A parade of refuting witnesses in the final days of the Depp Heard trial


A parade of refuting witnesses in the final days of the Depp Heard trial

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The high profile of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard libel trial offered a special twist Tuesday afternoon when both sides had an opportunity to question and challenge a potential witness that Depp’s attorneys had planned to demand counter-testimony for seeing part of the trial had .

Outside of the jury’s presence, Morgan Night said he saw a clip of testimony from the trial about Heard and Depp’s 2013 trip to Hicksville, a luxury trailer park he owned in Southern California — and that the testimony was false. He had also previously tweeted in Depp’s defense in response to a tweet from a user named Umbrella Guy.

Witnesses are instructed not to follow a trial in which they will testify, which also means they are not allowed to enter the courtroom before they have given their testimony. However, the night only became part of the case after it began, and as Justice Penney Azcarate said, “The problem is that the courtroom in this particular case appears to be the world.”

The trial, taking place at the Fairfax County Courthouse, focuses on a 2018 comment by Heard published in The Washington Post alleging domestic abuse by an unnamed individual. Depp denied ever physically abusing Heard and is suing her for $50 million, claiming the play harmed his career. She sued him for $100 million after his attorneys said her allegations were fabricated.

Night was considered a credible witness after stating that he “stayed off the internet” when he became involved in the plaintiff’s case. He was present the night Heard and Depp vacationed in Hicksville, where the couple got into an argument and, Heard said in previous testimonies, Depp performed a body cavity search on her in a jealous rage.

Night, however, said Heard, seemed annoyed throughout the evening. While testifying that Depp was becoming increasingly intoxicated, he said he witnessed an argument between the couple, and Depp “sort of crouched and seemed almost scared,” which was “strange to see.” He added that he did not witness any physical altercation between the two.

During cross-examination, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, attempted to portray Night as an attention-grabbing Depp supporter who wanted to appear on television. The court erupted in a rare laugh when Night insisted he wasn’t a fan. “I like to tell what I’ve seen and that’s about it. I don’t really care,” he said on Redirect.

Tuesday’s proceedings began with an expected preview of the closing arguments of the trial, which is expected to begin Friday morning.

Azcarate heard – and denied – the plaintiff’s request to file Heard’s counterclaim, which centered on three statements by Adam Waldman dismissing Heard’s allegations as false. Depp attorney Benjamin Chew argued that Waldman did not act with actual malice as he believes “and will believe until the day he dies” that Deep did not abuse Heard. He accused the defense of “gambling” and “puns” and claimed there was no evidence of abuse.

Defense attorney Benjamin Rottenborn argued that the defense amply corroborated Heard’s abuse allegations, saying, “There was no fraud.” He further argued, “When Mr. Waldman made these statements, he was in Mr. Depp’s shoes. For the purposes of these statements, they are one and the same.”

Depp’s attorneys spent most of the rest of the day presenting rebuttals to the jury against Heard’s experts, calling on their own. Walter Hamada, president of DC Films, said Heard’s compensation for “Aquaman” and its upcoming sequel was unaffected by anything Depp or Waldman said. He also said the studio briefly considered — and ultimately decided against — recasting her role because she and lead actor Jason Momoa lacked the “natural chemistry.”

David A. Kulber, the hand surgeon who reconstructed Depp’s injured finger in March 2015 after it was injured during a fight between Heard and Depp, said the actor wore a “bulky” cast after the surgery and likely would have trouble getting someone to grab or form a fist with that hand. On cross-examination, he admitted that Depp could grab someone with his other hand. (How his finger was injured remains a point of contention.)

Richard Marks, a Hollywood attorney, was called by Depp’s team to disagree with testimony Monday from Kathryn Arnold, an entertainment consultant who was called to the witness stand by the defense. Marks said Arnold’s projections of Heard’s potential post-Aquaman earnings, which violated the defense claims made by Waldman’s statements, were grossly inflated: “[Arnold] knows about our business but not about negotiating deals,” he said.

During cross-examination, Marks could not recall ever brokering a deal for a superhero film, nor could he name an actress who starred in a superhero film and was not later cast in another studio film.

Forensic accountant Michael Spindler was also asked to discredit Arnold’s testimony, calling it “insufficiently substantiated” and “unreasonable” and arguing that it used a mix of methods to predict Heard’s potential earnings.

Both Spindler and another witness, social media forensic expert Doug Bania, questioned actors whom Arnold called “comparable” to Heard’s potential career — including Gal Gadot, Ana de Armas and Zendaya — by citing below among other things, these actors’ higher “Q scores” and social media followers compared to Heard.

Psychiatrist Richard Shaw was called in to refute the testimony of David Spiegel, a Virginia psychiatrist, who stated that “Depp had behaviors consistent with substance use disorder and intimate partner violence.”

Shaw testified that Spiegel violated the Goldwater Rule, an ethical guideline issued by the American Psychiatric Association that states that psychiatrists should not express public opinions about the mental state of public figures.

The day ended with two short testimonials about Heard’s charitable donations. Jennifer Howell, a former friend of Amber Heard’s sister Whitney Henriquez and founder of a nonprofit called Art of Elysium, testified that Elon Musk donated $250,000 to her organization on Heard’s behalf. Candie Davidson-Goldbronn, a representative for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, testified that Heard has not yet donated the $3.5 million she pledged to the organization.

Testimony is scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

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