Contradictory, explosive accounts of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s tumultuous three-year marriage have been presented to jurors on the opening day of Depp’s libel case against his ex-wife in a US court, with Depp’s lawyers accusing Heard of manufacturing domestic violence claims against him to advance her own career.
Heard’s attorneys, meanwhile, argued that her allegations are true, she had a right to express her views, “and all Mr Depp has wanted to do is humiliate Amber, to haunt her, to wreck her career”.
Opposing profiles of the movie stars – with Heard’s counsel presenting Depp as “an obsessed ex-husband hellbent on revenge” and Heard described as a woman who would “resort to physical violence, throwing things, to prevent Mr Depp from leaving” – were heard during opening statements.
“Today, his name is associated with a lie. A statement issued by his former wife, ”Depp’s attorney Ben Chew said on Tuesday. “You will learn during the trial that Miss Heard’s accusations were prompted by Mr Depp’s request for a divorce.”
Heard’s attorney later said they’d present evidence during the trial to show that Depp had described “the violent side of himself as the monster” while engaging in “crushing drug and alcohol abuse”.
“Amber Heard never wanted to unearth for the public who the real Johnny Depp is,” her attorney Ben Rottenborn said. “But that’s going to come out over the course of this trial.”
The stranded couple arrived at the court in Fairfax, Virginia – Depp in a dark blue suit, black shirt and cream tie; Heard in a gray blazer with her hair in a low bun – amid a throng of fans, whom they have both been instructed to avoid.
Depp’s attorneys claimed Heard’s opinion article in the Washington Post, published on the eve of the cinema release of Aquaman, in which she acted, “falsely and unfairly cast Mr Depp as a villain”. The actor, said his attorney Camille Vasquez, will “go to his grave knowing that whatever he does there will always be people who believe he abused a woman.”
Vasquez also accused Heard of stagecraft. “She has been living and breathing this lie for years now,” she said. “Ella She is preparing to give the performance of a lifetime in this trial.”
Heard’s attorney’s countered that Depp’s accusations against his ex-wife were designed to “mislead you” and their client’s case was about her right to free speech under the first amendment.
“That’s what you’re being asked to decide,” said J Ben Rottenborn, an attorney for Heard. The lawyer also noted that Depp is trying to prove “the words Miss Heard used were about him and were false … and he can’t do that”.
“Mr Depp’s team is going to try to turn this case into a soap opera. Why, I’m not sure, because the evidence isn’t pretty for Mr Depp.”
The mudslinging, which will probably last seven weeks, is unlikely to do either actor’s careers any favors.
Both claim their reputations have been significantly damaged by the other, but it is Depp who brought the defamation action on the basis of the 2018 Washington Post article in which Heard wrote about domestic violence towards women – and implied, according to Depp, that he was the perpetrator.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for $50m over the article; Heard is countersuing for a $100m. For Depp to prevail, jurors must “prove by clear and convincing evidence” that Heard knowingly made false claims – a standard of proof that is typical of civil cases and is somewhat less rigorous that “beyond reasonable doubt”.
Trial observers have noted that Depp is not suing the Washington Post itself, which some have said suggests that his action may not be fundamentally about libel, but about the messy end of a turbulent marriage acted in out in public.
Some famous faces are expected to testify, including the actor Paul Bettany, who texted with Depp about Heard; the actor James Franco, who allegedly once asked Heard about bruises on her face de ella after a row with Depp; the actor Ellen Barkin; and the Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, who is Heard’s former boyfriend.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism