'Desperate Housewives' Jury 'Hopelessly Deadlocked on a Verdict'

1:56 PM PST 03/16/2012 by Alex Ben Block
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Zuma Press/Newscom

UPDATED: The jury is said by the judge to be split 8-4, though it was not specified which way it is leaning.

The jury in the Desperate Housewives wrongful termination trial is “hopelessly deadlocked on a verdict," the judge said Friday.

Judge Elizabeth Allen White told lawyers on both sides that she doesn’t believe that even extra statements or time is going to make a difference in the outcome. “The message is pretty clear," she said of the jury. "They don’t feel they can cross that bridge.” When asked, the foreman of the jury indicated that the jury is split 8-4, though he did not specify which way the jury was leaning. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree for a valid verdict.

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The judge asked the jury to go home for the weekend and think about the case, come back Monday morning and deliberate further. She said, “If you still can’t reach a verdict, we will declare a mistrial.”

At stake in former Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan’s civil lawsuit against ABC is lost back salary of nearly $6 million, as well as potential punitive damages. Sheridan argued that she was written off the hit series in retaliation for complaining about a Sept. 2008 altercation with Housewives executive producer Marc Cherry.

Sheridan’s attorney, Mark Baute, said in the hallway outside the courtroom right after the jury filed out that he is surprised that the jury would declare itself deadlocked after “a day and a half of deliberations.” He said of the 8-4 spilt, “I’m pleased,” even though he can’t be sure which way the majority is voting.

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Baute said that in his more than three decades as an attorney, he has never had to retry a case, but if he has to, he will retry this one. “We didn’t do a mock trial (in advance),” said Baute, referring to his claim that the Cherry-ABC group did a rehearsal trial. “They did. This was our mock trial.”

Asked what he was going to do this weekend, Baute said he was going to Las Vegas for a sports tournament.

The jury will return Monday morning and deliberate again, but the tone of its message delivered through the judge indicated the jury has little hope of reaching agreement. Since it only takes nine votes in a civil trial to get a verdict, the jury would only have to have one person change his or her mind, but at this point, that does not appear likely. One reason is that the judge said she was told that the jurors are all voting exactly as they did on the first day and that it doesn’t appear any of them are flexible. The jury consists of nine women and three men.

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