The outcome of the widely followed defamation case between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard nears as closing arguments have concluded. After six weeks of testimony between the opposing parties, the jury has begun deliberation.
On May 25, Depp came to the stand to provide his thoughts on Heard's testimonies. He stated, "It's insane to hear heinous accusations of violence, sexual violence, that she's attributed to me, that she's accused me of.
I don't think anyone enjoys splitting themselves openly and telling the truth, but there are times when one has to because it's gotten out of control. Horrible. Ridiculous. Humiliating. Ludicrous. Painful. Savage. Unimaginably brutal. Cruel. Um, and all false. All false."
The defamation trial began on April 11, 2022, with the actors appearing in court in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the U.S.
American actor Johnny Depp is currently attempting to sue his ex-wife, Amber Heard, for $50 million in damages for suggesting in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that he abused her during their relationship. Without mentioning Depp by name, Heard described her experience of surviving domestic violence.
Depp claims that Heard's article was a ploy to gain positive press for herself and that Heard was the perpetrator instead of the victim of domestic violence. The defamation case stems from his argument that Heard's allegations negatively impacted his ability to work and his image within the media and public.
The couple initially married in a private ceremony in 2015, before Heard eventually filed for divorce and was granted a temporary restraining order in May 2016. Though police did not press charges against Depp, who denied attacking the actress, Heard claimed that he had been physically and verbally abusive to her throughout their relationship. She has also alleged that Depp sexually assaulted her with a glass bottle.
At the beginning of the trial, Heard's defence lawyer, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, led an opening statement by reading the Washington Post article to the jury. Rottenborn argued that the defendant had exercised her right to free speech.
Depp's attorneys followed by presenting evidence of Heard's alleged abuse. Heard's team suggested alcohol abuse, abusive mobile recordings, and texts on Depp's part. Depp's lawyers have requested jurors to "give him [Depp] his life back," which he claims has been impacted by Heard's allegations, while Heard's lawyer said that to side with Depp would make jurors an "accomplice" to his abuse.
In her final closing statement, Heard described the humiliation and death threats she had received throughout the trial.
Online public reactions to the case are varied. Both hashtags #IStandWithAmberHeard and #JusticeForJohnnyDepp have built up millions of views on the popular social media platform, TikTok.
Jamie R. Abrams, a law professor at the University of Louisville, stated, "The way this trial has been framed in the public consciousness is deeply problematic. It reveals so much about our society's relationship to violence and gendered violence particularly".
The seven-person jury involved in the case will resume deliberation on May 31, following Memorial Day weekend.
If the verdict favours Depp, Heard is to owe $50 million in defamation damages, though if Heard emerges victorious, Depp will be countersued for $100 million.
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