Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s legal battle continues as the divorced movie stars face off in a $50 million (or more) libel trial.
The trial began April 11 in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., with a panel of 11 – seven jurors and four alternates – picked, according to Court TV, which is broadcasting the trial.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for $50 million, alleging she defamed him in an opinion column she published in the Washington Post (which is printed in Fairfax County) in December 2018. In the column, she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse, a claim she first raised during their corrosive divorce proceeding in 2016 in Los Angeles.
Heard never proved she was abused because their divorce was settled out of court in the midst of a media uproar. And the settlement statement they jointly issued said in part: “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.”
Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial:Everything to know as the exes face off in court over multi-million dollar libel case
Ahead of the trial, Heard shared a statement on Instagram informing fans she will be “offline for the next several weeks” while in Virginia.
“Johnny is suing me for an op-ed I wrote in the Washington Post, in which I recounted my experience of violence and domestic abuse,” she wrote in the post, shared Saturday. “I never named him, rather I wrote about the price women pay for speaking out against men in power. I continue to pay that price, but hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world.”
Depp and Heard will eventually take the stand along with testimony from as British movie star Paul Bettany (for Depp) and American film star James Franco and mega-billionaire Elon Musk (for Heard).
Opening statements for the trial began on April 12 and set the tone for what is about to be a futile battle.
Here’s everything that’s happened in Depp and Heard’s trial (so far).
Amber Heard’s attorney argues for her First Amendment rights
“You’re going to see who the real Johnny Depp is — behind the fame, behind the pirate costumes,” Heard lawyer J. Benjamin Rottenborn told the jury during opening statements in the civil trial on April 12. “Because Johnny Depp brought this case, all of this is going to come out.”
Rottenborn said the evidence will show that Depp physically and sexually assaulted Heard on multiple occasions. But he told jurors that they don’t need to make themselves referees of the couple’s turbulent marriage if they focus on the basics of libel law.
He argued that Heard was exercising her First Amendment rights as an advocate when she wrote the article, which focused largely on the broad topic of domestic violence.
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The attorney also said the 2018 article did nothing to damage Depp’s reputation. He noted that the abuse accusations had been public for two years already, and he said Depp’s spiraling career was the result of his drinking and drug-using, which made him an unreliable commodity to Hollywood studios.
“This man’s poor choices have brought him to this point,” he said. “Stop blaming other people for your own self-created problems.”
More than anything, though, he pointed out that the article in question never even mentions Depp’s name.
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Johnny Depp’s attorney’s hit back in opening statements
“Everyone in Hollywood knew exactly what she was talking about,” said Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew. “Today, Johnny Depp’s name is associated with a lie.” Depp’s team argued that the article is an example of “defamation by implication.”
Chew said that’s a clear reference to a restraining order Heard sought in May 2016 — right after Depp told her he wanted a divorce — in which she claimed she’d been physically abused.
“You’re going to learn that (Heard) is a profoundly troubled person who manipulated people around her, like she manipulated Mr. Depp,” added his co-counsel, Camille Vasquez.
Chew said the case is about how devastating words can be when uttered publicly. “They can cause irreparable harm to someone’s reputation, and when your career depends on your reputation that harm can be particularly devastating,” he said.
Chew said she showed up at the courthouse on May 27 of that year with a bruise on her face that was photographed by the paparazzi. But he said the evidence will show that Heard gave herself the injury to ruin Depp’s reputation. He said that Depp and Heard hadn’t seen each other since May 21: He’d gone on a European tour with his band, the Hollywood Vampires.
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Another of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, told the jury that Heard refuses to admit she lied and has now dug in even deeper.
“She can’t back down. She has been living and breathing this lie for years,” Vasquez said. “She’s going to give the performance of a lifetime in this courtroom.”