Mistrial Declared in 'Desperate Housewives' Case as Jury Leans Toward Sheridan

Nicollette Sheridan Mistrial Image - H 2012
Getty Images

Nicollette Sheridan Mistrial Image - H 2012

UPDATED: The jury said it was split 8-4 in favor of Nicollette Sheridan.

A mistrial has been declared in the legal battle between Nicollette Sheridan and ABC.

The judge on Monday polled the jury, which said no further deliberation would make a difference. The jurors said they were split 8 to 4 in favor of Sheridan in her wrongful-termination lawsuit over her firing from the hit dramedy.

The news, announced by Judge Elizabeth Allen White in Los Angeles Superior Court, brings a bizarre end to a strange trial over whether Sheridan's character of Edie Britt was killed off Housewives in retaliation for the actress complaining about being struck in the head by series creator/executive producer Marc Cherry.

During the two-week trial, Sheridan and her attorney Mark Baute argued that ABC, Cherry and others conspired to fire her from the show in response to her raising the abuse issue to the network’s human resources department. ABC countered with a parade of witnesses who testified that the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character was made in May 2008, months before her September 2008 on-set altercation with Cherry.

"I'm so impressed with Nicollette," Baute told reporters after the Monday announcement, adding that he intends to retry the case. "One hundred and ten percent we will retry the case. We went up against a $50 billion conglomerate. They had 10 witness ... the jury said, 'I don't believe you.' " 

ABC lead lawyer Adam Levin also said he was prepared to retry the case, which was initially filed in 2011 as a $20 million complaint with several causes of action before several claims were thrown out by the judge. "The case will be retried," he said. "The next time it will be much narrower. Hopefully, it will soon be over."

Sheridan, who played Edie Britt on Housewives for its first five seasons, claimed that her dismissal from the show cost her at least $5.7 million in lost wages. She initially had alleged causes of action including gender and sexual-orientation discrimination, as well as battery but those claims were dismissed at various stages of the case. (Cherry was dismissed as a defendant March 13.) Her lone remaining claim was for wrongful termination, which the jury spent three days deliberating before informing the judge that they could not reach the required nine votes to return a valid verdict.

Juror Beverly Crosby told reporters in the courthouse hallway that the case came down to which side the jury believed. She described the jury room as very intense, and the 8-4 split never changed from the beginning of deliberations. "Most of the debate centered on the credibility of the witnesses," she said. "There was no smoking gun," meaning neither side completely proved its case. She said what had mattered was a woman had been hit without permission. "ABC, in my estimation -- the case wasn't handled correctly."

On Friday, lawyers for ABC and Sheridan said there will be no settlement of the litigation over the actress' firing from Housewives despite the jury's inability to come to a verdict after two days of deliberations.

"The judge asked the two parties to talk," Levin told journalists that afternoon. "It went nowhere. I'm going to take another yoga class. Have a nice weekend."

E-mail: Alex.Benblock@thr.com

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