The Depp Heard jury will resume deliberations on Tuesday


The Depp Heard jury will resume deliberations on Tuesday

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A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury heard closing arguments in the contentious trial between film stars and former spouses Johnny Depp and Amber Heard on Friday, but after a few hours of deliberation decided to resume work after the bank holiday weekend.

Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post in which she described herself as a public figure who advocates domestic violence. Depp, who is demanding $50 million, claims the article hurt his career and has denied allegations of abuse. Heard sued Depp for $100 million after Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, made multiple statements to the media calling her claims false. (The Post is not a defendant in either lawsuit.)

For Depp’s claim, the jury is weighing seven questions, including whether Heard made or released three separate statements in the comment, including the caption; if they imply or imply anything about Depp; and if so, whether they were done wrongly and/or with actual malice. Under Heard’s counterclaim, the jury must decide six questions, including whether Waldman made the statements while acting as Depp’s agent and whether they were false and/or made with actual malice.

The seven-member jury, which will resume its deliberations on Tuesday morning, will weigh up whether and to what extent both are entitled to claims for damages. They began counseling at around 3 p.m

FAQ: What you should know after completing the Depp Heard trial

Depp’s team has attempted to portray Heard as vindictive and abusive, and attorneys have argued that she intentionally destroyed his career by accusing him of abuse. Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez said the Pirates of the Caribbean actor filed for divorce in May 2016 after a year of marriage, which infuriated Heard. “She didn’t just want the divorce. She wanted to ruin him,” Vasquez said during the closing arguments.

Defense attorneys allege that Depp consistently abused Heard, but that this is irrelevant in this trial, citing First Amendment freedom of expression and that the comment does not describe any of the alleged abusive acts that Heard testified. Instead, Heard attorney Ben Rottenborn said it focused on her “post-Johnny Depp experiences.”

“We’re not running away from the fact that when Amber spoke about becoming a public victim of domestic violence, she spoke about her experience reporting domestic violence against Johnny Depp,” Rottenborn said. “But that doesn’t make the article or the statements about Johnny Depp.”

Before closing arguments began, Judge Penney Azcarate announced that the jury’s names would be sealed for a year given the high profile of the case. The trial, which began on April 12, has garnered massive attention and media coverage despite the raging war in Ukraine that may topple Roe v. calf and several mass shootings.

Depp’s fandom has proved overwhelming for the trial and slept on the sidewalks overnight to earn a courtroom spectator bracelet. Hundreds gathered behind the courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Friday, anxiously waiting for Depp to arrive in court on what may be his final day. “When you hear the bikes, it’s time,” one person advised one group. Some wore pirate costumes, and one couple brought along two collies named Donald and Danny dressed as the “Dork Legal Team” with ties.

In a packed courtroom, both sides addressed the jury emotionally. Vasquez urged the jury to give Depp “his life back… what is at stake in this trial is a man’s good name”; while Rottenborn called Depp’s lawsuit “victim accusation at its most disgusting.”

“Think of the message Mr Depp and his lawyers are sending to Amber, and by extension to all victims of domestic violence around the world: if you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you took photos, they are fake. If you haven’t told your friends, you’re lying. If you’ve told your friends, they’re part of the scam,” Rottenborn added.

Vasquez told the jury Heard made up her claims and that her testimony was nothing more than “an achievement, the role of her life.” She reiterated a question Depp’s team asked during the trial: Why are there no medical records or photos detailing Heard’s alleged injuries, and why has no one seen Depp abuse her?

“As an actress, she was photographed all the time. Where are the pictures of the horrific injuries Heard describes?” asked Vasquez, who also again questioned why, if Heard was so afraid Depp would get drunk and high and hit her, that she once gave him a knife engraved “till death” gave.

“This is MeToo without MeToo,” Depp attorney Benjamin Chew later said.

Rottenborn, who pointed out Depp’s heavy drinking and drug use, wondered how the actor could even be responsible for what happened. He reminded a jury of multiple abuse allegations, including those at Hicksville, a luxury trailer park in Southern California, where Depp allegedly conducted a forcible cavity search on Heard before destroying a trailer; on a flight to Moscow, where Heard said he hit her and threatened to break the flight attendant’s wrist; and in Australia, where she said he sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle.

Both sides also addressed Depp’s infamous severed finger, which also occurred during that 2015 fight in Australia. Depp claims Heard injured him by throwing a vodka bottle at him; The defense suggests he injured himself. Rottenborn said it didn’t matter: “Amber could have chop it off with an ax and it has nothing to do with whether or not Mr Depp abused her.”

The closing arguments presented a strange dichotomy that has existed throughout the trial, in which Heard and Depp and their witnesses appear to be recounting the same events in vastly different light. Jamie R. Abrams, a law professor at the University of Louisville, said the “mirrored defamation lawsuits brought against each other by both sides” make these closing arguments unique.

“Typically, closing statements present the key strengths of the client’s case and emphasize the weaknesses of the adversary’s case to show that the other side has failed to meet their burden,” Abrams said via email. “Here both cases share similar weaknesses, which seems to skew some of the focus in the closing arguments that you might normally see in process work.”

The two actors originally met around 2008 or 2009 when Depp cast Heard in The Rum Diary, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson. Heard’s role has been described as “a dream girl”. They did flirt on set, but were both in other relationships at the time (Depp with his two children’s mother, Vanessa Paradis; Heard with her wife Tasya van Ree). When they met again more than two years later during the film’s press tour, they were both single.

The two began a whirlwind romance while promoting the film, and Depp said he thought she was the “perfect partner.” But about a year later, according to many people, things started falling apart and the two started fighting all the time. They married in February 2015, but Heard filed for divorce and a restraining order in May 2016.

Heard moved to Los Angeles as a teenager in the early 2000s to seek acting work, earning small roles in feature films such as Pineapple Express, Zombieland, and Friday Night Lights.

Her breakthrough came in 2017 when she was cast as the underwater princess Mera in the superhero film Justice League. It led to a co-star role in Aquaman, a film that grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. She will be reprising as Mera in Aquaman and the Last Kingdom next year, although she has testified that her role has been reduced and said she believes it was due to the negative publicity surrounding Depp’s lawsuit — particularly testimonies from Waldman, Depp’s attorney, called her allegations an “abuse scam.”

Depp, on the other hand, became a teen idol in the late 1980s after being cast in the Fox TV series 21 Jump Street, which followed the adventures of young undercover cops. He gained a reputation for playing eccentric characters, often in Tim Burton films such as the eponymous Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but gained fame as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s billionaire film, Pirates of the World made the Caribbean franchise famous in 2003, earning him his first of three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.

However, over the past decade he has endured a string of panned films and box-office flops, including Mortdecai and Through the Looking-Glass. The defense argues that his heavy drug and alcohol use caused his career decline, but Depp blames Heard’s abuse allegations.

Mitra Ahouraian, a Beverly Hills-based attorney specializing in the entertainment business, said the jury was “probably sick of this going on for so long.” Referring to Rottenborn, she stressed that the jury need not believe Depp was abusive, only that he could not prove at trial that he never once abused her. “It’s probably a huge relief to hear that as a jury member. It just makes it a lot easier than ‘okay, who’s abused more?'” she said.

Helena Andrews-Dyer, Sonia Rao, and Paul Schwartzman contributed to this report

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