Camille Vasquez, one of Johnny Depp’s attorneys in his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, questioned Ms Heard for two days on May 16-17.
The moment Ms Vasquez tried to undermine Ms Heard’s credibility and her claims that Mr Depp had sexually assaulted her and treated her violently was described by as “often harsh”. meetingwhich noted, “Depp’s attorneys may have lacked an actual kitchen sink, but today they attempted to figuratively throw one at Heard during yet another cross-examination of the Aquaman actress in the $50 million defamation trial.”
“This strategy continued throughout the diversion, with Depp’s attorneys shouting ‘objection’ to almost every question from Bredehoft, about half of which were supported by Judge Penny Azcarte.”
The Independent spoke to two attorneys about Vasquez’s cross-examination strategy, including its potential pros and cons.
Jesse Weber, an attorney and Law & Crime Network anchor who handled the case from the Fairfax County Courthouse, found Vasquez “impressive” and delivered “a very tight cross.”
Mitra Ahouraian, an entertainment attorney in Beverly Hills, said Vasquez “came strong after a week off, which is to be expected.”
“Usually you don’t have a lot of time to prepare – maybe a day, maybe an hour – before you go cross-examined,” Ahouraian added. “Camille Vasquez had the advantage of over a week to prepare questions in response to Amber Heard’s direct testimony and to base her game plan based on the answers Heard gave. She had excellent control over Amber as a witness, keeping her in touch with Depp’s narration and controlling her responses to keep her from drifting off into areas outside of the story that Vasquez wanted her to have.”
There were some particular challenges in approaching Heard’s cross-examination.
“Anytime you cross-examine a suspected victim of domestic violence, particularly sexual violence, you have to be careful but firm,” Weber said. “I think Vasquez did that. In fact, at one point she made it clear that she needed to ask these tough questions because these are serious allegations.”
Ahouraian pointed out that “Heard had a week to prepare for cross-examination, review her testimony, and prepare for the questions her team knew would be asked of her.”
“That’s not typical and certainly creates a more challenging testimony on the cross, but luckily Depp’s team had the same amount of extra time to prepare,” she added.
Vasquez’s approach to cross-examining Heard was tonally strong, with the attorney at times interrupting Heard, grinning, or otherwise appearing to show irritation toward the witness. This is a double-edged sword to convince the jury.
“You never want to turn off the jury,” Weber said. “The jury is human, and as much as they are supposed to follow the law and the facts, they consider the behavior of attorneys. When a lawyer becomes overly combative, arrogant, or rude, that can be a problem.
“Vasquez appeared to be respectful of Heard, but at the same time she was trying to damage Heard’s credibility. It can be a tricky dance for a lawyer. She didn’t necessarily get Heard to confess to anything. However, with Vasquez’s pointed questions, quick responses, and grins, it may have left the jury with the impression that Heard’s stories aren’t true.”
Ahouraian said this strategy can often “[rattle] The witness, [distract] them from their answers and [create] a tension that makes it difficult for the witness to get his story out.”
“It can cut either way, though,” Ahouraian added. “A jury can get angry about this issue if they feel the real story isn’t coming out, or if they feel they’re being manipulated. Camille Vasquez has to walk the line between being hard on Heard and sympathetic on the jury.”
Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for May 27, after which the jury will deliberate.