The jurors began their deliberations on Friday IIn the civil libel lawsuit between actors Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard, following six weeks of court drama that lifted the curtain on the stars’ troubled marriage.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic violence.”
Judge Penney Azcarate gave her instructions to the jury on Friday morning, before the start of closing arguments by lawyers for Depp and Heard. When the jury deliberates, they will need to focus not only on whether there was abuse, but also on whether Heard’s opinion piece can be considered legally defamatory.
The article itself focuses primarily on the political issues of domestic violence, but Depp’s attorney pointed to two passages from the article, as well as an online headline they claim defamed Depp, even though the article never mentioned his name.
“She didn’t mention his name. She didn’t have to,” Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew said. “Everyone knew exactly who and what Ms. Heard was talking about.”
In the first passage, Heard writes that “two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic violence, and felt the full force of our culture’s anger.” Depp’s lawyers call it a clear reference to Depp, given that Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016 – two years before she wrote the article.
In a second passage, she states “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
The online headline reads “Amber Heard: I spoke out against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath”.
Heard “ruined her life by falsely telling the world that she was a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of Mr. Depp,” attorney Camille Vasquez told the jury in her closing arguments.
Heard’s lawyers argue 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 life de Heard changed after she made them.
Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his attorney called his allegations a hoax. Although the counterclaim received less attention at trial, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, said it offered the jury a way to compensate Heard for the abuse Depp had inflicted on him by orchestrating a campaign of defamation against her.
“We’re asking you to finally hold this man accountable,” she told the jury. “He never accepted responsibility for anything in his life.”
Depp says he never hit Heard and that she concocted the abuse allegations to gain an advantage in the divorce proceedings. He said he was often physically assaulted by Heard.
Jurors saw several photos of Heard with marks and bruises on her face, but some photos show only mild redness, and others appear to show more severe bruising.
Vasquez accused Heard of doctoring the photos and said evidence that Heard had embellished some of his wounds is proof that all of his abuse allegations are baseless.
“Either you believe everything or nothing,” she said. “Either she is the victim of horrible and ugly abuse, or she is a woman who is ready to say absolutely anything.”
In Heard’s conclusion, attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn said critics of Heard’s abuse evidence ignored the fact that there was damning evidence in his name and sent a dangerous message to victims of domestic violence. .
“If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen,” Rottenborn said. “If you took pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, they’re lying. If you told your friends, they’re part of the hoax.”
And he rejected Vasquez’s suggestion that if the jury thinks Heard might embellish a single act of abuse, they should ignore everything she says. He said Depp’s defamation suit must fail if Heard suffers even one incident of abuse.
“They’re trying to make you think Amber has to be perfect to win,” Rottenborn said.
Rottenborn told jurors that while they tended to believe Depp’s claim that he never abused Heard, he still couldn’t win his case because Heard had the right to weigh in on the issues for debate. public under the First Amendment.
Depp hopes the six-week trial will help restore his reputation, even if it has turned into a vicious wedding spectacle, with broadcast cameras in the courtroom capturing every twist for a growing audience. thrilled as fans weighed in on social media and lined up overnight for coveted viewership spots.