The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, defined







Johnny Depp is now interesting the one win Amber Heard bought of their gorgeous defamation trial this summer time. In June, Depp was awarded $15 million in damages, together with $5 million in punitive damages, which the decide capped to $350,000, the authorized restrict in Virginia. In complete, he’s entitled to $10.35 million. The jury awarded Heard $2 million, with the discovering that former Depp legal professional Adam Waldman had defamed her. Now, TMZ experiences that Depp is interesting Heard’s win. Heard already filed an enchantment on Depp’s win in July.

The counter-appeals are simply the newest improvement within the media sensation of the Fairfax County, Virginia, trial of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard. When the trial was in oral arguments this spring, the nation was riveted. Vainness Honest reported that as Courtroom TV broadcast the trial, it doubled its daytime scores. Hashtags related with the trial have repeatedly trended throughout Twitter, as viewers watch and talk about the movie star case of the 12 months — its messiness, its scandal, the glamorous film stars at its coronary heart, and the query of what to imagine and the way a lot.

This was a murky, perplexing trial. Whereas it was technically a defamation trial over a newspaper article — with Depp suing Heard and Heard countersuing Depp — at its heart was one large battle. Amber Heard mentioned Johnny Depp abused her. Depp mentioned Heard abused him. So what’s the reality?

Strikingly for our post-Me Too world, each the jury and the loudest voices on the web overwhelmingly sided with Depp. That’s even supposing Depp already misplaced one model of this case within the UK. And whereas there’s compelling proof that violence got here from each folks on this marriage, it’s removed from clear that Heard was the first aggressor.

What Depp does have is the stronger public profile. Although it’s been over a decade since he put out a real vital hit, he’s delivered sufficient acclaimed work over the course of his lengthy profession to earn himself a good quantity of goodwill.

In a press release, Heard attributed Depp’s win squarely to that profile. “I’m heartbroken that the mountain of proof nonetheless was not sufficient to face as much as the disproportionate energy, affect, and sway of my ex-husband,” she mentioned. “I’m much more upset with what this verdict means for different girls. It’s a setback. It units again the clock to a time when a lady who spoke up and spoke out might be publicly shamed and humiliated. It units again the concept that violence towards girls is to be taken significantly.”

The star of hits like Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Brasco, and the numerous, many Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Depp has been nominated for 3 Oscars and been named Folks’s Sexiest Man Alive twice. For some time, a minimum of, he was a type of people who find themselves so bankable that they appear capable of get away with something: a white man who can also be a real A-list intercourse image. He was up there within the higher echelon: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Johnny Depp.

As Depp’s movie profession declined over the course of the 2010s, his private and monetary troubles started. In 2017, Depp sued each his longtime enterprise managers and his leisure lawyer, claiming that they had mismanaged his funds.

An notorious Rolling Stone profile from this era paints Depp as a fading and deluded icon, reduce off from actuality by his cash, his fame, and copious quantities of medicine. He’s, Rolling Stone declared brutally, “a punchline: bankrupt, remoted and another mistake away from being blackballed from his business.”

Heard, then again, was simply starting to method the purpose of changing into a family title when she first met Depp on the set of The Rum Diary in 2009. (On the time, each have been in relationships with different folks.) Over 20 years youthful than Depp, she had her first main job as a supporting character within the 2008 Judd Apatow stoner comedy Pineapple Categorical. When The Rum Diary got here out in 2011, it was an indication that she was getting into a brand new part of her profession: taking part in the love curiosity of A-listers.

From there, Heard went on to play main roles in 2015’s Magic Mike XXL and The Adderall Diaries. And in 2017, she was solid in her largest position to this point as Mera, the queen in DC Comics’ Aquaman franchise.

All that is to say that when these two figures met, and all through their marriage, Johnny Depp was a identified amount to the American public. Amber Heard was very a lot not. Furthermore, their relationship coincided with Depp’s lengthy and really public downward spiral.

By 2012, Depp and Heard had break up up with their respective companions and begun courting one another. In 2014 they bought engaged, and in 2015, they bought married.

Then, in 2016, Heard filed for divorce. 4 days later, she filed a request for a restraining order. Every little thing else would observe from there.

Right here is your information to the trial of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard: what we all know, what we don’t know, how everybody concerned is spinning their narrative, and what all of it means for the way forward for how we discuss gendered violence within the post-Me Too world.

Amber Heard speaks to her authorized staff as Johnny Depp returns to the stand at their Fairfax County trial, April 21, 2022.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP through Getty Photos

Who’s suing whom and why?

Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation due to an op-ed she revealed within the Washington Put up in 2018. Within the op-ed, headlined “I spoke up towards sexual violence — and confronted our tradition’s wrath. That has to vary,” Heard by no means mentions Depp, however she refers to herself as “a public determine representing home abuse.”

Depp and his attorneys have argued, and a decide has agreed, that Heard is clearly implying that Depp abused her over the course of their year-long marriage.

Heard first publicly accused Depp of home violence in Might 2016 when, days after submitting for divorce, she requested and acquired a short lived restraining order on the grounds of home violence. Depp’s lawyer promptly issued a press release saying that Heard was mendacity, “trying to safe a untimely monetary decision by alleging abuse.”

When the pair finally reached an out-of-court divorce settlement in August 2016, Heard withdrew her request for a everlasting restraining order. The pair additionally issued a joint assertion that bizarrely made the declare that neither of the contradictory statements every made about one another have been true. On the one hand, “There was by no means an intent of bodily or emotional hurt” (so Depp wasn’t abusive), and on the opposite, “Neither get together has made false accusations for monetary positive aspects” (so Heard wasn’t mendacity for a greater monetary settlement).

In what seemed to be a transfer meant to again up the second half of that joint assertion, Heard, who reportedly bought $7 million within the settlement, introduced that she would donate her settlement to charity, dividing it between the ACLU and the Youngsters’s Hospital of Los Angeles. (This can come up once more later.)

The announcement gave the impression to be sending a sign: Heard couldn’t have been mendacity about Depp abusing her for cash, as a result of she didn’t get any cash out of the divorce. What motivation for making her accusation may she have, except it have been true?

Regardless, gossip retailers like TMZ quickly aligned themselves with Depp and declared Heard a sure liar. In her op-ed, Heard claims that she was dropped from a film and a style promoting marketing campaign after making her accusations. Depp, in the meantime, saved working. In December 2016, it was introduced that he would play a key position within the Harry Potter spinoff franchise Incredible Beasts and The place to Discover Them.

This primary wave of accusations and denials all got here pretty early in 2016, months earlier than the election of Donald Trump and greater than a 12 months earlier than the accusations towards Harvey Weinstein that will ship the tradition exploding into a brand new means of speaking concerning the abuses of well-known males. Some feminist popular culture commenters (myself included) have been up in arms concerning the story, however by and enormous there was little vitality there. After the divorce settlement, it appeared poised to soften away like a bit of cultural ephemera, a imprecise reminiscence that America largely agrees to wince away from and simply not discuss too loudly, like Rob Lowe’s intercourse tape. Depp would maintain working and Heard most likely wouldn’t, and that will simply be the way in which issues went.

Then, in October 2017, the primary accusations towards Harvey Weinstein dropped, and the world modified. All of the sudden there was intense outrage round the concept that highly effective males throughout Hollywood have been abusing girls and getting away with it. The concept Johnny Depp’s ex-wife felt the necessity to get a restraining order towards him was abruptly very highly effective.

It’s in that environment that Heard was named ambassador on girls’s rights for the ACLU, and in that capability that she wrote her op-ed in December 2018. Three months later, in March 2019, Depp filed a defamation lawsuit towards her looking for $50 million. In January 2021, Heard countersued for $100 million. Heard’s countersuit seems more likely to go to courtroom later this 12 months, additionally in Virginia. The trial that simply concluded is Depp’s lawsuit towards Heard.

Maybe extra confusingly, this case is one thing like a do-over. In 2018, Depp sued the chief editor and writer of the British tabloid The Solar for libel after it referred to him as a “spouse beater” in an article, bringing the case to the notoriously extra plaintiff-friendly British courts.

When Depp’s swimsuit towards the Solar went to trial in London in 2020, the burden was on the Solar to indicate that its assertion about Depp was appropriate. Regardless of the chances stacked towards it, the newspaper, which referred to as on Heard to element 14 situations throughout which she mentioned Depp abused her, succeeded. The decide accepted that “Mr. Depp put her in concern of her life,” and shortly after Depp introduced that he had been requested to resign from the Incredible Beasts franchise.

As a result of Depp sued the Solar, nevertheless, and never Heard, that verdict wasn’t grounds to dismiss Depp’s swimsuit towards Heard. It can go ahead in Virginia.

Amber Heard listens to Johnny Depp as an image of an harm to his face is seen on a display throughout their Fairfax County trial, April 20, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein/AFP through Getty Photos

Is that this a case of “mutual abuse”? Or is it DARVO?

If there’s one factor that’s clear within the Depp-Heard case, it’s that not that a lot is evident. This story is overwhelmingly messy and sophisticated.

There may be compelling proof that Depp acted violently in direction of Heard. Within the UK trial, Heard submitted witness testimony; contemporaneous textual content messages, emails, and diary entries; and images of her bruises. Taken collectively, they demonstrated a transparent sample of abuse, most frequently when Depp was below the affect of medicine or alcohol. As a way to pretend them, Heard would have needed to spend years plotting to besmirch Depp’s title. (He claims she did.)

Whereas the small print are too intensive to catalog exhaustively on this article, right here’s a short overview of a few of the most mentioned incidents in query.

In June 2013, certainly one of Heard’s shut feminine pals hugged her. Based on Heard, Depp, drunk and excessive on mushrooms, flew right into a rage, grabbed the lady’s wrists and threatened to harm her. He then allegedly trashed the cabin the place he and Heard have been staying, hit Heard, and threw glasses at her. A number of witnesses agree that Depp actually bought offended and trashed the cabin, and discovery additionally yielded contemporaneous texts between Depp and the actor Paul Bettany during which they fantasize collectively about burning Heard as a witch. “Let’s drown her earlier than we burn her!!!” Depp texts at one level. “I’ll fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to ensure she’s lifeless.”

In March 2015, whereas in Australia, Heard says that Depp spent three days on a violent tear, throughout which she says he repeatedly assaulted her. Each Heard and Depp agree that the tip of Depp’s finger was severed throughout this era (Depp says Heard threw a bottle at him and reduce it off, whereas Heard says Depp reduce it off himself from punching the wall and a plastic wall-mounted telephone), and that he then used the injured finger to scrawl demeaning graffiti about Heard over a mirror and lampshade. Each Heard’s sister and her pal Rocky Pennington testified that they noticed her coated in bruises and cuts shortly after the incident in query, and that Heard instructed them then that Depp had attacked her. Texts present Depp’s workers agreeing to say they didn’t understand how he misplaced the tip of his finger.

“I settle for that she [Heard] was the sufferer of sustained and a number of assaults by Mr Depp in Australia,” wrote UK Decide Andrew Nicol in his judgment. “It’s a signal of the depth of his rage that he admitted scrawling graffiti in blood from his injured finger after which, when that was inadequate, dipping his badly injured finger in paint and persevering with to put in writing messages and different issues. I settle for her proof of the character of the assaults he dedicated towards her. They will need to have been terrifying. I settle for that Mr Depp put her in concern of her life.”

There may be additionally compelling proof that Heard behaved violently towards Depp over the course of their relationship.

Depp has made public audio recordings of conversations he had with Heard over the course of their relationship. Within the recordings, which have been first revealed by the Each day Mail shortly earlier than the UK trial in January 2020, Heard refers to hitting Depp. She says, “I’m sorry that I didn’t … hit you throughout the face in a correct slap, however I used to be hitting you, it was not punching you. Babe, you’re not punched. I don’t know what the movement of my precise hand was, however you’re fantastic, I didn’t harm you, I didn’t punch you, I used to be hitting you.”

Depp responds that “I simply couldn’t take the thought of extra physicality, extra bodily abuse on one another,” warning Heard that “I’m scared to loss of life we’re a fucking crime scene proper now.” Heard replies, “I can’t promise you I received’t get bodily once more. God, I fucking typically get so mad I lose it.”

In one other audio recording throughout a dialog concerning the Australia incident, Heard seems to mock the concept that Depp would possibly place himself as a sufferer.

“I misplaced a fucking finger, man,” says Depp. “I had a can of mineral spirits thrown at my face.”

“You possibly can inform folks it was a good combat, after which see what the jury and decide thinks,” Heard says. “Inform the world, Johnny. Inform them, ‘Johnny Depp, I, a person, I’m a sufferer, too, of home violence, it’s a good combat,’ and see how many individuals imagine or aspect with you.”

In April 2022, Depp’s staff introduced this recording on the trial in Fairfax throughout Depp’s testimony. Depp’s lawyer requested him how he responded when Heard proposed he inform the world he was a sufferer of home violence, and Depp replied, “I mentioned, ‘Sure, I’m.’”

Depp’s staff additionally leaned on the distinction between Depp’s reported historical past and Heard’s. Whereas Depp has beforehand been accused of property harm and verbal threats, he’s by no means earlier than been accused of the type of violence Heard describes in her account, which earlier girlfriends have described as uncharacteristic of him. Heard, nevertheless, does have some minor accusations of violence to account for.

In 2009, Heard bought into an argument at an airport along with her then-girlfriend Tasya van Ree. Police arrested Heard after she allegedly struck van Ree’s arm, however expenses have been by no means pressed. Van Ree has launched a press release sticking by Heard, saying the incident was blown out of proportion and and chalking it as much as what she describes because the cops’ misogyny and homophobia.

And Heard’s former assistant, Kate James, testified in courtroom this April that when she requested Heard for a pay increase, Heard spat in her face.

Depp additionally argued that Heard hasn’t really donated her full divorce settlement to charity as she mentioned she would. (I instructed you that one would come again!) Whereas Heard promised to provide the ACLU $3.5 million, the ACLU has confirmed that she solely donated $1.3 million, and that it believes a minimum of $500,000 of that cash got here from Elon Musk, whom Heard briefly dated after her divorce from Depp. Depp’s staff appears to be attempting to suggest right here that Heard does really want some cash, and that possibly that was her motive all alongside for going after Depp.

So what can we do with these two competing narratives?

On April 14, Depp’s staff referred to as marriage counselor Laurel Anderson to the stand on the Fairfax trial. Anderson, who recommended Depp and Heard throughout their marriage, mentioned she thought of their dynamic to be certainly one of “mutual abuse.”

Anderson testified that she noticed Heard bruised after altercations with Depp, and that Heard instructed her she had initiated bodily fights with Depp on a number of events. She mentioned she believed, however was not sure, that Depp had additionally initiated bodily fights with Heard. Each Depp and Heard have mentioned that they skilled bodily abuse as youngsters, and Anderson’s principle is that their relationship pushed them again into poisonous childhood patterns, with every abusing the opposite and neither one finally extra accountable than the opposite.

Nonetheless, home violence consultants describe the idea of “mutual abuse” as divisive.

“I don’t imagine in mutual abuse. I don’t imagine that two events resolve to satisfy within the kitchen and field it out,” Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the Nationwide Coalition In opposition to Home Violence, instructed NBC Information. Glenn argues that each altercation between two folks has a “main aggressor,” and that if the opposite get together hits again in self-defense, that doesn’t depend as mutual abuse.

One other idea from home violence analysis that will show extra helpful to our understanding of this case is named DARVO.

“DARVO refers to a response perpetrators of flawed doing, notably sexual offenders, could show in response to being held accountable for his or her habits,” writes Jennifer J. Freyd, a professor emeritus of psychology on the College of Oregon. “DARVO stands for Deny, Assault, and Reverse Sufferer and Offender. The perpetrator or offender could Deny the habits, Assault the person doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Sufferer and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the sufferer position and turns the true sufferer — or the whistle blower — into an alleged offender.”

On this case, each Depp and Heard declare that they’re being falsely smeared as an abuser by the true abuser. If certainly one of them is telling the reality, the opposite could also be participating in DARVO. However which one?

That will not be a query that may be answered to the satisfaction of a legal courtroom, past a shadow of a doubt. However right here’s what we do know.

Johnny Depp is 23 years older than Amber Heard, exponentially extra well-known, and for many of their relationship was a lot richer than she was. (Neither certainly one of them appears to have all that a lot liquid money proper now.) Of the 2 of them, he was the one within the place to wield energy. And within the UK, the place this can be very troublesome to show a case like this, a courtroom has already discovered that Depp was probably the perpetrator and aggressor.

So if all that’s the case, then why did the jury decide suggesting that Depp is a sufferer and Heard is an abuser? And why achieve this many individuals on-line appear to agree?

A Johnny Depp supporter exterior the Fairfax County Circuit Courtroom on April 11, 2022.
Photograph by Paul Morigi/Getty Photos

Why does it seem to be so many individuals on-line are rooting for Johnny Depp?

The sheer quantity of on-line assist for Depp has develop into one of many largest oddities of this case. On Reddit, Twitter, and TikTok, individuals are loudly declaring their assist for Depp and their surety that Heard is a liar.

“Posters on Twitter and TikTok have overwhelmingly backed Depp, with hashtags like ‘JusticeForJohnnyDepp’ racking up practically 3 billion views on TikTok. Related hashtags have been tweeted hundreds of instances,” reported NBC Information because the trial started.

“Why does it seem to be the whole web is Crew Johnny Depp?” requested Vice, citing memes that confer with Heard as a “liar,” a “gold digger,” and “Amber Turd,” in addition to a viral TikTok that addresses Heard with the road, “He may have killed you, he had each proper.”

“To learn the posts, you’d assume Heard was on trial for a slew of violent crimes towards Depp, not being sued over a newspaper column,” says Mel journal.

A part of all this fury is perhaps attributed to Depp’s and Heard’s respective positions inside some distinctively poisonous web subgroups. In his publication, tech journalist Ryan Broderick put collectively a simple abstract of the overlap. “Mainly lots of boring males assume Johnny Depp is cool, [Zack] Snyder followers assume Amber Heard’s points with Depp have impacted the discharge of DC films, Harry Potter adults are mad that Depp was faraway from the Incredible Beasts franchise after he was accused of home violence, and lots of TERFs viciously defend something on-line about Harry Potter due to J.Ok. Rowling’s more and more public transphobia,” Broderick wrote.

There’s additionally some proof that Depp’s staff has used social media bots prior to now to gin up outrage towards Heard. In 2020, Heard’s staff commissioned a report from Bot Sentinel, a bunch that makes use of synthetic intelligence to detect troll bots. It discovered a number of Twitter accounts that it thought of doubtful, together with one which posted, “Fireplace her from all her rolls blacklist this loopy liar,” and one other that mentioned, “I’m beginning a petition. To get Amber Heard blacklisted from Hollywood!”

The report doesn’t imply that each Johnny Depp supporter on the web is definitely a robotic. But it surely does counsel that Depp’s staff has a historical past of strategically amplifying the dialog about him to make it seem that public opinion is extra united on his aspect than it really is.

They usually’re not alone. Loads of conservative retailers appear to have determined that the Depp-Heard story was good for his or her model, and to have devoted appreciable sources to selling it. A latest Vice report discovered that the Each day Wire spent tens of tens of millions of {dollars} selling adverts and movies with a bias towards Heard.

Depp has additionally develop into an emblem of kinds for many who wish to have a dialog about male victims of home violence, each in good religion and in dangerous.

On Twitter, earnest posts about Depp abound with the hashtag #BelieveMaleVictims. The Nationwide Home Violence Hotline estimates that one in seven grownup males within the US has been the sufferer of intimate accomplice violence, however says that males are much less possible than girls to report their abuse or hunt down assist. Supporters of Depp argue that his willingness to determine as a sufferer of home violence is a strong gesture in direction of breaking that stigma.

“One can solely hope that public consideration surrounding the Depp trial will impart the significance of defending oneself and believing male victims, too,” says the Washington Examiner.

In the meantime, Mel journal experiences that within the so-called manosphere the place males’s rights activists expound on the evils of feminism, Depp has develop into a hero. “His trial suits neatly right into a tapestry of claims that males are below assault, woven alongside clumsy narratives about false rape accusations and moms mendacity to block youngsters from their fathers,” Mel says, citing feedback during which Depp supporters bemoan our tradition’s “disproportional concentrate on feminine ‘struggling’” and name for the destruction of “the imagine all girls with no proof narrative.”

Right here, the anomaly of this case is actually providing cowl for a Me Too backlash. For many who really feel that the Me Too motion went too far, siding with Depp over Heard turns into an opportunity to place their opposition to the motion as a principled assist for male abuse victims somewhat than a reactionary misogynistic fury.

It’s additionally price noting that Depp is the one true A-list intercourse image to face the wrath of Me Too. Whereas many very well-known and beloved males have been accused of doing terrible issues to girls in 2017 and 2018, Depp was the one one who’s each a three-time Oscar nominee and a two-time Folks’s Sexiest Man Alive.

The tradition has spent many years admiring Depp’s expertise and sweetness and charisma, and all of that admiration doesn’t simply go away now. Depp’s followers have made a strong emotional funding in him, and lots of of them are prepared to leap on any little second of ambiguity on this case as proof of Depp’s innocence. In a trial this messy, there are lots of ambiguities.

In the long run, maybe that’s what’s most damning concerning the bigger dialog round this trial: the lack to deal with the ambiguities. Confronted with a portrait of a relationship during which there’s compelling proof of violence and poisonous habits on each side, our tradition appears unable to just accept that we could merely be a narrative with out heroes. As a substitute, we demand a tidy narrative with a heroic redemption arc — and if the hero is a beloved, charismatic, and highly effective white man, properly, all the higher.

It’s troublesome to see Depp’s repute totally recovering from his latest string of lawsuits. Even after Heard accused him of home abuse, Hollywood had loads of cowl to proceed enterprise as standard, because it labored with Depp up till he dragged the combat into the courtroom. He wasn’t fired from Incredible Beasts, in spite of everything, till he misplaced his UK case. It’s not clear whether or not a win within the US courtroom system will totally redeem his repute. And Heard, who has much less of a longtime repute to guard her, is probably at much more threat.

If this case proved one factor, nevertheless, it’s that Johnny Depp continues to be a star, and he’s nonetheless able to commanding the nation’s consideration. And for a film star whose gentle is fading quick, possibly that’s sufficient.

Correction, June 1, 9:40 pm: A earlier model of this text misstated the quantity Johnny Depp was awarded within the verdict. It was $15 million. That features $5 million in punitive damages, which was capped to $350,000 per Virginia legislation.

Replace, June 1, 4 pm: This text was initially revealed on Might 4, 2020. It has been up to date with the jury’s verdict.

Replace, November 3, 5 pm: This text has been up to date with Depp’s enchantment.


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