The jury in the defamation trial opposing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard will resume deliberations on Tuesday after a three-day weekend.
Heard is being sued by Depp for $50 million for implying he abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. Although she didn’t name him, he claims her allegations impacted his ability to work. She is pursuing a counterclaim of $100 million.
In closing arguments on Friday, Depp’s lawyers asked jurors to “give him his life back” after he claims it was “ruined” by Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse. They alleged Heard would rather be in a fight than let the actor leave, called her claims an act of profound cruelty to true survivors, and said that she gave the performance of her life on the stand.
In their closing, Heard’s lawyers said a ruling in favor of Depp would make jurors an “accomplice” to his abuse and to his “campaign of global humiliation”, and called out the actor for “laughing” and “snide comments” during the closing, adding he engaged in “victim-blaming at its most disgusting”.
For a month now, testimony focused on details of alleged abuse that Heard says she suffered at the hands of Depp. Depp has denied any physical or sexual abuse and says Heard concocted the claims to destroy Depp’s reputation.
The case itself is a defamation claim — When the jury deliberates, it will have to focus not only on whether there was abuse but also on whether Heard’s op-ed piece can be considered legally defamatory. The article itself focuses mostly on policy questions of domestic violence, but Depp’s lawyer point to two passages in the article, as well as an online headline that they say defamed Depp.
In the first passage, Heard writes that “two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath.” Depp’s lawyers call it a clear reference to Depp, given that Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016 — two years before she wrote the article.
In a second passage, she states, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real-time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
The online headline reads “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath.”
“She didn’t mention his name. She didn’t have to,” Depp’s lawyer Ben Chew said. “Everyone knew exactly who and what Ms. Heard was talking about.”
Heard’s lawyers said Heard can’t be held liable for the headline because she didn’t write it, and that the two passages in the article are not about the abuse allegations themselves but how Heard’s life changed after she made them.
J. Benjamin Rottenborn told jurors that even if they tend to believe Depp’s claim that he never abused Heard, he still can’t win his case because Heard has a First Amendment right to weigh in on matters of public debate.
In closing arguments, though, Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez argued that Heard’s free-speech rights have limits.
“The First Amendment doesn’t protect lies that hurt and defame people,” Vasquez said.
It’s possible the jurors could come to a verdict Tuesday, if not, they will return Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.