The jury sitting at Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, have retired in order to reach a verdict in the hotly contested trial of former spouses Amber heard (36) and Johnny Depp (58).
The $50,000,000 case was brought as a result of a now infamous op-ed published in the Washington Post in 2018 where Heard described herself as a ‘public figure representing’ abuse victims.
In the piece entitled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”, Heard discusses her account of surviving an abusive relationship. Although Depp’s name is not mentioned in the article, his case relied on the claim that it was clear Heard was referring to Depp as her abuser.
It was Depp’s contention that Hollywood shunned him and he has not had any major roles since his ex-wife’s allegations of serious physical and sexual violence.
Heard entered a counter claim for $100,000,000 asserting that she lost out on film work and promotions due to statements made by Depp and Adam Waldman, a lawyer acting for him, in which they claimed that Heard’s abuse allegations were false.
Entertainment expert Kathryn Arnold testified for Heard, estimating the financial losses Amber claims to have suffered. Arnold compared Heard to actors such as superstar Jason Mamoa, (her co-star the hugely successful Marvel film Aquaman), Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, and Zendaya among others, claiming that her career had been ruined by the allegations of lying about being a survivor of serious abuse.
However, a rebuttal of these claims was made by entertainment attorney Richard Marks who gave evidence that, according to popularity databases like IMDB, social media interactions and commentary, Heard’s popularity was in no way comparable to the careers of the celebrities Arnold had listed, adding that the Covid 19 pandemic had not even been taken into consideration by Arnold as a possible cause for Heard’s lack of roles.
During the 24-day trial, it emerged that she had not donated the entirety of her $7,000,000 divorce settlement after publicly pledging to do so.
CCTV footage presented to the jury showing Heard leaning her head on the shoulder of actor James Franco in a late night rendezvous when Depp was away on a media tour, raised questions regarding Heard’s fidelity to her then husband.
The two actors can be seen getting into an elevator at Depp’s private residence at the Eastern Columbia Building in Los Angeles.
Heard claimed that she and Franco were ‘no more than friends’ and that he had come over to comfort her after she alleged her husband had beaten her. However in the CCTV footage no injuries are visible on Heard’s face and she seemed to be in good spirits, the court heard.
Former TMZ employee Morgan Tremaine testified that the entertainment giant received a video directly from an anonymous dropbox, and that it had been published within 15 minutes of receipt: Tremaine had previously testified that it can take hours to confirm copyright, suggesting that it was likely sent directly from the creator: allegedly Amber Heard, or from an individual closely associated with her..
He also testified that the version of the video received by TMZ was edited in a way that removed the parts that made Heard ‘look bad’ such as her setting up the shot while Depp angrily slammed cabinets doors before pouring himself a large glass of red wine.
Heard’s former ‘best friend’ Rocky Pennington testified that Heard had struck her after she ‘did not do her best to meet Miss Heard’s needs’.
Personal security guard and former Marine, Starling Jenkins, testified that Amber Heard threw a number of personal belongings of Mr. Depp -including his wallet, passport, and phone – off the balcony of their home after she said they “had a fight”
Jenkins related how he had used a phone locator app to find the phone which he recovered approximately 6 miles away on Skid Row, in the possession of a “homeless gentleman”. Jenkins said he rewarded the man for handing over the phone with $420 in cash, chicken tacos, chips, apples, and Fiji water.
He added that, shortly afterwards, on the way to the Coachella music festival, Heard had admitted responsibility for the fecal matter that had been left on Depp’s bed saying “it was a horrible practical joke gone wrong”.
Former security officer Beverly Leonard testified that she had witnessed Heard assault “a traveling companion” in Seattle airport in 2009 while she was employed at the airport.
Heard, and her then-girlfriend Tasya van Ree, made statements prior to the trial that the incident was not “serious” and that Amber’s arrest was motivated by ‘homophobia’ and ‘misogyny’. However, arresting officer Leonard is herself a lesbian.
Leonard testified to seeing Heard violently grab van Ree and pull a necklace off her neck which she said left a ‘rope burn’ like mark.
Depp testified that Heard used her sister Whitney as a ‘literal and figurative punching bag’.
Although it was Whitney’s testimony that Depp struck her, possibly unintentionally, in the back during an altercation near a staircase between him and her sister, adding that he had then grabbed Amber by the hair and started “whacking her in the face”.
Heard admitted to striking Depp on that occasion, saying her actions were provoked by an ‘old rumor’ that Depp had pushed former girlfriend, supermodel Kate Moss, down stairs.
Moss testified via video link that during their 4-year romantic relationship, Depp had never been abusive towards her, saying that the incident, in which Moss said she slipped and fell down some steps due to heavy rain, was an accident, and that Depp had helped her up after the fall.
Heard’s former assistant Kate James testified that Heard had spat in her face. She also testified to receiving ‘a barrage’ of abusive text messages from Heard late at night.
On at least two separate occasions, counsel for Amber Heard, Elaine Bredehoft, accused witnesses for Depp of coming forward purely because they knew their testimonies would be televised, going so far as to accuse Morgan Tremaine of wanting “15 minutes of fame”.
In their closing arguments Heard’s legal team emphasized to the jury that if they were convinced of even one occasion where Depp had committed abuse against her, whether physical, psychological, or verbal, they must find in her favour. Depp’s team instead argued that jurors should consider Heard’s evidence in its entirety and decide if they trusted Heard’s testimony.
They continued in their address to the jury saying that Johnny Depp was trying to destroy the career and life of their client, and argued the First Amendment, citing the right to freedom of speech and the press, in order to assert that Amber did nothing wrong in writing her op-ed.
Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasques retorted saying that while freedom of speech is indeed enshrined in the US Constitution, that in no way means ‘freedom to lie’.
Yesterday, in his closing arguments Depp’s lawyer Ben Chew implored the jury to find in his client’s favour, saying that Depp (58) had borne the weight of the ‘false allegations’ “stoically” for the past 6 years. He continued by stating that all Depp wanted was the “restoration of his good name” and that the case was “never about money”, neither was it a way to “punish Amber”, adding that it was completely at the jury’s discretion to decide what compensation was due to Depp.
A verdict is expected sometime next week after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Due to the high profile nature of the case, presiding judge Penney Azcarate ordered that the names of the jurors be sealed for one year.