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Judge Penney Azcarate displays instructions to the jury Steve Helber/PA Images
defamation case

Jury begins deliberations in Depp vs Heard defamation trial

Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers.

LAST UPDATE | 27 May 2022

A JURY BEGAN deliberations today in the defamation case between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard after a six-week trial featuring blistering mutual accusations of domestic abuse.

The seven-person jury retired to consider a verdict in the high-profile case heard in Fairfax, Virginia, near the US capital, after lawyers for both sides delivered closing arguments.

Benjamin Chew, an attorney for Depp, said that the actor “is no saint and he has never claimed to be one”.

“He has struggled with drugs and alcohol,” Chew said. “But he is not a violent abuser.”

The lawyer argued that Depp did not deserve to have his life destroyed by a “lie” and that Heard’s “attempt to paint herself as a heroic survivor, an innocent survivor, and Mr Depp as a terrifying abuser are utterly false”.

“We ask you, we implore you to give him his name, his reputation and his career back.”

Camille Vasquez, another of Depp’s attorneys, told the jury the evidence has “shown that Ms Heard is the abuser.”

“She was violent, she was abusive and she was cruel,” Vasquez argued.

Benjamin Rottenborn, representing Heard, said that a verdict in Depp’s favour would demonstrate to abuse victims that they would “always need to do more”.

“The facts are absolutely overwhelming, of abuse,” he told the jury.

“Mr Depp simply cannot prove to you that he never once abused Amber, and if you don’t know, you have to return a verdict for Ms Heard,” Rottenborn said.

“A ruling against Amber here sends the message that no matter what you do as an abuse victim you always need to do more,” he said.

“No matter what you document you always have to document more, no matter who you tell you always have to tell more people. No matter how honest you are about your own imperfections and shortcomings in a relationship you need to be perfect in order for people to believe you.

“Don’t send that message – that’s what [Depp] wants you to do.”

Rottenborn added that the Pirates Of The Caribbean actor was “running head-long into the first amendment” of the US Constitution and urged members of the jury to “stand up” for freedom of speech. 

Judge Penney Azcarate will give the case over to the seven-person jury later today. The panel will be off over the weekend and on Monday before resuming deliberations on Tuesday.

58-year-old Depp filed suit against Heard over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.

Heard, who had a starring role in “Aquaman,” did not name Depp in the piece, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $50 million in damages.

36-year-old Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming that she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.

Dozens of witnesses testified during the trial, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, doctors, friends and relatives.

Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial.

Video and audio recordings of heated, profanity-laced arguments between the couple were played for the jury, which was also shown photographs of injuries allegedly suffered by Heard during their volatile relationship.

Hours of testimony featuring medical experts was devoted to a finger injury that Depp suffered while filming an installment of Pirates of the Caribbean in Australia in March 2015.

Depp claimed the tip of the middle finger on his right hand was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him. Heard said she did not know how the injury occurred.

Both agreed that Depp went on to scrawl messages on walls, lampshades and mirrors using the bloody digit.

Heard said Depp would become a physically and sexually abusive “monster” during alcohol- and drug-fueled binges and resisted her repeated efforts to curb his drinking and drug use.

Heard said Depp had promised to bring her “global humiliation” if she left him, and she has been the target of a vast #JusticeForJohnnyDepp social media campaign.

Depp testified that it has been “brutal” to listen to “outlandish” accusations of domestic abuse.

“No human being is perfect, certainly not, none of us, but I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse,” he said.

Heard, who was married to Depp from 2015 to 2017, obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016, citing domestic violence.

Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, filed a libel suit in London against the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” He lost that case in November 2020.

Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers.

Heard’s legal team presented an entertainment industry expert who estimated that the actress has suffered $45-50 million in lost film and TV roles and endorsements.

An industry expert hired by Depp’s side said the actor has lost millions because of the abuse accusations, including a potential $22.5 million payday for a sixth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean.

© AFP 2022

Additional reporting from Press Association