US judge refuses to throw out Johnny Depp defamation suit against Amber Heard

'Aquaman' actress expected to take the stand later this week

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The US judge hearing the defamation suit filed by Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp against his former wife Amber Heard rejected a defence request on Tuesday to throw the case out.

Lawyers for the Aquaman actress had asked Judge Penney Azcarate to dismiss the suit after Depp's lawyers rested their case in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia.

They said Depp had failed to prove he was defamed by a December 2018 opinion piece published in The Washington Post, in which Heard described herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse".

"The court should grant the motion to strike because the undisputed evidence is that he did, in fact, abuse Amber," said Heard's lawyer, Ben Rottenborn.

Benjamin Chew, Depp's lead lawyer, said the jury had a wealth of evidence to conclude that Heard falsely accused Depp of abuse.

Mr Chew said the evidence showed that “Ms Heard physically abused him. She’s the abuser”.

Ms Azcarate said the standard for dismissing a case at this point in the trial was exceedingly high, and that the case should be allowed to go ahead if Depp provided even a “scintilla” of evidence backing up his claims.

The trial will continue on Tuesday afternoon with Heard’s team starting to present its witnesses after more than three weeks of testimony from Depp’s witnesses, including four days on the stand by the actor.

Heard did not name Depp in the Post article, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $50 million in damages.

She counter-sued, asking for $100m and claiming she suffered "rampant physical violence and abuse" at his hands.

Depp has denied ever being physically abusive towards Heard and claimed at the trial that she was the one who was frequently violent.

Among the final witnesses for Depp on Tuesday morning was Erin Falati, a private nurse for Heard.

Ms Falati testified on a recorded deposition that she received photos of Heard with red marks on her face the night of May 21, 2016.

That was the night of a final fight between Depp and Heard that led to her divorce filing a few days later and her May 27 appearance at a Los Angeles courthouse, with red marks on her face, seeking a restraining order.

Depp has said she faked the bruises, and presented testimony from police officers who did not see marks on her face when authorities were called the night of the fight.

But the photos texted to Ms Falati, which were seen by the jury, could contradict the officers’ perception.

Heard is expected to take the witness stand this week.

Depp filed the defamation complaint in the US after losing a separate libel case in London in November 2020, which he brought against The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater".

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 03, 2022, 9:28 PM