Jury begins deliberation at Depp trial

After six weeks of testimony at the libel trial in which Johnny Depp and Amber Heard attacked each other with unsavory details about their brief marriage, both sides have asked the jury the same thing: They want his life back.

Heard “ruined his life by falsely telling the world that she was a survivor of domestic abuse committed at the hands of Mr. Depp,” Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez said in closing arguments in the actor’s defamation lawsuit. his ex wife.

Heard’s lawyers, meanwhile, said Depp ruined Heard’s life by waging a smear campaign against her when she filed for divorce and publicly accused him of assault in 2016.

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

Depp hopes the trial will help restore his reputation, although 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. on social media about the case and with people lining up the night before for one of the coveted spots 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.”

Depp sued Heard for $50 million in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia over an opinion piece she published in December 2018 in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” . Her 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 the former “Pirates of the Caribbean” star after his attorney 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, even after they split, 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.”

The seven-member civilian jury began its deliberations on Friday at 3:00 pm and concluded its activities for the day two hours later. They will continue deliberating on Tuesday.

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.

During the trial, 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 punched her after she inadvertently laughed at one of the actor’s 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 modifying one version of a single act of abuse, they have to deny everything she says. He said Depp’s defamation lawsuit should fail if Heard suffered even just one incident of abuse.

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

In their deliberations, the jury 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 “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. 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.