With jurors hopelessly deadlocked, a mistrial was declared today in the trial of actress Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful-termination lawsuit against the producers of "Desperate Housewives," meaning the case will likely be tried again before a new jury.
Sheridan, 48, claimed in her lawsuit that her Edie Britt character was killed off the ABC series after she complained that creator Marc Cherry had smacked her on the head during a September 2008 rehearsal. The actress claimed Cherry hit her while she was asking about a line that had been eliminated from the script.
Cherry and Touchstone Television Productions attorneys said the decision to kill off Sheridan's character had been made four months before the alleged smack, and called the actress' argument "desperate." Cherry also denied hitting Sheridan hard, saying he tapped her on the head to give her direction about what he wanted in the scene.
Jurors said they were deadlocked 8-4 in favor of Sheridan. In civil court, nine jurors must agree on a verdict.
The nine-woman, three-man jury began deliberating mid-afternoon Wednesday. On Thursday, the jury asked for a clarification of the definition of "complaint." At the end of the day, they indicated they were having trouble reaching a verdict. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White sent the panel home early and told them to try again Friday.
After another full day of discussions, the jury reported at the end of the day Friday they were "hopelessly deadlocked." White told the jurors she knew the deliberations process can be frustrating, but she asked them to take the weekend off and try again today.
Jurors deliberated for about two more hours today, but were unable to break the deadlock.
White had earlier dismissed a battery claim Sheridan made against Cherry, leaving jurors only the decision of whether the actress had been fired inappropriately.
Attorneys for both sides said they were prepared to try the case again.
"You'd think we'd be disappointed, but we're just, we're not," Sheridan's attorney, Mark Baute said. "We got the story out. We told the truth. Twelve of our fellow citizens made a judgment. We came up one short. We'll do the dance again."
Adam Levin, attorney for Touchstone, said, "We're anxious to move forward with that trial, and we're confident that we will prevail."
Levin noted that Sheridan made a variety of allegations against the production company, and her claims were eventually eliminated over time to the single wrongful-termination claim.
"When Miss Sheridan originally filed this lawsuit, she claimed that her character Edie Britt had been killed off and that her employment ended because of her age, because of her sexual orientation, because of her gender," Levin said. "She also had a variety of other claims, including the wrongful- termination claim that the jury deadlocked on."
Levin argued during the trial that 10 witnesses testified in support of Cherry's contention that the decision to kill off Sheridan's character was made in May 2008.
Baute insisted those witnesses were involved in "lying, spinning and finessing" in an effort to protect a billion-dollar television franchise.
"Nicollette is here because she got hit," Sheridan's attorney, Mark Baute, told jurors during closing arguments. "She didn't want to be here."
Beverly Crosby, a juror who voted in favor of Sheridan, said the panel didn't get "bogged down in semantics -- hit, slapped, walloped or whatever the terminology that was used."
"I looked at the fact that she was touched without her permission, and whatever the word -- hit, struck -- and I looked at, you know, in my profession I'm ... familiar with EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines so ... I took that into consideration about someone getting touched that didn't want to be touched," she said.
See Patch's interviews with Desperate Housewives cast members here: