Final arguments begin in ‘Housewives’ firing case

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Nicollette Sheridan’s attorney said Wednesday that ABC officials and the creator of “Desperate Housewives” lied about when and why they fired the actress from the series.

Lawyer Mark Baute told jurors during closing arguments in Sheridan’s wrongful termination case that she was forced to leave in retaliation for complaining that show creator Marc Cherry had hit her on the set in September 2008.

Nicollette is here today because she got hit,” Baute told jurors. “She didn’t want to be here.”

Cherry testified during the two-week trial that he merely tapped the actress to give her artistic direction, and that he received approval to kill off Sheridan’s character Edie Britt months before the on-set incident.

Attorneys for ABC and Cherry were expected to make their closing argument later in the day. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree in order for a verdict to be reached.

The on-set incident occurred after Sheridan’s contract was renewed, guaranteeing her a full season’s pay and a share of profits for the entire series. However, she hasn’t worked since losing her role on the show and is seeking roughly $6 million.

The amount is a fraction of the more than $1.1 billion the series has earned since it debuted on ABC in 2004.

Attorneys for ABC, which owns the network that airs the show and the studio that produces it, previously said Sheridan’s claims were overblown and her character was on the chopping block months before her dispute with Cherry.

In his closing argument, Baute challenged the contention that the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character was made months before her dispute with Cherry.

“You don’t make decisions on killing one of your top five characters early,” Baute said. “It’s a game-day decision. You wait.”

He also claimed ABC officials delayed an investigation of the incident, saying Sheridan, Cherry and key witnesses were not interviewed.

“If a woman complains about being hit at work, you investigate,” Baute said.

The final arguments came after nine days of conflicting testimony from Sheridan, Cherry, actor James Denton and a host of writers, producers and others affiliated with the series.

The trial featured the actress hitting her attorney to demonstrate the blow she claims Cherry delivered.

Sheridan’s case initially included a battery claim, but the judge ruled Tuesday that jurors will no longer be asked to consider that allegation.

One writer and co-executive producer testifying for Sheridan said Cherry didn’t announce the decision to kill off Britt until December 2008, when he was cleared of a human resources investigation into his spat with the actress.

The primetime comedy/soap opera was a ratings powerhouse in its early years, but has seen its audience dwindle. The show is in its eighth and final season.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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