I’ve been closely following the defamation lawsuit that Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife, Aquaman star Amber Heard regarding a 2019 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post portraying herself as a domestic abuse survivor. The op-ed was conveniently released a day before the first Aquaman came out in theaters and left out Johnny’s name from the article.
However, according to the lawsuit, the insinuation that Depp was the abuser in his relationship with Heard cost him several lucrative Hollywood roles, among them being reprising the character of Jack Sparrow in the planned sixth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny was also dropped by Warner Bros. from the third Fantastic Beasts movie, allegedly due to the allegations of wife beating.
Now, before the defamation suit in the US, Johnny already filed a libel suit against UK publication The Sun for picking up on Amber’s insinuations and outright calling Johnny a wife beater. Surprisingly, given the same evidence presented in the US courts, the UK High Court ruled in favor of the Sun and declared their statements against Johnny “substantially true.”
Now, its interesting how things are unravelling in the US trial, which is televised in its entirety and streamed across different public platforms. It depicts the tumultous relationship between Johnny and his ex-wife and none of the signs she was a helpless victim in this relationship. I am no expert but here are my observations on what Jonny’s legal team is doing right in the trial.
- Admitting Jonny’s flaws. During the trial, Depp’s legal team was very open about his alcohol intake and drug use. They were quite forthcoming about it and even Johnny admitted to his faults. The legal team made it clear that they found no issue with Johnny being depicted as an alcoholic or a drug user but they drew the line at domestic abuse. By making this clear, Johnny and his witnesses were freely able to narrate the events without the limitations of caring about Johnny’s image. They seemed more relaxed and comfortable on the stand.
- Hiring credible experts. One of the standouts of the trial was the testimony from forensic psychologist Dr. Shannon Curry. Dr. Curry was smart, professional, and most importantly, did not draw the conclusions of her reports from her butt. She extensively interviewed both Amber and Johnny before submitting her assessment. The way she shut down the muffin issue was gold.
- Masterful questioning. Johnny’s team has a game plan and each member is on the same page. Atty. Ben Chew and Atty. Camille Vasquez had every detail down and went after each witness like sharks. Chew spew facts in bullet points, not missing a beat, while Vasquez’s nuanced questions pushed all the right buttons to fluster Amber into contradicting herself. Her softy voice coupled with her steely no-nonsense line of questioning was so impressive. Johnny’s legal team understood Amber and her lawyers and were well prepared to shut them down. Oh, special mention to Atty. Wayne Dennison who looked to be an affable guy and gave Amber’s expert witness Dr. Dawn Hughes plenty of opportunity to elaborate on her findings, only to bring her back to earth when he asked her if she ever met Johnny Depp in person to make the evaluation (spoiler alert: she did not), clouding her credibility as a reliable, unbiased source.
- Doing research. Johnny’s legal team knew every detail of the case like the back of their hand. And because of this, they were able to pull up evidence quickly and efficiently to contradict any falsehood of inconsistency from the witnesses. From text messages, phone conversations, and CCTV footage and even deposition footage from the UK trial, they clearly emphasized changes to statements, behavior and other claims with hard undeniable facts.
- Stacking the evidence. Johnny’s team came prepared for a war. They have a full paper trail of payments made, transactions, timelines and testimony of the people who were present during the time Amber claimed she was beaten by Johnny. The fact that Amber’s witnesses were also contradicting her claims and inadvertently corroborating the facts presented by Johnny’s witnesses prove just how much of her claims were exaggerated.
- Letting Amber dig herself into an even deeper pit. Amber tries to overcompensate and add more details to the story to prove that she is telling the truth. She also tries to look at the jury every time to establish a “connection.” However, the more information she shares, the more she digs herself deeper into a pit. Body language experts suggest that she could no longer contain her hostility and her true nature is being revealed by her behavior in the stand. She does not directly answer questions. She beats around the bush and she flat out lies (she told the UK court and several interviews that she paid the $7 million divorce settlement to charity — she did not) She also claimed that she was unable to pay because she was sued by Johnny (she already had the money for more than a year before she was sued). The girl is grasping at straws and based on Dr. Curry’s assessment, the public is seeing what the psychologist saw.
- A good relationship with their client. If I were an observer in court, it would be obvious which team had the better relationship. Ben Chew seemed very protective of Johnny, smiling at him as he would his son, and celebrating any slip ups from the opposing counsel. You could see how each member of Johnny’s legal team were fighting for him because they believed him and not just because he was paying them to represent him. You can’t fake that type of affection — especially since they were not actors.
Now, it is not my place to weigh in on the matter but I sincerely hope that the jury truly sees that in the toxic relationship between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, he was telling the truth all along. This case goes beyond the money. Its about Johnny and Amber’s reputations. Justice should be served.