The $50 million defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is going to become extremely unpleasant, with closing arguments set for May 27.
The hearings that began on April 11th in Virginia will resume tomorrow following a weeklong hiatus, with the Aquaman co-star being cross-examined by her litigious ex-costly husband’s Brown Rudick attorneys later on Monday.
“During the cross-questioning next week, Camille Vasquez aims to call out Ms. Heard on the many lies and contradictions in her timeline,” a source close to the former Pirates of the Caribbean actor’s camp told Deadline.
After an occasionally sobbing Heard testified in the first week of May about Depp’s alleged heavy drug and alcohol intake, as well as seemingly rampant psychical, emotional, and verbal violence abuse of her, the plaintiff’s side will be attempting to refocus the jury’s attention back to their contention that Depp is the truly injured party in the couple’s tumultuous relationship and out of the 2018 Washington Post op-ed that sparked this legal battle.
The graphic allegations of many claimed sexual assaults by Depp of Amber Heard, which were confirmed by the defense’s first witness clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn Hughes, have also presented Depp’s lawyers with a potential leg-hold trap in which they may be caught if they make a mistake.
As a result, the typically caustic Vasquez is expected to take a scorched-earth attitude to Heard — at least to the defense.
“We expect Depp’s attorneys to pound away on the victim instead,” a Heard spokesman told Deadline about the next round of the trial. “We think it will be both humiliating and desperate.” And, as the spokesman continued, “the overwhelming evidence — the truth — is not on Depp’s side.” “The key issue of this trial, whether Amber or any woman has the First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech, is something we suspect Depp’s counsel will sidestep.”
As revolting as it may sound, Depp’s team doesn’t have much of a choice if they want to win in both the courtroom and the court of public opinion. Despite a phalanx of siblings, former and present colleagues, hired medical specialists, ex-agents, and talent managers testifying in Depp’s favor, the case has come down to a bare-knuckles He Said/She Said — and who do Judge Penny Azcarte and the jury believe?
The latest public display of rotting meat and filthy laundry between Depp and Heard, who split in 2016 amid restraining orders and media frenzy, began in March 2019 when the former sued the latter for a late 2018 WaPo op-ed on domestic abuse and the consequences that were victims can face.
The piece by the ACLU envoy on women’s rights, timed to Warner Bros.’ premiere of Aquaman, never mentioned Depp by name.
However, in a subsequent complaint, the Oscar nominee claimed that the article in Jeff Bezos’ broadsheet cost him lucrative gigs and “devastated” his career. Depp went on to allege that he was the one who was mistreated and that his former wife’s accusations against him were “part of an elaborate deception to generate positive press for Ms. Heard and enhance her career.”
Depp did not suit the deep-pocketed Washington Post, the actual publishers of the column, in his defamation action, which has gone mostly unmentioned in the trial thus far.
Though the fact that the paper is printed in Virginia was a factor in the suit’s location. It has also been obvious that the Old Dominion’s weaker anti-SLAPP rules, as contrasted to California or New York, played a key influence in the jurisdiction.
As Depp tries to figuratively flip the script on his humiliating November 2020 UK loss in a “wife-beater” libel claim against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid, Heard’s $100 million countersuits against her Rum Diary co-star is also at the play in the Fairfax County-set trial.
The recent pause in the proceedings has allowed some in the media to assess the trial’s impact, with much of the attention focused on Johnny Depp’s ardent fan following or the smaller but strong support for Heard.
A peek at the torrent of commentary on the side of live streams of the trial or pointed online remarks demonstrates the fervor of the attention — but also how easy it has been for viewers to lose sight of what’s at stake.
Despite what many of his admirers believe, Depp is not on trial; rather, he is voluntarily exposing the details of his marriage to Heard. Inside the courts, and in the closest legal terms, the once-blockbuster actor must establish that Heard’s op-ed, and its allusion to being “a public figure symbolizing domestic abuse,” was false, defamatory, and an act of malice.
The trial has not been hailed as a watershed moment in the MeToo movement, perhaps because some of the organizations behind it have been shaken, or perhaps because this is a case that focuses on the complexities, messiness, and even tragic aspects of a doomed marriage, rather than the workplace power dynamics.
While Johnny Depp’s laughter, grins, and one-liners on the stand pleased some, no one missed the sunglasses-wearing actor’s virtually complete absence of eye contact when Heard was testifying.
Although the MeToo movement has remained largely silent on the Depp-Heard case, late-night comedians and even a touring Chris Rock have had much to say in what has proven to be a dysfunctional celebrity buffet for an often unshockable America.
“If you think our rituals are crazy,” Kate McKinnon, who played a 13th-century witch, quipped last week on Saturday Night Live, referring to the spectacle of the trial.
You should watch Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial.” In its cold open this week, the NBC late-night show focused on the proceedings and the “human feces” discovered in the couple’s DTLA bed in 2016.
Judge Azcarte told the assembled lawyers and a Kyle Mooney played Depp that she would allow footage of the ruined bed to be displayed in court “because it does seem enjoyable and this trial is for fun,” according to SNL’s Cecily Strong.
“This trial has given me a lot to think,” Strong’s Azcarte said, capturing the American moment and the trial’s inconsistencies.
On the one hand, I believe Mr. Depp’s version of events. However, your continual little smirk tells me that she isn’t the only woman you’ve enraged to the point of pooping in your bed.”
In order to reach a decision by Memorial Day, the trial will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET every day of the week starting tomorrow.
In addition, the jury will now meet on Fridays, which was not the case during the first four weeks of the trial.