By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Tuesday pared down Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful termination case by ruling that jurors won't consider a battery claim against the creator of TV's "Desperate Housewives."
The verdict will now focus solely on whether jurors believe Sheridan was fired from the show because she complained about an on-set dispute with series creator Marc Cherry.
However, the judge said attorneys can still refer to Sheridan's claim that Cherry struck her when they deliver their closing arguments Wednesday.
Defense attorney Adam Levin said Cherry was pleased that he had been vindicated of the battery claim.
Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute said the ruling will simplify deliberations and his client is still entitled to punitive damages if she wins. The actress is seeking roughly $6 million for being fired during the show's fifth season.
Sheridan claims Cherry struck her hard on her left temple during an argument in September 2008. But the veteran TV writer maintains he tapped her to give her artistic direction.
Testimony in the case ended Tuesday after nine days. One of the last witnesses — a set worker — offered a final twist when he told jurors he received an email that he believed called for the destruction of files related to the firing of Sheridan.
Construction coordinator Michael Reinhart took the stand in the packed courtroom over the objections of Levin, who suggested Reinhart might have been confused and misread the message.
Reinhart testified that the email made him uncomfortable, even though he could not remember its exact contents. He did recall that it contained the words "delete" ''hard drive" and "Nicollette Sheridan."
Reinhart said he immediately deleted the message and believed it had been mistakenly sent to him after Sheridan filed the lawsuit in 2010. He said he called Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute on Sunday to tell him about the email because he wanted both sides to have all the information.
"It started gnawing at me," Reinhart said. "I began to lose sleep over it."
Reinhart said he felt he was performing "professional suicide" by coming forward and had left his home for the past two days to dodge a possible subpoena.
Levin claimed Baute had promised to find Reinhart work if he was fired for testifying in the case. Baute denied the allegation.
Reinhart has worked for the show for all eight seasons.
Baute has accused Cherry and ABC officials of engaging in a conspiracy to make it appear the decision to fire Sheridan had been made months before the dispute between the actress and Cherry in September 2008.
But two attorneys for ABC testified Tuesday about efforts they made to retain documents and said they never ordered any destruction of evidence.
Jurors have heard conflicting testimony throughout the case. A writer and co-executive producer said the decision to kill off Sheridan's role wasn't made until late 2008 — after a human resources investigation cleared Cherry of wrongdoing for the dispute.
Numerous other witnesses, however, have said Cherry received permission to kill the Edie Britt character in May 2008, and it was a key mystery story line discussed throughout preparations for the show's fifth season.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP
Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen
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