The trial of the year – possibly the decade – between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard finally reaches the long-awaited verdict.
For six weeks, the world has watched the very public defamation trial of Johnny Depp, as he sued ex-wife Amber Heard for libel defamation, following her penned op-ed in The Washington Post, claiming to be a survivor of domestic abuse, which was allegedly about Depp. There is a lot to unpack with this trial, and way too much to get through, as it was many, many hours of evidence!
The jury was presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence including photos, audio and video recordings, as well as text message conversations, but the majority of evidence was favourable towards Depp. There were definitely some testimonies that provided comic relief during the six-week saga, like the witness for Depp who delivered his testimony from his car while driving and vaping!
From Depp’s testimony and previous witness testimonies, we know that he and Heard had a very tumultuous and toxic relationship from very early on. What has been highlighted throughout the trial, not just from Depp but from witness testimonies, was that he never hit Heard, and that she was a very violent, toxic, and abusive person.
From the story of how Heard severed the tip of Depp’s finger with a bottle, to hurling ‘roundhouse punches’ at him and the berating comments that she made, Depp and other witnesses recounted Depp’s relationship with Heard and the heated arguments that she instigated; testimonials given said that he would retreat from arguments in order to de-escalate situations. Depp concluded his testimony to say that he was the victim of domestic violence, not Heard.
Heard’s lawyers cross-examined Depp, reading dark and graphic text messages to the court, for example, ones that he sent about drowning and burning Heard, as well as playing many different audio recordings of arguments, to portray Depp as a violent person. Throughout the trial, Depp’s substance abuse seemed to be the key focus for the defence, as Heard’s witnesses and counsel claimed that he became violent when he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and when he was sober he was a completely different, kind person.
No abuse from Depp
The court heard from a plethora of witnesses employed by Depp, including house manager, Ben King, and bodyguard, Malcolm Connolly, who testified to never witnessing any physical altercations between the couple, but testified to witnessing the couple’s arguments, and Depp retreating from arguments. Employees of Depp’s, namely Connolly, Starling Jenkins III, and Travis McGivern, all testified to never seeing marks or injuries on Heard, nor any physical abuse.
Connolly testified to observing a bruise on Depp’s face after the infamous trip to Australia, and McGivern testified to picking Heard up after Australia and escorting her to the penthouse, not seeing any marks or bruises on her. McGivern also testified that most of the arguing overheard was from Heard, recalling an incident during which he saw Heard’s fist come into contact with Depp’s face, and he said Depp did nothing in response. He said he never witnessed Depp being abusive at all, which is very much in accordance with testimony given thus far.
Although, throughout the trial, the court was shown photos of Heard’s ‘injuries’ allegedly caused by Depp, a digital forensics expert was asked to analyse the photos shown by Heard’s counsel of her apparent injuries from Depp, to determine if they were genuine photos or edited. He testified that the photos with the bruising were shown to have gone through photo editing software, with the saturation altered as well. This is very damning evidence against Heard, as it appears she edited the photos to look like she had been hit.
Damage to Depp’s reputation and career
The court heard from witnesses that were queried about damages ensued from the allegations made by Heard in the op-ed. Christian Carino, a former talent agent of the couple, testified to Depp losing the role in the sixth Pirates film, as Disney dropped him following the publication. Entertainment manager and agent, Jack Whigham, was also questioned about the Pirates movie, which he said they had closed for $22.5 million, thus demonstrating the grave financial loss that Depp suffered as a result of being dropped from Disney, as well as the fact that he hadn’t been cast in any studio film roles since the publication.
He ascertained that the op-ed was particularly damning for Depp as it was a first-person account of abuse, reading like a victim statement. Other expert witnesses maintained that, through their analyses, the publication has been detrimental to Depp’s career, as the public perception of Depp has been lowered, and that it has contributed to his financial loss, which was calculated to be around $40 million.
Expert witnesses, including entertainment lawyer Richard Marks, testified that they understood the op-ed was about Depp even though it didn’t mention him by name. Marks also testified that no one in the industry would want to hire an actor that has that type of negativity following them, especially with the #MeToo movement.
When asked about other negative publicity before the op-ed, such as those about his drug and alcohol abuse, he said there was nothing to this scale. He went on to stress that any type of abuse has resulted in immediate cancel culture in Hollywood, the likes of which have been seen, particularly over the last five years or so since the #MeToo movement, for example with actors like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein.
A couple of Heard’s witnesses, however, testified to Depp’s reputation in the industry being damaged because of other factors, such as his inherent lateness, well before the op-ed was published, and they stated that the op-ed had very little impact on Depp’s career.
Heard’s testimony and cross
Everyone anxiously waited to see what Heard would say in her evidence. She recounted her childhood and the abuse that she experienced as a child from her father, she explained how she got into the entertainment industry, and how her relationship with Depp began.
She testified that what started out as a loving relationship changed, particularly when he would drink and use drugs, as that’s when she claimed he would become violent. Again, his substance abuse and correlated violence has been emphasized by Heard’s counsel throughout the trial, and we continued to hear it from Heard and her witnesses.
Heard testified that arguments with Depp would escalate to the point where he would push her down, and then eventually hit her, which is very opposite of what Depp’s witnesses and Depp testified to, who testified that Heard instigated most arguments. Heard told the jury of many counts of abuse from Depp. She mentioned, in particular, a fight between her and Depp in 2015, and how it was similar to a supposed incident that she claimed happened with supermodel and ex-girlfriend of Depp’s, Kate Moss, where Depp allegedly pushed Moss down a flight of stairs, however, when called to testify, Moss denied those allegations.
The cross-examination from Depp’s team brought to light many of the lies that Heard tried to present as facts throughout her testimony, but people were particularly impressed with Camille Vasquez’s cross of Heard as it went from strength to strength. The world watched in awe as Vasquez tore Heard’s testimony apart, calling her out on various lies as there were many gaps in the testimony she gave. Vasquez highlighted the fact that she lacked the medical evidence to prove that alleged abuse took place, as she had not been treated for any of her injuries that she showed or described to the jury.
One of the biggest lies uncovered was Heard’s supposed donation of the $7 million divorce settlement to the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, as the court heard from witnesses of both that they did not receive the funds pledged by Heard. Heard then admitted that she hadn’t fulfilled the obligations made, blaming Depp suing her as the reason she hasn’t donated the money, even though she swore under oath in a prior UK trial that she had donated the entirety of her divorce settlement.
There weren’t many witnesses who testified on Heard’s behalf, especially in comparison to Depp’s, and most of them that did were former friends of Heard’s – which is very telling of her character! Former friend, Rocky Pennington, was asked about her relationship with Heard, whether there were any altercations between her and Heard, and she said she had been hit in the face by Heard previously.
Most of Heard’s witnesses testified to Depp being cruel when intoxicated, but said they had never witnessed any actual abuse from Depp, nor marks on Heard. However, Heard’s sister, Whitney, testified to Depp and Heard hitting each other on one occasion, but said that Heard only hit Depp because she was defending her sister after Depp had struck Whitney.
Expert witnesses for Heard
In disagreement with Depp’s expert witness, Dr. Shannon Curry, clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr. Dawn Hughes, who gave expert testimony on interpersonal violence and traumatic stress for Heard, said that in her psychological evaluation, she found that Heard’s reports of domestic violence along with the records were consistent to what is known in the field as ‘intimate partner violence,’ and that in her opinion, Heard suffered from PTSD caused by intimate partner violence she suffered during her relationship to Depp.
She testified that the reports of violence from Depp were mostly when he was drunk or high and that he became violent under the influence. Dr. Curry rebutted the evidence Dr. Hughes presented in her expert testimony, stating that Heard does not exhibit any signs of actual PTSD, but is exaggerating symptoms of it.
To support the claims Heard has made of Depp’s drug abuse and violence, psychiatrist, Dr. David R Spiegel, awkwardly testified to Depp’s behaviour, stating that it was consistent with someone who suffers from substance abuse disorder, and that one of its effects is tied to intimate partner violence.
In response to the infamous Australia trip where Depp testified to Heard severing his finger by throwing a bottle at him, Dr. Richard Moore, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery, testified that the way in which Depp said he injured his finger was inconsistent with the injury that he sustained.
Damage to Heard’s career
Heard countersued Depp for $100 million for defamation in statements that Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, made in the Mail Online in 2020. Heard’s former talent agent testified to Heard having a successful career with the DC Marvel series, and since the negative press from Waldman, she has been told she is being replaced in the series and has since lost another leading role.
As well, entertainment industry expert for Heard, Kathryn Arnold, testified that the negative social media impact since her split from Depp was detrimental to Heard’s career, as there have been no opportunities for Heard since. Depp’s lawyers dispute the allegations that damage to Heard’s career is down to Depp, since he had nothing to do with the negative social media Heard received that was apparently damning for her career.
What was the verdict?
Well, the closing argument from Vasquez was amazing – she concluded by saying there was an abuser in the courtroom, but it wasn’t Depp, and that there was a victim of domestic abuse, but it’s not Heard. This is something that had been reflected throughout the trial, as Depp’s team held that Depp was the victim of domestic abuse by Heard. She concluded by saying that the performance in the courtroom from Heard, was the role of a lifetime. She reminded the jury of the evidence and testimony presented, and emphasized Heard’s histrionics during the trial. Ben Chew, Depp’s other counsel, reminded the jury of how no woman has ever reported abuse from Depp before Heard. In closing arguments, Vasquez told the jury that they had to believe either all of it or none of it.
After over 60 hours of court proceedings, and six weeks of trial, the jury finally reached a verdict. Depp won his defamation claim against Heard, being awarded $15 million, as the evidence proved that the statements made in the op-ed were false, that Heard had published them maliciously, and that the statements made were damaging to his career. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Heard actually won one of three claims against Depp in the statements made by his attorney in 2020, and will be awarded $2 million of the $100 million she sued for.
I don’t think this will be the end of the case, as it is probable that Heard will appeal the decision given by the jury on June 1.