Judge declares mistrial in 'Desperate Housewives' case


Like a good daytime soap opera, the so-called "Desperate Housewives" trial has ended with a surprising plot twist. The actress Nicollette Sheridan, who is suing for wrongful dismissal over the death of her character Edie Britt on the popular TV show, learned last night that the jury was unable to reach a verdict. As a result, the judge declared a mistrial.

After days of deliberation, jurors at the Stanley Mosk courthouse in Los Angeles had been deadlocked 8-4 in favour of Sheridan's $4m claim. However that was not quite enough for her to win the case against the TV network ABC, since at least a 9-3 majority is required in civil trials.

The cliffhanger leaves Sheridan's team facing a tricky decision. They will now be clear favourites to win if the case returns to court. However, they may decide that the sheer cost makes a retrial prohibitively risky. Outside court, Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute was defiant, saying that the 8-4 majority sent a message to ABC that most observers had concluded that they are not "buying what you are selling". Mr Baute insisted that his client expected to bring her case back to court, since ABC and its parent company Disney had made no settlement.

Adam Levin, a lawyer for ABC, insisted that his side had enjoyed the upper hand. He pointed out that before the unfair dismissal case, the judge had already tossed out related charges of battery against the Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry.

The trial had revolved around an altercation on the set of the show in 2008. Mr Cherry said that he "tapped" the actress on the head. Ms Sheridan alleges that he instead gave her a "nice wallop" to the temple.

Several months later, Sheridan's character was killed off. She alleges that was an act of retaliation. ABC claimed it had been planned for months.