Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in the Fairfax, Va., courtroom during closing arguments Friday. Photos by AP Photos/Steve Helber, Pool
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s legal teams presented their closing arguments to a jury in a Virginia courtroom on Friday, with Depp’s team painting Heard as a compulsive liar who abused Depp, while Heard’s team reminded the jury that Depp has to prove that he didn’t abuse his ex-wife even once. Depp’s legal team was first up, and attempted to paint Heard as an abuser and Depp the victim.“Ms. Heard is in fact the abuser and Mr. Depp, the abused,” lawyer Camille Vasquez told the jury. “Hold Ms. Heard accountable for her lies. What's at stake in this trial is a man’s good name. More than that, what is at stake in this trial is a man’s life.”
Both Vasquez and teammate Ben Chew repeatedly called Heard “a liar.” “She just can’t help herself,” Chew said. Their arguments echoed the deluge of anti-Heard comments online, including that Heard fake-cried while on the stand. They accused Heard of giving a “performance,” and said this trial was “the role of her lifetime.” “Either she is a victim of truly horrific abuse or she is a woman willing to say absolutely anything,” Vasquez said.Depp’s team also made the connection with the #MeToo movement and claimed Heard isn’t a part of it. “#MeToo is an important movement… It’s for true survivors of abuse. Not Ms. Heard,” Chew said.Heard’s team quickly shot back at accusations that she’s a liar when it was their turn to offer closing arguments, with lawyer Ben Rottenborn calling their argument “victim-blaming at its most disgusting.” “Think about the message that Mr. Depp, his attorneys are sending to Amber, and, by extension, every victim of domestic abuse everywhere,” Rottenborn said. “If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didnt tell your friends, you’re lying. And if you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax.”“That is the message that Mr. Depp is asking you to send. But he doesn’t stop there,” he said. “He will do everything he can to destroy your life, to destroy your career. That’s what they're trying to get you, the jury, to be an accomplice to.”
Depp launched the $50 million defamation suit filed against Heard in response to a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that Heard wrote about her experiences with domestic assault. The piece didn’t name Depp, but the Oscar-nominated actor maintains it’s “plainly” about him and that it cost him his career. Heard is simultaneously countersuing Depp for $100 million in damages in response to three statements his lawyer made about her publicly. Heard and Depp accused each other of being abusive while maintaining their own innocence.The civil trial is meant to determine whether statements made in the media by both sides have cost the actors their reputations and potential earnings. The burden of proof lies with Depp, the accuser, meaning he has to convince the jury he suffered damages and that he didn’t ever abuse Heard. That Depp is a public figure also makes it harder for him to win in a defamation suit. He lost a previous case in the UK, where a court decided he likely abused his ex-wife. “Defamation is very hard to prove. First and foremost, truth is an absolute defense to any defamatory statement. So regardless of the alleged defamatory statement, if a defendant can establish that it is true, the defense is going to win,” defamation expert Daniel Gutenplan told People magazine.
Heard’s legal team used their closing arguments to remind the jury of the burden of proof. “If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time then she wins,” her lawyer said, adding they aren’t just talking about physical abuse, but emotional and financial abuse as well. Rottenborn also argued the First Amendment should protect Heard’s free speech. Depp’s team maintains all reports of abuse are false. “There is an abuser in this courtroom and it is not Mr. Depp,” his lawyer said. His team also brought up the day when Heard filed for a restraining order against Depp and called the scene a “set-up.” They maintain that Heard tipped off the paparazzi ahead of time so that they would cover it. Heard denies the allegation.Throughout the trial’s six weeks, the court has heard harrowing allegations of abuse from both actors, who’ve produced images, audio recordings, former love letters, and private text messages to make their cases, some of which were brought up again during closing arguments. In one string of texts, Depp said he wanted to “burn” Heard and that he would “fuck her burnt corpse” to “make sure she is dead.” In an audio recording played repeatedly for the jury, Heard tells Depp that she “hit” him, but didn’t “punch” him. “I did not fucking deck you,” she says in the audio. Pictures of Heard with a bruised and swollen face, and hair ripped out of her scalp, accompany several allegations of abuse she says she experienced at the hands of Depp.
The court also saw an image of Depp’s bruised face, which he alleges appeared after she struck him. Depp says Heard cut off the tip of his finger during the infamous Australia fight. (At the time, he told people he did it himself.) It was during that fight that Heard says Depp repeatedly threw glass and penetrated her with a bottle. She told the court Depp held a broken bottle to her jaw and told her he’d “carve up” her face.The trial has been livestreamed for millions of viewers and has turned into a dystopian source of entertainment. Content creators have made memes about it to gain followers and clout, and online commentary has overwhelmingly skewed in favor of Depp.Once rebuttals are over, it’s up to the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict. It could come as early as Friday evening. Otherwise, the seven-person jury will reconvene Tuesday after the long weekend.Regardless of the outcome, however, experts said the way Heard has been mocked online has already caused harm. They said it’s causing a silencing effect that’ll make it difficult for future survivors of domestic violence to come forward because they’ll fear similar humiliation.Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.