As the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard has continued to overshadow nearly all other news stories and dominate the main social-media platforms in recent weeks, I’ve noticed that the average people in my life—those who haven’t had the Law & Crime Network live stream of the proceedings running on their laptops since it began in April—are frequently under the impression that the case is impenetrably complex.
They aren’t totally wrong: Depp-Heard 2022, which is showing in Fairfax, Virginia through the end of the week, is the slime hole of an absurdly poisonous relationship. However, most of the internet discussion of the trial has been noise rather than signal. It has masked how basic the underlying issue is? how that simplicity makes the case all the more odd and terrible?
Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard
Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard is based on the first portion of a single line that she wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post in December 2018: “Then, two years ago, I became a prominent person who spoke out against domestic violence, and I experienced the full power of our culture’s hatred towards women who speak out.”
It is undeniable that Heard appeared on the cover of People magazine two years prior with apparent facial injuries, and that she obtained a temporary restraining order alleging domestic violence against her husband around the same time; she was photographed leaving the courthouse with what appeared to be a bruise on her cheek.
She also has a treasure of text messages, witness accounts, and images of injuries, which she claims back up her abuse claims. The meticulous legal screening of her Post op-ed is clear in the wording: Heard refers to herself as a “public person representing” abuse rather than a victim or survivor; she doesn’t identify Depp or define a form of abuse. (Depp has denied ever striking or abusing Heard; she has filed a $100 million countersuit against him.)
Depp a “wife beater”
However, that half-sentence in the Post is the whole case. That’s a cool $50 million. Despite the United Kingdom’s strict libel laws and a reversed burden of proof, the High Court in London found the vast majority of Heard’s claims to be “substantially true” in a 2020 defamation lawsuit against a British tabloid, the Sun, which was far more brazen in its language—it called Depp a “wife beater“—Depp lost the case.
Despite this, the presiding judge in the Virginia case, Penney Azcarate, denied Heard’s move to dismiss earlier this month. “Evidence that jurors may consider that the remarks were about the plaintiff, that the statements were published and that the statement was untrue, and that the defendant made the statement knowing it to be false or with such reckless disregard for the truth,” Azcarate said.
Depp’s Evidence for defamation claim
The relevance of the evidence that jurors must consider to Depp’s defamation claim differs greatly. Depp’s bleeding finger stump, which was wounded in a domestic altercation in Australia, was shown to the jury and spectators at home just today. We saw photographs of Depp scrawling insane, slut-shaming inscriptions in paint or blood using the same newly damaged stump earlier in the trial.
There are other messages from Depp written before he married Heard, in which he refers to her as a “worthless hooker,” laughs about “smacking the ugly cunt about,” and proposes a plan with actor Paul Bettany: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!” After that, I’ll fuck her burned body to make sure she’s dead.” There’s video of Depp wrecking a kitchen and audio of him demanding Heard, “Shut the fuck up… Don’t even try to act authoritative around me. “You aren’t real.” To recap, Depp is the plaintiff in the defamation case, and he is the one who has the greatest support on social media.
Justice for Johnny and AmberTurd armies on social media
It should be noted that Heard has made several dubious assertions in the past concerning her relationship with Depp and its repercussions. Both Depp’s legal team and the #JusticeforJohnny and #AmberTurd armies on social media have focused on Heard’s allegation that she arrived on James Corden’s late-night talk show with “two black eyes” and a nose she feared was broken.
Two pieces of evidence that her critics use to claim that Heard was the one who was abusive—an audio recording in which she admits to hitting him and another in which she mocks any claim he might make of being a victim of domestic violence—sound uncannily like fragments from a darvo scenario, in which an abuser denies what he is doing while deflecting and projecting his behaviour onto the person he is abusing.
Amber Heard defence attorney Lara Yeretsian
You don’t have to trust Amber Heard to question why twelve words in a newspaper column invite you to listen to her sobbing incoherently in an ugly argument with her unmoved spouse, or to read texts in which Depp refers to her as a “gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market.”
You don’t have to like Heard to sympathise with her when one of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, repeatedly confirms with her that she did not seek medical attention after some alleged incidents of violence; or, on redirect, when Heard’s flustered lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, is unable to formulate questions that would allow Heard to defend herself.
(Vasquez seems to have taken advantage of Azcarate’s exceptionally strict use of hearsay.) It’s not necessary to believe everything Heard says to be surprised when a Law&Crime guest, defence attorney Lara Yeretsian, wonders aloud, after hours of Heard’s testimony, why she stayed with her alleged abuser—a question so thoroughly asked and answered by domestic-violence advocates over decades of work that it inspired an activists’ hashtag eight years ago. “I’m sure a lot of people are asking this question today,” Yeretsian added.
Johny Depp’s and Amber Heard Trial
The more the trial drags on and more other parties benefit from it, the more difficult it becomes to understand Depp’s intentions for starting it. He and his followers claim he initiated the lawsuit to clear his reputation, but it has exposed more of his heinous actions than any cleaned and ghostwritten op-ed could. In fact, if you spend enough time inhaling the sulphurous fumes of the Depp-Heard live stream, it starts to resemble a high-budget, general-admission form of revenge porn, in which the person with the upper hand forces the other to be complicit in the sharing and dissemination of raw, vulnerable, literally sensational moments for the delectation of an unseen audience.
One of the trademarks of revenge porn is how it freezes the victim in time, a situation Heard alluded to near the conclusion of her direct questioning. She said, “I want to go on with my life.” “I’m ready to go on, I’m ready to move on, and I’m ready for Johnny to move on as well.” I just want him to go away.” But the ramifications of his legal action against her will never go away. This is who she is now: a battered face on an iPhone, a woman who makes people laugh when she sobs, the victim of an unparalleled Internet smear campaign.
Johny Depp Movie Star
In the same manner, Johnny Depp cannot be frozen in time. He’s been a household name since Amber Heard was a child, and he was once the most wondrously eccentric kind of megastar: he collaborated with auteurs, produced strange European art-house films, took risks, lent his clout around, and used his looks and sexual attraction to defy gender stereotypes.
In Hollywood standards, accepting a part in a film based on a theme-park ride and playing it slant was a rebellious act; it made him the largest movie star in the world and one of the highest-paid, and he ceased being fascinating after a few years. He will never be booted out of the fortress of extraordinary fame and money as the prow of a five-film Disney blockbuster series.
The Fairfax trial provides many glimpses inside this opulent but desolate fortress: the insulating layers of handlers and yes-men; the massive, empty homes loaned out to hangers-on; the noxious mix of paranoia, dependence, and impunity bred by ultra-celebrity; the perplexing suspicion that anything is permissible and nothing has to be true. Perhaps that’s the allure of movies.
Heard said when she secured the interim restraining order against Depp
“His connection with reality oscillates,” Heard said when she secured the interim restraining order against Depp. Heard provided background for a tape of a phone call with Depp from soon after she filed for divorce in 2016. She sought to convince him to agree to a mutual gag order due to the substantial evidence she had against him, during direct questioning in the Fairfax trial.
This tape is incredible, as is what Heard stated about it on the stand. “I begged Johnny not to have me go on the stand in front of all of you and show everything I’ve had to prove,” she added. “I begged you not to do this, not to sit where I am now.” This was not something I want. I’m not looking forward to being here. At the time, I didn’t want to be there. And I was attempting to point out something to someone I believed lacked a clear grip of reality.”
Depp, on the other hand, may be forever removed from reality. This might explain why he desired this trial, why he received it, and why, against all odds, he has a good chance of winning it. In another, more sinister way, Depp’s reality has been become our own, whether via the adoring hordes of his followers outside the courtroom every morning or the omnipresent #AmberHeardIsALiar jokes on every platform. “She begs for complete worldwide shame… In a text from 2016, he added, “She’s going to get it.” It may have seemed opulent at the time.