Jury in defamation lawsuit between Depp and Heard begins to deliberate

The 58-year-old actor filed a $50 million lawsuit against his ex-wife alleging that she ruined his career and reputation after publishing a column in the press in 2018.

Johnny And Amber Heard
johnny and amber heard

The jury hearing the defamation lawsuit between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, which takes place in Fairfax, near Washington DC, has retired to deliberate after the presentation of the closing arguments.

The 58-year-old actor filed a $50 million lawsuit against his ex-wife alleging that she ruined his career and reputation after publishing a column in 2018 in the press, in which she described herself as “a public figure who represents the domestic violence”.

In turn, Heard, 36, filed a counterclaim for 100 million, pointing out that she suffered “violence” and “abuse” by her ex-husband.

Judge Penney Azcarate will deliver the case to the seven-person jury on Friday afternoon. The jury will have the weekend off and Monday, a holiday, and will resume deliberations on Tuesday.

Jury In Defamation Lawsuit Between Depp And Heard Begins To Deliberate

The rain of testimonies

Lawyers for Johnny Depp asked the jury on Friday to “give Mr. Depp his life back” and convict his ex-wife Amber Heard of defamation.

Heard “ruined his life by falsely telling the world that she was a survivor of domestic abuse committed at the hands of Mr. Depp,” attorney Camille Vasquez said in closing arguments, referring to Heard’s accusations that she had been physically abused. and sexually by Depp on numerous occasions.

Depp hopes the six-week trial will help restore his reputation, though it has become a spectacle that has revealed the details of a flawed marriage, with television cameras in court capturing every detail to an increasingly interested audience, with fans debating the case on social media and people lining up overnight for one of the coveted seats in court.

“For Mr. Depp, this case has never been about money,” said Depp’s attorney, Benjamin Chew. “This is about Mr. Depp’s reputation and getting him out of the prison he’s lived in for the last six years.”

Heard’s attorney, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, said instead that the lawsuit is not about Depp’s reputation, but is part of a smear campaign Depp started after Heard filed for divorce.

“In Mr. Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr. Depp,” he said. “If you do, he will start a global humiliation campaign against you.”

Depp sued Heard for $50 million in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post describing himself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers claim that the actor was defamed by the article even though he is never mentioned by name.

Heard filed a $100 million countersuit against Depp after his lawyer called his allegations fabrications. Although the counterclaim has received less attention at trial, Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft said it provides an avenue for the jury to compensate Heard for the abuse Depp has inflicted on her by orchestrating a smear campaign.

“We ask that you finally hold this man accountable,” he told the jury. “He has never accepted responsibility for anything in his life.”

Depp said he never hit Heard and that she made up the abuse allegations to gain an advantage in their divorce. The actor has said that he used to be physically attacked by Heard.

“There is an abuser in this court, but it is not Mr. Depp,” Vasquez said.

Heard testified about more than a dozen episodes of physical and sexual abuse allegedly committed by Depp against her.

Vasquez, in her closing argument, noted that Heard had to revise her testimony about the first time she said she was allegedly beaten.

Heard said Depp hit her after she inadvertently laughed about one of his tattoos. Heard initially said it happened in 2013 — after a year of courtship and fairytale romance — but later corrected herself to say it happened in 2012, very early in their relationship.

“Now in this court a whole year of magic has suddenly been erased,” Vasquez said.

The jury has seen multiple photos of Heard with marks and bruises on her face, but some photos show only minor redness, others more severe bruising.

Vasquez accused Heard of altering the photos and said the evidence that Heard had altered some of her alleged injuries shows that all her allegations of abuse are unfounded.

“You can believe him all or nothing,” he said. “She’s either a victim of ugly, horrible abuse, or she’s a woman willing to say absolutely whatever she is.”

In his closing argument, Rottenborn said digging into Heard’s abuse evidence ignores the fact that there is overwhelming evidence on her part and sends a dangerous message to victims of domestic abuse.

“If you didn’t take pictures it didn’t happen,” Rottenborn said. “If you took photos they are false. If you didn’t tell your friends, they are lying. If you told your friends, they are part of the lie.”

And he rejected Vasquez’s suggestion that if the jury thinks Heard might be changing a story about a single act of abuse, they have to deny everything she says. She said Depp’s libel suit should fail if Heard suffered a single incident of abuse.

“They’re trying to trick them into thinking that Amber has to be perfect to win,” Rottenborn said.

When the jury deliberates, it will have to focus not only on whether there was abuse but on whether Heard’s opinion piece can be considered legally defamatory.

The article itself focuses primarily on domestic abuse policy issues, but Depp’s lawyers pointed to two excerpts in it, as well as an online headline, which they argue defamed Depp. In the first passage, Heard writes that “two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s anger.” Depp’s lawyers called this a clear reference to Depp, as Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016 — two years before the article was written.

In a second excerpt, he says: “I have the rare advantage of a real-time perspective of how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The internet headline reads: “Amber Heard: I spoke out against sexual violence — and faced the wrath of our culture.”

“She didn’t mention her name. She hadn’t,” Chew said. “Everyone knew exactly who and what Mrs. Heard was referring to.”

Heard’s attorneys say that Heard cannot be held responsible for the headline because she did not write it and that the two passages in the article are not about the abuse allegations themselves, but about how Heard’s life changed after the allegations were made.

Rottenborn told the jury that even if they tend to believe Depp’s claim that he never abused Heard, she can still win the case because she has the right, by the First Amendment to the US Constitution (which upholds free speech), to discuss public affairs.

What do you think?

Written by Rachita Salian


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