Six years after Amber Heard publicly called Johnny Depp a domestic abuser, the actor’s lawyers called her a habitual liar who ruined her client’s life with fabricated, career-destroying claims of physical violence.
“Exactly six years ago today, May 27, 2016, Ms. Heard went to court and filed a false domestic violence complaint against her husband of 15 months, Johnny Depp,” attorney Camille Vasquez told jurors in the ex-couple’s defamation trial Friday.
“The scene was a setup,” Vasquez said, recalling the day Heard sought a restraining order against Depp in Los Angeles. “She tipped off the paparazzi to wait. They knew exactly where to stop and which side of her face to photograph. And the photos showed exactly what she wanted to see: an image of a battered woman.”
After seven weeks, dozens of witnesses and hundreds of spectators queuing daily in hopes of a seat in the courtroom, the divorced couple’s attorneys finally presented their closing arguments on Friday. While the 2016 split was the original focus of Depp’s lawyers’ final broadside, the case centers on a comment published two years later by Heard, who did not identify Depp but described himself as a survivor.
The glaring challenge facing Depp and his lawyers: a body of evidence suggesting Depp abused Heard, which a British judge said was overwhelming when he found it in a failed UK defamation case against the actor in 2020 checked
“While Mr. Depp’s name will forever be tarnished by these horrific and false allegations,” added Depp attorney Benjamin Chew, “this case is about telling you his story and the truth about what really happened, which is what.” you have heard now. It’s about restoring its lost reputation.”
Chew and Vasquez did everything they could to reshape the story into one about a famous man being targeted.
Citing Mr Depp’s family, Chew said: “It’s about showing Mr Depp’s children, Lily Rose and Jack, that the truth is worth fighting for. It is. And it’s about restoring Mr. Depp’s name and standing in the community as much as possible.”
“And you can do something,” he said, “and only you, ladies and gentlemen, can do that for him.”
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, claiming she defamed him in 2018 without naming him Washington Post Guest commentary identifying as a victim of domestic violence. Heard’s $100 million countersuit claims Depp defamed her with an orchestrated “smear campaign” through an attorney, Adam Waldman, and called Heard’s claims a “hoax.”
Depp has testified that he, not Heard, was a victim of domestic violence – and that he has never hit a woman in his life.
The Northern Virginia trial that pitted the divorced actors against each other gave the jury and the public a behind-the-scenes look at the turbulent, short-lived celebrity union, which was officially dissolved in 2017.
The jury listened to conflicting reports about the couple’s relationship, which began after they met on the set of the 2011 film The rum diary. According to Depp, he was verbally and physically abused by Heard. “These things could happen very quickly,” he testified, explaining a black eye visible in a photo of him and Heard from their honeymoon.
Heard claims Depp was a verbal, physical, and even sexual abuser who had drug and alcohol abuse issues.
Depp’s lawyers on Friday did not call Heard’s allegations a “hoax,” but said she was the only physical hitter in their household and they played footage of Heard admitting hitting Depp and objecting him as “Baby” labeled .
Vasquez claimed there were no records of Depp admitting the abuse and no medical records or corroborating statements to support the graphic statement Heard gave, in which he described beatings, choking and, in one instance, sexual assault with a liquor bottle.
In fact, audio captured Depp admitting to hitting her with his head, and several witnesses have supported elements of her account, including an eyewitness account of violence by Depp offered by Heard’s sister.
“Either she’s the victim of some really horrific abuse,” Vasquez said, “or she’s a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything.”
While both sides have presented plenty of witnesses to support their claims, at the end of the day the jury will have to determine if Heard acted with “actual malice” in writing this op-ed — meaning the actress knew what she had written was wrong — or that she published the play with “reckless disregard” for the truth.
The crux of Depp’s argument is that while he never abused Heard, she effectively branded him an abuser and sabotaged his career. To prove his case, Depp’s legal team presented several witnesses, including members of his own entourage, to testify to Heard’s erratic behavior throughout their relationship.
“I wouldn’t say at night [fights]but every other night, several times a week,” Travis McGivern, one of Depp’s bodyguards, said earlier this month about a trip to Australia in 2015, adding that there was “a lot of verbal abuse, a lot of F-bombs” — in general from “Miss Heard turns her feelings on Mr. Depp.”
Depp said that during that trip, Heard severed his fingertip after throwing a vodka bottle at him during a fight. However, Heard states that Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle during a fight while Depp was on a three-day bend. And audio played during the trial appeared to capture Depp, who admitted to inflicting the finger injury on himself.
Jack Whigham, Depp’s talent agent, also testified in a video statement that Heard’s comment destroyed his client’s career. He said that prior to the comment, he completed negotiations for Depp to star in the sixth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean for $22.5 million. After it was released, he said Disney abruptly dumped Depp piratesan allegation previously made by at least one Depp witness and a key allegation in the larger case.
“It was disastrous in terms of Johnny,” Whigham said. “Following the comment, it was impossible to get him a studio film, which we would normally have focused on.”
But Tina Newman, a production manager at Walt Disney Studios, said via video deposition that she never saw any documents within the company that referenced Heard’s comment — and that it never played a role in her decisions about Depp.
Depp himself also took the stand, stating “the only person I’ve ever abused in my life is myself” and that he filed the lawsuit because he was “obsessed with the truth.”
“About six years ago, Ms. Heard did some pretty heinous and disturbing things [allegations of] criminal acts against me that are not based on any truth. It was a complete shock,” Depp said. “It just didn’t have to go in that direction as nothing like this had ever happened before.”
Heard’s legal team gave the jury a very different story: Depp was the perpetrator in the relationship, and he and Waldman launched a “smear campaign” against the actress after her divorce and her comment that hurt her own career.
On the booth, Heard said her relationship with Depp was “almost like an endless battle” that she endured because she was deeply in love with the actor and always believed in his assurances that he would get sober. However, she said she was subjected to systematic violence during their relationship, including a “cave search” for cocaine, and that Depp threatened to kill her.
Multiple witnesses confirmed that Heard was injured during her relationship with Depp, and the actress’ sister, Whitney Henriquez, testified that Depp punched them both in a fight at their Los Angeles penthouse.
Heard’s witnesses also denied that the comment tarnished Depp’s career, instead pointing to his own self-destructive behavior.
“I’m here because my ex-husband is suing me over a comment I wrote,” Heard said at the booth earlier this month. “I’m struggling to find the words to describe how painful this is.”
“It’s awful for me to sit here for weeks reliving it all,” she said shortly after, before adding, “It’s definitely the most painful and difficult thing I’ve ever been through.”