After 23 days of testimony that painted conflicting pictures of a tumultuous marriage in Hollywood, attorneys for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard delivered their closing arguments on Friday, seeking to persuade the jury that their client was the person who had been abused. and defamed.
Lawyers for Mr Depp have claimed their movie star client was falsely disparaged in a Washington Post op-ed in which Ms Heard called herself a “public figure representing domestic violence”.
The domestic abuse charges she was referring to, the lawyers argued, had ruined Mr Depp’s life.
“We are asking you to bring Mr. Depp back to life by telling the world that Mr. Depp is not the abuser that Ms. Heard said he is,” said a lawyer for Mr. Depp, Camille Vasquez, “and hold Mrs. Heard accountable for her lies.
Lawyers for Ms Heard countered that not only were the accusations and the op-ed entirely true, but in a court proceeding in 2020 the actress was unfairly slandered when a lawyer, who represented Mr Depp at the time , called his abuse charges a hoax. .
“In Mr. Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr. Depp, and if you do, he will launch a worldwide campaign of humiliation against you,” pleaded a lawyer for Ms. Heard, Ben Rottenborn.
Now the case is in the hands of seven jurors.
The trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court attracted widespread attention as the proceedings were both televised and broadcast live via a pair of cameras in the courtroom, a rarity in Virginia. On a YouTube channel showing the proceedings, called Law & Crime Network, more than a million users are said to have watched.
There was fierce competition for public seats in the courtroom, with watchers – mostly Mr Depp fans – lining up in the middle of the night to secure a place. On Friday morning, around 150 people lined up to enter the courtroom, with hundreds more lining a nearby road, some of them dressed as characters from Mr Depp films.
Peyton Elmendorf, a 27-year-old Depp fan, said when she first heard about Ms Heard’s accusations she had doubts about the actor’s defense given the #MeToo movement. But now, after hearing the actor’s other romantic partners speak positively of him, she said she felt confident to voice her support.
“I knew he didn’t,” she said.
Outnumbered outside the courthouse, but not persuaded, 26-year-old Dan Kim quietly held a nearby sign that read “I’m with Amber.” He called it “crystal clear” that Mr Depp had abused Ms Heard.
Ultimately, the jury must consider the veracity and reputational impact of a narrow set of statements. But the six-week trial encompassed testimony about a wide range of alleged incidents from Mr Depp and Ms Heard’s marriage.
Ms Heard accused Mr Depp of repeated physical abuse which she said often coincided with drug and alcohol use and began by accusing him of infidelity. She also alleged several instances of sexual assault, including an accusation that he assaulted her with a bottle in Australia in 2015.
Mr Depp denied ever hitting or sexually assaulting Ms Heard and portrayed her as the aggressor in the relationship, recalling violence from her throughout their relationship, as well as angry tirades and degrading insults. Ms Heard denied hitting Mr Depp except to defend herself or her sister.
Testimony about the incidents often included sensational details: disputed affairs with celebrities, graffiti written in blood and a missing piece of Mr. Depp’s finger that forced the fifth ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film to suspend production.
In setting out the highlights of their testimony, Mr Depp’s lawyers reminded the jury of the witnesses who said they did not see injuries on Ms Heard around the time she said she did, shown in a photo of him with a “minnow” he said she gave him and replayed the audio of the arguments between the estranged couple in which Ms Heard admits hitting Mr Depp. In an audio clip, Ms Heard can be heard saying: ‘I started a physical fight’, disputing her claim that she only hit Mr Depp in self-defense. (Ms. Heard testified that in these instances she hit him in response to her own assault.)
Her team also reported instances where there were no medical records or photographs to support her abuse claims.
“The ‘mountain of evidence’ that Mr. Depp abused Ms. Heard just isn’t there,” Ms. Vasquez explained. “What we have is a mountain of unproven claims that are wild, exaggerated and implausible.”
Lawyers for Ms Heard described witnesses who said she told them about the abuse. Mr Rottenborn played video of Mr Depp angrily slamming kitchen cabinets and showed jurors text in which the actor told Ms Heard’s father he had gone ‘too far in our fight “. He then showed the jury a photo of Ms Heard with a red mark on her face after, she said, Mr Depp threw a phone at her. Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, another of his attorneys, reminded the jury of a forensic psychologist who testified that he reviewed a therapist’s notes – which were not entered into evidence – which reflect reports contemporaries of Ms. Heard where she complained of sexual abuse.
“A ruling against Amber here sends the message that no matter what you do, as a victim of abuse you always need to do more,” Mr Rottenborn said. “No matter what you document, you always need to document more. No matter who you tell, you always need to tell more people.
The publication that is at the heart of Mr. Depp’s complaint is Ms. Heard’s editorial, which was directed and prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union. Ms Heard did not name Mr Depp in the article, but he argued it clearly alluded to their relationship, damaged his reputation and “devastated” his acting career.
Johnny Depp’s defamation case against Amber Heard
In the courtroom. A libel lawsuit involving once-married actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is currently pending in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia. Here’s what you need to know about the case:
The jury is also charged with determining whether Mr. Depp defamed Ms. Heard in 2020 when a lawyer representing him made statements aimed at discrediting his abuse charges, including one accusing Ms. Heard and her friends of setting up Mr. Depp when one of them called the police at the couple’s home. (Before the call, Ms. Heard said, Mr. Depp threw a phone at her at point-blank range, punching her in the face, which Mr. Depp denies.)
Ms. Heard’s lawsuit claimed that Mr. Depp, through these statements, “launched a national campaign” to discredit her. Mr. Depp testified that he had not seen the statements at issue before the lawsuit was filed.
At a previous trial in London, a judge found that Mr Depp had repeatedly assaulted Ms Heard throughout their relationship. The 2020 lawsuit in Britain revolved around a lawsuit Mr Depp brought against News Group Newspapers, the publishers of The Sun, a British tabloid, and Dan Wootton, editor of that newspaper, over a headline from 2018 that called Mr. Depp a “woman”. drummer.”
The jury’s verdict in this case must be unanimous, but the panel does not have to find the evidence convincing “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as in a criminal case. Each party bears the burden of proving by the greatest weight of evidence that it was defamed and that there was clear and convincing evidence that the other party acted with actual malice in defaming it.
Jurors are also tasked with determining the amount of money each side deserves if they win. Mr. Depp asked for $50 million and Ms. Heard asked for $100 million.
Mr. Depp’s team sought to portray him as honest, as someone who was candid in his testimony about his drug use and struggle with opioid addiction.
“Mr. Depp is no saint,” said one of his attorneys, Benjamin Chew. “But he’s not a violent aggressor.”
Ms Vasquez, a lawyer for Mr Depp, urged jurors not to choose among Ms Heard’s many accusations to believe, telling them: ‘You believe everything or nothing.’
But Mr Rottenborn, a lawyer for Ms Heard, countered that the jury did not even have to consider the charges to conclude that statements in her editorial – including that she had become a “public figure representing domestic violence – were true. and protected by the First Amendment.
He also argued that the jury only had to find that Ms Heard had been assaulted once, including emotionally or psychologically, to establish that she was telling the truth.
“If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even once,” he said, “then she wins.”