10:58am PT by Alex Ben Block
'Desperate Housewives' Trial: Sheridan's Lawyer Presses ABC Conspiracy Theory
Even with the testimony of former Touchstone studio head Mark Pedowitz and former ABC Entertainment head Stephen McPherson supporting Marc Cherry’s contention the final decision to kill off the Edie Britt character on Desperate Housewives was made in May 2008, long before the incident in which Nicollette Sheridan was hit in the head, her lawyer still believes the jury will see that it is all part of a conspiracy by ABC and Disney to lie about the real timing of the decision to fire his client.
That’s what attorney Mark Baute said Friday afternoon after the second week of the trial in what his become his ritual daily post-session news conference. “I don’t think the jury will have a difficult time believing they heard other than the truth from a former studio executive,” said Baute.
His comment came after a day that had to be disappointing for the plaintiff. In the afternoon, former Housewives writer Jeff Greenstein took the stand in what was expected to be confirmation of earlier testimony by writer Lori Baker that Cherry did not make his mind to kill off Edie Britt until December 2008 or later. Greenstein is a close personal friend of Sheridan and was expected to counter a parade of defense witness’s testimony.
Greenstein, after explaining he was a part-time writer on the show during season 5 (meaning he worked the first half of the season and then worked on a pilot the second half), said his job was to work with Cherry on big-picture story ideas. He said there was discussion about killing off Edie Britt but it did not seem to be in stone.
“I do recall in October, November and December it was still a matter he (Cherry) was not totally at rest with,” testified Greenstein.
However, minutes later, when earlier testimony in a deposition was pointed out to him, he said “there was room for doubt in that,” indicating he wasn’t really sure what was in Cherry’s head during that period.
Greenstein said it was his uncertainty about what was happening that was one reason he did not tell his friend Sheridan about the discussions to kill off Edie Britt until after Cherry informed her in February 2009. “Really,” he said, “it was not my place to do it.”
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Baute said afterward Greenstein was “all over the place,” but pointed out at one point he did indicate the final decision was not made until January 2009. However, it seemed clear even he knew Greenstein had not been a strong witness for his case.
Baute also was subdued about the testimony Friday of Lynn Volk, who was head of human resources at the Touchstone studio in 2008. It was Volk who did an investigation into the incident involving Cherry and Sheridan and in December 2008, sent out a memo saying it was a minor incident, Cherry had apologized and the case was closed.
Volk said that she heard about the incident the same day it occurred on Sept. 24, 2008, in a call from executive producer George Perkins. She got a memo on it that said it was minor and didn’t do any follow up at the time. Then in November, at the request of another ABC executive (after his boss Pedowitz first learned about it in a National Enquirer story), she did do an investigation.
That amounted to interviewing two people who had been with Cherry when it happened, his assistant and the director of that episode, as well as a script supervisor who had not actually seen what happened but had heard about it. “It appeared from the way it was related to me to be a minor incident,” said Volk, “that was resolved. I didn’t receive any other complaints. I was not contacted by Sheridan or her representatives.”
Sheridan testified previously she was disgusted by the HR report that she learned about in early December 2008 and that she considered it a white wash. She said she felt it was a waste of time to complain about it and in any case she repeatedly expressed her fear of retaliation if she made more waves.
Baute said Friday he was disappointed ABC and Disney withheld the true facts from Volk. On the stand at the end of her testimony Baute had gotten her to admit that if she knew Sheridan was very upset or that the actress felt she had been hit in the hard, and if she had other facts, she might have done more. She said if there had been a complaint or any of that info, she certainly would have interviewed Sheridan and Cherry.
“It was nice of her to admit had she had all of the facts she would have interviewed Nicollette and Marc Cherry,” said Baute.
However, Sheridan’s outspoken attorney also said that “she had been there long enough to know what her bosses wanted,” charged Baute, “which is not a complete investigation.”
The trial resumes on Monday with some final witnesses for both sides. The lawyers are expected to make their final summation on Tuesday, after which the case goes to the jury.
If Sheridan wins, she would get $4.2 million in back salary and there could be a short second phase with the same jury to determine if there are additional punitive damages.