Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
The jury in former Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination suit announced to the court late Thursday afternoon that it is “having difficulty reaching a verdict.” After its first full day of deliberations, the 12-member jury (9 women, 3 men) came out of the jury room at 4 PM to express its concerns to Judge Elizabeth Allen White and the lawyers for Sheridan and defendants Marc Cherry and ABC. Judge White, visibly surprised by the jury’s return to the courtroom on this matter, advised that they recess slightly early, spend the evening reflecting on the matter and then reconvene tomorrow morning at 10 AM. “I’m sensing some frustration and polarization,” Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute said outside the courtroom afterward, “I think the majority of jurors are in Nicollette’s favor but it takes 9 to get to the finish line.” Defense lawyer Adam Levin was unavailable for comment. Because Sheridan’s case is a civil trial, it does not require a unanimous verdict from jurors, but only that 9 jurors agree on the matter before them.
Earlier in the afternoon, the jurors requested some definition from the judge and lawyers for their deliberations. Specifically, the jury wanted a definition of the term “complaint.” After some back and forth between the judge and the lawyers, the jury was brought back into the courtroom. “Although an employee need not formally file a charge in order to qualify as a complaint,” Judge White told the jurors, “the employee needs to put the employer on notice of any allegedly improper activities.” That was the definition the jury was given for the term “complaint,” and it then returned to the jury room. Sheridan, as was instructed by the ABC Studios’ policy at the time, did inform line producer George Perkins of the alleged head-hitting incident between herself and series executive producer Marc Cherry on September 24, 2008. ABC was also informed of the incident from a letter from Sheridan’s entertainment lawyer Neil Meyer. The jury is expected tor resume deliberations Friday. A hung jury would result in a mistrial in this case.