- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - An attorney for Nicollette Sheridan will make his last attempt Wednesday to convince jurors that the actress was fired from “Desperate Housewives” because she complained she was hit by the series’ creator.

Attorneys for ABC, which owns the network that airs the show and studio that produces it, will make their final pitch that Sheridan’s claims are overblown and her character was on the chopping block months before her dispute with Marc Cherry.

The final arguments will be crucial to framing nine days of conflicting testimony for the jury, which has heard from Sheridan, Cherry, actor James Denton and a host of writers, producers and others affiliated with the series. One of the final witnesses delivered a final twist, testifying that he received an email that he believed called for the destruction of files related to Sheridan’s firing.

Construction coordinator Michael Reinhart reluctantly testified Tuesday, conceding that he didn’t remember many details of the message and may have even misinterpreted it. However, he said his belief about what it meant has left him uncomfortable and had been gnawing at him as Sheridan’s courtroom drama played out.

The trial featured the actress hitting her attorney to demonstrate the blow she claims Cherry inflicted on her during an on-set dispute in September 2008. Cherry testified he merely tapped the actress to give her artistic direction.

Jurors will no longer be asked to consider Sheridan’s claim that she suffered battery after a judge pared down the case Tuesday.

The panel will have to decide which side they believe: ABC’s witnesses who testified that Cherry obtained permission to kill off Sheridan’s role of Edie Britt in May 2008, or the actress’ attorneys who contend a conspiracy occurred and the decision wasn’t made until late 2008.

There was a lot of secrecy about the planned death, with Cherry and several top producers and writers testifying they adopted the code “Steven drinks OJ” on early planning cards for the show’s fifth season. The code was a reference to O.J. Simpson, who was charged but acquitted of killing his wife.

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.

Sheridan hasn’t worked since losing her role during the fifth season of “Desperate Housewives” and is seeking roughly $6 million. It is a small fraction of the more than $1.1 billion the series has earned since it debuted on ABC in 2004.

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.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.


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

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