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  • Writer's pictureThe Legal Digest

Depp v Heard

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

The story so far on the latest high profile libel case.

Image by jodiandbrett from Pixabay

Depp v Heard (Va. Cir. Ct. 2021)


Johnny Depp, a powerful public figure in Hollywood with supporters worldwide, is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for accusing him of domestic abuse which he claims affected his career as it attracted a lot of public interest particularly at the start of the #metoomovement in 2015 when the allegations were first made.


UK Court


The case started in the English courts when Jonny Depp brought a libel case against the British newspaper, The Sun, who published allegations of domestic abuse. The point at the heart of this trial was that the details published by The Sun were false however, what attracted interested is the evidence brought by Amber Heard to prove those claims.


The Judge found that 12 of the 14 allegations made by Amber Heard were “substantially true”. Evidence such as the missing tip of his finger, drug and alcohol abuse emerged during the trial which made the details of their relationship very public and personal and following the ruling Johnny Depp’s application for appeal was denied. In contrast with the US, in the UK there is no jury and the ruling is decided by the judge as it was a civil case rather than a criminal case.


US Court


Two years following the UK Court ruling, Jonny Depp is suing Amber Heard for $50 million in the US Court, for the claims she made in an article she wrote and which was published by the Washington Post alleging that she a victim of domestic abuse, which he claims negatively impacted his career and family.


Both parties in this case brought forward claims of abuse suffered by each other, photos of bruises allegedly from attacks by one another and testimony from a witnesses. The decision as to whether Depp should be awarded damages rests on his ability to prove the claims negatively impacted his career and family and that Amber Heard made those claims with malice.


Commentary


There are two cases here, the one in the courts and one in the public eye and the question is whether this a case of someone who is so powerful that he is able to use that to form an entourage and gain support. What will be interesting is what evidence will be used to support both parties claims.


Will his fans be swayed by the arguments presented in court, and why is it hard to believe that someone who has been celebrated for their work and gained worldwide popularity could be a domestic abuser?


Will the jury believe that Johnny Depp was abusive to heard and if they don’t, how will he prove he lost opportunities because of the claims she made? If the jury favour him, how will Amber Heard, someone who is a supporter of women’s rights and a campaigner of the #metoomovement, be viewed in the public eye? And more importantly will this impact victims' confidence in stepping forward where they have suffered domestic abuse whether that is verbal, emotional or physical or even whether they are celebrities or not?

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