources investigation cleared Cherry of wrongdoing in his dispute with Sheridan.
Baute said Baker's testimony was a key to showing a conspiracy existed.
"One or two quality witnesses (are) better than five or 10 people who are spinning, finessing or lying," Baute said.
Deliberations were expected to begin later in the day. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree in order for a verdict to be reached.
Sheridan's case initially included a battery claim, but the judge ruled Tuesday that jurors will no longer be asked to consider that allegation.
"Desperate Housewives" was a ratings powerhouse in its early years, but has seen its audience dwindle. The show is in its eighth and final season.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .