- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The creator of “Desperate Housewives” says he felt awkward and cautious around Nicollette Sheridan after a dispute in which the actress claims he struck her head.

Marc Cherry told jurors in Sheridan’s wrongful termination civil trial that he watched his words around her and kept tabs on a human resources investigation of the incident through a key confidante.

Cherry claims he merely tapped the actress for artistic direction during their discussion in September 2008, but the actress says she was hit hard and the blow left her stunned and humiliated.

After Cherry was cleared by ABC executives, he informed series stars Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman that Sheridan’s role would be cut. He told jurors that decision had been made in May, months before his spat with the actress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The creator of “Desperate Housewives” told jurors Monday that he received permission to kill Nicollette Sheridan’s character four months before he was involved in a dispute during which the actress claims he struck her on the head.

Marc Cherry testified that a top ABC executive gave him permission to kill off Edie Britt’s character during a brief meeting in May 2008, long before the dispute over a scene.

Sheridan’s attorneys claim she was fired for complaining about the blow, which Cherry has described as a tap he gave as artistic direction.

Sheridan, whose character died toward the end of the show’s fifth season, is seeking more than $6 million for wrongful termination and battery claims.

The actress concluded testifying Monday after sparring with Cherry’s attorneys over her prominence on the show and whether she had inconsistently described how Cherry hit her.

Sheridan told jurors she was shocked by the blow and demonstrated it on her attorney for the jury. She claims Cherry hit her on the temple, but Cherry testified, “I tapped her head.”

“It was humiliating,” Sheridan told the jury last week. “It was demeaning. It was unfathomable to me that I had just been hit by my boss.”

Sheridan’s attorneys called Cherry as the trial’s second witness, but he has not yet described his version of the dispute in detail. Instead, his early testimony focused on the decision to kill the Britt character and whether that was made before his dispute with the actress.

Cherry testified that he had three reasons for killing off Britt _ creative, cost-cutting, and complaints about Sheridan’s behavior. He acknowledged there wasn’t any documentation about the actress’ alleged bad behavior, which included claims of tardiness, forgetting lines and treating a prop person rudely.

Mark Baute, Sheridan’s attorney, has noted that Sheridan’s contract was renewed just days after the May 2008 meeting during which Cherry claims he was given permission to fire the actress. That renewal decision meant the actress’ pay was bumped to $175,000 per episode and she received a full share of profits from the series.

Baute also played a clip of an interview Cherry gave before the start of season five, which was Sheridan’s last, in which he said the show would focus on the lives of five characters played by Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Sheridan.

The show’s four other female stars are listed as potential witnesses at the trial.

Cherry said he told ABC the death of Britt could be heavily promoted and would benefit the show financially and with ratings.

“Desperate Housewives,” a glossy prime-time comedy/soap opera with an ensemble cast including Hatcher and Longoria, made a pop-culture and ratings splash when it premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle. It is in its last season.


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

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