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Depp, 58, sued Heard, 36, for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”
His lawyers say he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.
Closing statements are being presented by each of their lawyers in court Friday, with a jury verdict to follow likely in the coming days.
As trial proceedings began, Judge Penney Azcarate gave the seven jury members many lengthy instructions on how to decide a verdict, both in Depp’s USD$50-million defamation claim and Heard’s $100-million counterclaim.
One of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, presented closing argument first. She told the jury that Heard had “falsely told the world she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Mr. Depp.”
“What is at stake in this trial is a man’s good name,” Vasquez said, adding Depp’s life is also at stake in the trial.
“There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp,” Vasquez said, claiming instead Heard was the abuser, and Depp the victim.
Vasquez called Heard “incredibly aggressive, violent and cruel.” She also insisted Depp experienced “persistent and aggressive” abuse at the hands of his ex-wife.
Several audio clips were again played in court, often featuring arguments between the former couple.
Vasquez told the jury Heard did not just want a divorce from Depp in 2016, she wanted to ruin him.
Another lawyer on Depp’s team, Benjamin Chew, also delivered closing statements to the jury.
“You have now come to know the real Amber Heard: scary,” he said.
“This is Me Too, without any Me Too,” Chew told the jury.
Chew, while claiming Heard was consistently untruthful in her testimony, said that Depp “did not and does not deserve to have his life, his legacy, destroyed by some lie.”
In summary, Chew asked the jury to give Depp his life, career and reputation back by awarding a verdict in his favour.
Next, one of Heard’s lawyers, Ben Rottenborn, delivered closing statements on her behalf. He argued Depp and his team have done everything in their power to ruin Heard’s reputation and career.
Rottenborn told the jury just because Depp had attempted to convince the public Heard’s Washington Post article is about him, does not mean it is. He argued instead that great care was taken in writing the article to ensure the text did not point to Depp, claiming rather it was intended to reclaim her story.
“This is not a hit piece on Johnny Depp,” he said.
He called Depp’s claims against Heard “disgusting” and “victim blaming.”
“This whole case is about blaming Amber Heard for things she did not do, because that is what Mr. Depp does,” Rottenborn said.
“If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time, then she wins,” he told the jury, reminding the courtroom that physical, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse are also worthy of a verdict in her favour.
“It’s not about who’s the better spouse. It’s not about whether you think Amber was also abusive to Mr. Depp,” he told the jury.
“They are trying to trick you into thinking Amber needs to be perfect in order to win,” he said.
Several graphic text messages sent by Depp to various people (including Marvel star Paul Bettany) were then shown again in court, including messages where Depp says he would like to drown, burn and commit necrophilia on Heard’s corpse.
Heard’s lawyers again claimed Depp has severe drug and alcohol abuse issues. Rottenborn presented the court photos, audio and text messages, all referencing Depp’s alleged addictions. Once more, he claimed Depp became a “monster” when under the influence.
Depp has maintained he has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol (with the exception of Roxicodone).
“Mr. Depp can simply not prove to you that he never abused Amber,” Rottenborn told the jury.
Rottenborn maintained that any losses to Depp’s career or reputation were not caused by Heard and her op-ed, but rather Depp’s own actions.
Finally, another of Heard’s lawyers, Elaine Bredehoft, spoke to the jury about Heard’s $100-million counterclaim against Depp.
“We’re asking you to finally hold this man responsible,” Bredehoft asked of the jury, adding they should “fully and fairly compensate Amber for what he’s done.”
“What would Amber Heard’s motive be for making this a hoax? For making this up?” Bredehoft questioned aloud.
She went on to claim Amber was amicable in her divorce from Depp and subsequent settlement, and did not want his money or to ruin his reputation.
In her final arguments, Vasquez repeatedly told the jury that Heard has been lying the entire trial and called it “the performance of a lifetime.”
“She has come too far, she can’t back down,” Vasquez said. “She’s lied too many times to too many people.”
She also accused Heard of changing her story over time.
“Mr. Depp owns his mistake… but in this trial Ms. Heard has been confronted with her lies and the damage she has caused,” Vasquez said. “And she cannot take any responsibility for what she has done.”
She also argued that Depp’s use of violent and derogatory language is not proof that he abused his ex-wife.
“Mr. Depp owns text messages, he acknowledges that he said those things and said things he shouldn’t have,” Vasquez said. “But using bad language and colourful humour does not mean that you are a violent abuser.”
In his rebuttal, Heard’s lawyer responded to Vasquez’s argument that Heard’s witnesses, with the exception of her sister, didn’t show up for her.
“They say no one showed up for her,” Rottenborn said. “No one showed up for her but then they say that these people aren’t friends anymore. If they’re not friends anymore, why would they be doing — what (Depp’s lawyers) suggest — is lying for her? Then why would they be corroborating everything she says?”
Depp’s promise to bring Heard “global humiliation” has played out, Rottenborn said, and once Depp’s former lawyer Adam Waldman became involved, and accused Heard of creating an “abuse hoax” in a Daily Mail article in 2020, that promise turned into a “forest fire.”
“Give Amber Heard her voice back,” Rottenborn told the jury. “Give Amber Heard her life back.”
The jury will now deliberate the case and return their verdict. A timeline for the verdict is not yet known.
Earlier this week, both Depp and Heard returned to the stand for a second time.
On Wednesday, Depp told the court that it’s been “insane” listening to Heard’s accusations against him.
“It’s insane to hear heinous accusations of violence, sexual violence, that’s she’s attributed to me,” he said. “I don’t think anyone enjoys having to split themselves open and tell the truth. But there are times when one has to, as it’s gotten out of control.”
He called his time in court “ridiculous, humiliating, painful, savage, unimaginably brutal and cruel” as well as calling everything that’s been said about him “false.”
On Thursday, Heard became emotional as she told the jury about how this trial and its widespread publicity has affected her.
“I am harassed, humiliated and threatened every single day,” she said.
“People want to kill me and they tell me so every day,” she said, her voice quivering.
Heard insisted that while she “would not wish this situation on my worst enemy,” she has used her platform to provide a voice for domestic violence victims.
“It’s been agonizing, painful and the most humiliating thing I’ve ever had to go through,” she said about the trial. “I just want Johnny to leave me alone.”
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