The jury in the multi-million dollar defamation trial between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard has been sent out to consider its verdicts.
Heard, who claims Depp physically and sexually assaulted her, is being sued by the Hollywood actor for $50m over an article she wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.
Heard, 36, has countersued her ex-husband for $100m after his lawyer called her allegations a hoax.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star, 58, insists he never struck Heard and that she made up the abuse claims to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings.
At the end of the six-week trial in Virginia on Friday, Depp’s legal team asked the jury “to give Mr Depp his life back” by finding that Heard committed libel.
“This case for Mr Depp has never been about money,” said Depp’s lawyer Benjamin Chew.
“It is about Mr Depp’s reputation and freeing him from the prison in which he has lived for the last six years.”
Mr Chew also said: “We implore you to give him his name, his reputation and his career back.”
Another of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, said that while Heard’s first-person written piece did not mention the actor’s name, it was clearly referring to him.
She told jurors that behind the scenes of Depp and Heard’s relationship, things were very different.
‘There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr Depp’
“There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr Depp. And there is a victim of domestic abuse in this courtroom, but it is not Ms Heard,” she said.
Heard’s lawyer, Benjamin Rottenborn, said the lawsuit was not about Depp’s reputation but was part of an ongoing smear campaign Depp launched after Heard filed for divorce.
“In Mr Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr Depp,” he said. “If you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you.”
He took the jury back to the testimony of expert psychologist Dr Dawn Hughes, who tested Heard and said there had been a “high degree” of violence against the actress.
She said the effect of “coercive control” was “drastic” and that there was an “imbalance of power” and “intimidation”.
Dr Hughes told the court that Heard has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse.
Mr Rottenborn said it was “ridiculous” that Depp was trying to “fool” the jury into believing he was never once abusive towards Heard.
“It’s not about who’s the better spouse,” the lawyer said. “It’s not about whether you think Ms Heard may have been abusive to Mr Depp. It’s not.”
‘It is time to tell Mr Depp that this was his last chance’
Mr Rottenborn added: “It is time to tell Mr Depp that this was his last chance. Tell him to move on with his life. Tell him to let Amber move on with hers.
“This trial is about so much more than Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard. It’s about freedom of speech. Stand up for it. Protect it. And reject Mr Depp’s claims against Amber.”
Another of Heard’s lawyers, Elaine Bredehoft, said the statements made by Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman – which are the reason Heard is countersuing Depp – “took on a life of its own”.
Ms Bredehoft said they have “followed her everywhere” and that Heard has lost several work opportunities.
The Aquaman movie was Heard’s “opportunity”, her “blockbuster”, Ms Bredehoft said, but as it was coming out, “everything shut down”.
She reminded the jury of previous testimony by an expert who predicted the actress’s career trajectory, saying she could have earned up to $50m in the following years “instead of her star being completely extinguished”.
Ms Bredehoft said the jury also needs to consider “emotional distress damages” and said these are “even more extreme”.
“Every time she is called a liar… it causes her to relive all of it,” Ms Bredehoft said, adding that the ordeal has “destroyed” Heard’s life and “consumed her”.