Hate-filled Depp v Heard trial now in the hands of jurors

Trial broadcast litany of vile threats and cruel accusations flung between former Hollywood 'it' couple

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Closing arguments in the six-week defamation trial actor Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife Amber Heard concluded on Friday and is now in the hands of the jurors.

Depp filed the suit against Heard after The Washington Post published an op-ed by the Aquaman star in which she describes herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.

Though he is not named, Depp claims that the article defamed him, costing him millions of dollars and his role in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Throughout the trial, both sides produced evidence from personal friends, expert witnesses and even family members, all called on to refute each other’s claims.

What became clear throughout the case was that the brief marriage was fraught with difficulties and conflict.

Jurors and millions of online viewers heard gruelling and painful accounts of alcohol-fuelled rages, explicit details of abuse and mental cruelty along with acrimonious text exchanges.

During his four days on the stand, Depp claimed that he was the victim, an abused husband and that Heard’s article “cost him everything”.

“No human being is perfect, certainly not, none of us, but I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse,” he said.

His lawyer, Camille Vasquez, said in her closing argument that Heard is an affront to victims of domestic violence.

“It was an act of profound cruelty not just to Mr Depp, but to true survivors of domestic abuse for Ms Heard to hold herself out as a public figure representing domestic abuse,” she said.

Benjamin Chew, another player on Depp’s legal team, said that the actor has struggled with drugs and alcohol and is “not a saint” but “he is not a violent abuser”.

Heard and Depp met when she auditioned for The Rum Diary. She began texting her mother images of bruises she alleges came at the hands of Depp as early as 2013. The couple were married in 2015 and divorced in 2017.

The actress obtained a restraining order against Depp in May 2016, citing domestic violence, and filed for divorce in the couple’s home state of California. California law states that no matter the reason for petitioning, Heard was eligible for half of Depp’s earnings for the entirety of their marriage — about $31 million.

“She only asked for $7m and pledged that to charity,” lawyer Elaine Bredehoft reminded jurors.

Heard also said that when she suggested both pre-and post-nuptial agreements, her former husband told her: “The only way out of this relationship is death.”

One of her lawyers, Benjamin Rottenborn, used the last moments of his closing arguments to reintroduce text exchanges between Depp and “his drug buddy” Paul Bettany in which Depp suggested “burning” his wife and then “[performing sexual acts upon] her corpse”.

Ms Vasquez said that this type of language could be attributed to his idolisation of his friend and journalist, Hunter S Thompson.

“He's got a dark sense of humour. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's who he is,” said Ms Vasquez. “But using bad language and colourful humour does not mean that you are a violent abuser.”

Mr Rottenborn called the exchange “disgusting” and that at the end of their marriage, Depp texted Bettany: “I hope that [expletive]’s rotting corpse is decomposing in the [expletive] trunk of a Honda Civic.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, these words are a window into the heart and mind of America's favourite pirate,” said Mr Rottenborn. “This is the real Johnny Depp.”

Depp denied sending the texts, though the forensic evidence produced proved otherwise.

“He has never accepted responsibility for anything in his life,” said Ms Bredehoft.

He's blamed everybody in the world — his agent, his manager, his lawyer, Amber, his friends, everybody.”

Depp’s lawyers maintained that is it Depp who was the victim and that Heard manipulated injuries and destroyed her own property in an effort to frame Depp.

“We ask you, we implore you to give him his name, his reputation and his career back,” Mr Chew asked of the jury.

If the jury does not reach a verdict by end of day Friday, deliberations will resume next Tuesday. They have also been given the task of making a decision on Heard’s $100m countersuit.

Updated: May 27, 2022, 10:27 PM