Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard begins

Johnny Depp’s $67 million defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard begins

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Actor Johnny Depp’s defamation case against his former wife, actress Amber Heard has begun in a court in Fairfax, Virginia.

The trial, which will be broadcasted live on American digital broadcast network Court TV, will see many high-profile individuals testify, including James Franco, Paul Bettany, and Elon Musk. 

The trial comes two years after Depp lost a libel case in London against The Sun when the British tabloid labelled him a “wife-beater”.

During that trial in July 2020, Heard testified that she had feared for her life during several encounters with her then-husband. 

Justice Nicol eventually found that the assaults were proven to the civil standard and that the article in question was “substantially true”.

Now, Depp is attempting to sue Heard as part of an effort to disprove allegations that he abused her during their three-year marriage.

On Monday, prior to jury selection commencing with Justice Penney Azcarate presiding, a court order announced that “Litigants and their legal teams in this trial will not pose for pictures or sign autographs in the courthouse or on courthouse grounds,” and barred fans of Heard and Depp from “camp[ing] on courthouse grounds.”

Depp’s case against Heard rests on an opinion piece Heard published in the Washington Post in December 2019, where she declared herself to be “a public figure representing domestic abuse” and explained how she had experienced “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.

Heard does not mention Depp by name in the article, so Depp’s legal team must show she not only defamed the actor, but also did so with malice.

According to The Press Association, Depp’s lawyers will introduce witness testimony in the trial, assessing photographs and texts in order to seek $67 million worth of damages.

Heard issued a statement last week on Instagram, telling her 4.1 million followers that she continues to pay a price for speaking out against powerful men.

“Hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny,” she wrote.

“I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world.”

The Guardian notes that Heard’s lawyers will likely invoke a Virginia law that protects individuals from civil liability under certain circumstances, such as defamation based singularly on statements made either to third parties regarding “matters of public concern that would be protected under the first amendment” to the US constitution.

Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, has argued that domestic violence comes under the banner of “matters of public concern”. 

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