Attorneys for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard each claimed to provide evidence revealing the other actor’s true nature on Friday as they delivered closing arguments before a Virginia courtroom in Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife.
“This is the real Amber Heard,” attorney Camille Vasquez told the jury after replaying an audio clip in which Heard admits to “hitting” Depp.
“This is the real Johnny Depp,” attorney Benjamin Rottenborn said a couple hours later, having rehashed a series of text messages in which Depp gleefully talks about defiling Heard’s “burnt corpse.”
“These words,” Rottenborn said, “are a window into the heart and mind of America’s favorite pirate.”
Depp maintains that Heard lied about him in a 2018 Washington Post editorial describing herself as a survivor of domestic violence, causing him to lose out on multimillion-dollar film deals including Disney’s sixth “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment.
Heard has defended her claims and is countersuing Depp for $100 million.
Jurors will need to make decisions on both Depp’s lawsuit and Heard’s countersuit; the panel of seven started their work at around 3 p.m.
The trial’s final arguments were kicked off earlier in the day by Vasquez, the lawyer championed by Depp’s online fans for the condescending style of questioning she used in cross-examination of Heard.
She alleged that the stakes were sky-high: Not just “a man’s good name” but “a man’s life” hung in the balance.
Although the editorial did not name Depp, his team says it was abundantly clear the piece referred to him, given that it referenced the year Heard obtained a temporary restraining order against her then-husband.
“On May 27, 2016, Ms. Heard walked into a courthouse in Los Angeles, California, to get a no-notice ex parte restraining order against Mr. Depp, and in doing so, ruined his life by falsely telling the world that she was a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Mr. Depp,” Vasquez began her argument before the jury, noting that it had been six years to the day.
Between Vasquez and attorney Benjamin Chew, Depp’s team dutifully summarized the evidence they had presented to the jury over the course of the six-week trial, replaying some of the audio and visual highlights. The evidence portrayed Heard as an unreasonable person who was “violent, abusive [and] cruel” to Depp, while he was “never” physically violent in response, according to Vasquez.
Chew told the jury that domestic abuse was “the worst thing” you could allege against a man in the wake of the Me Too movement, which he said Depp supported.
“She is a deeply troubled person violently afraid of abandonment, desperate for approval,” Vasquez said of Heard, reminding jurors of testimony from a psychiatrist hired by Depp who claimed that Heard has borderline personality disorder. A mental health professional hired by Heard testified that she suffered from PTSD from her relationship with Depp.
The Hollywood couple split in 2016, and terms of their divorce were finalized in early 2017. While Heard had pledged to split her $7 million settlement between two causes ― the ACLU and a Los Angeles children’s hospital ― testimony at trial indicated she only donated a fraction of the funds, as Vasquez reminded the jury. Casting doubt on Heard’s credibility, she played a clip in which Heard asserts she donated the full amount in an on-camera interview.
Depp’s team downplayed the evidence presented against their client, including the video clip secretly recorded by Heard that showed the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star aggressively slamming cabinets, raising his voice to Heard and pouring himself a massive glass of red wine early in the day.
Rottenborn and Elaine Bredehoft, another attorney for Heard, then rehashed their case against Depp. Rottenborn specifically framed the case as a First Amendment question, telling jurors they did not have to evaluate how abusive the couple’s marriage was.
He implored the panel to “think about the message that Mr. Depp and his attorneys are sending to Amber and, by extension, every victim of domestic abuse everywhere: If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying. And if you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax. If you didn’t seek medical treatment, you weren’t injured. If you did seek medical treatment, you’re crazy.”
Depp’s substance abuse issues, Rottenborn said, likely contributed to memory lapses that made him an unreliable source of information. The actor has admitted to drinking heavily and using drugs, but pushed back on the idea during his testimony that he was out of control. Testimony from his former agent, a former business manager and a former collaborator played in court, though, painted a picture of a man for whom substance abuse was an increasing problem, particularly over the last decade.
Bredehoft cast Depp as a fading star who had no one but himself to blame for his predicament.
“He blamed everybody in the world: his agent, his manager, his lawyer, Amber, his friends, everybody,” Bredehoft said. “But he’s never accepted responsibility for anything in his life. We’re asking you to make him accept responsibility.”