March 07, 2012 6:51pm PT by Alex Ben Block
'Desperate Housewives' Trial: Nicollette Sheridan's Lawyer Calls Writer Testimony 'Devastating' to ABC
Nicollette Sheridan’s attorney was jubilant today after testimony ended in his client's $6 million wrongful termination trial against Desperate Housewives executive producer Marc Cherry and ABC.
Mark Baute said testimony by a former writer on the show, Lori Kirkland Baker, was “devastating” to the other side. He also said the testimony at the end of the day by Sabrina Wind, an executive producer on the show and Cherry’s partner in a production company, showed that Cherry and ABC are lying about what really happened during a 2008 altercation that Sheridan believes led to her firing from the hit show.
“Call it selective recollection,” Baute told a gaggle of news people and cameras after the court session, “or call it fantasy or call it delusion, they are all protecting the studio.”
“Nobody wants to disappoint the moneymen,” he added. “A woman who gets bopped in the head is not going to be the focus of the studio.”
Adam Levin, lead lawyer for ABC and Cherry, did not address reporters after court adjourned for the day.
Baute said Baker was the first person to tell the truth about when the decision was made to kill off Sheridan's character, ending her employment on the show after its fifth season. Baker testified that the first time she heard about that decision was in December 2008, seven months after Cherry's altercation with Sheridan on the Housewives set. When Cherry revealed the news to a closed-door meeting of the show’s writing staff, Baker testified that Cherry said they had “just” gotten permission from ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson to kill off that character.
Baker also looked at writers notes that indicated the storyline ending Sheridan's character's life was in the works as early as May 2008 but said she did not recognize the part about the Sheridan character being killed off.
When Baute was asked by reporters if Baker's testimony indicated Cherry and ABC had falsified part of the documents, the lawyer said he will answer the question in his closing remarks to the jury.
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Baute’s law partner Patrick Maloney, who led the questioning of that witness, said Baker’s “story didn’t vary” from what she said in her earlier deposition.
“There’s a moment in a trial which is an inflection point when everything changes,” said Baute, suggesting Baker represented such a moment. “You could feel the goose bumps,” he added. “It’s the first testimony that shows the corporation was willing to lie.”
When asked if he meant ABC and Cherry were lying, Baute said yes. He said Cherry had been carefully coached and that was why he sounded rehearsed on the stand.
Baute openly mocked testimony Wednesday afternoon by Wind, who said the decision to fire Sheridan was made before the Cherry incident.
“She tried to make stuff up for the first five minutes and then saw that we had her so she said ‘I do not recall’ over and over,” said Baute, adding that her testimony “shows extreme bias. It shows she had been asked to take the stand and say ‘I don’t recall,’ so there is no contradiction with (Cherry’s) story.”
Wind, however, did contradict Cherry at times. For instance, Cherry had testified that immediately after the Sheridan incident the first person he called was Wind. She said she had no memory of such a call, and said the first she heard of the incident was when Cherry later returned to the writers room, after he had already apologized to Sheridan.
Wind said that there was no discussion about how cutting the Sheridan character would help the show's budget issues; but she did indicate there were discussions about Sheridan’s professional competence. More of that may come up when she returns to the stand on Thursday.
Wind also said she was the one who, along with another producer, notified ABC human resources about the Sheridan incident right after it happened. However, she said she did not know anything about the investigation that cleared Cherry until it was over; and did not keep him informed. Baute insisted that was not a true statement.