Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrive at the High Court as libel hearing continues
Johnny Depp’s multi-million defamation lawsuit against his former wife, Amber Heard, will begin in Virginia later today.
He claims a 2018 article written by Heard in The Washington Post – in which she spoke about domestic violence towards women – implied Depp, her former husband, was an abuser.
Although the 35-year-old did not name the actor, lawyers for Depp say Heard’s allegations have made it difficult for the 58-year-old to land roles he previously did.
Depp is known for starring in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeny Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Heard has appeared in titles including Aquaman and Drive Angry.
He is asking for $50m (£38.2m) in damages during the trial in Fairfax County’s district courthouse. Heard has meanwhile filed a counterclaim of defamation against Depp, who she divorced from in 2017, for nuisance.
Depp has previously lost a defamation case in the UK against British newspaper The Sun regarding the claims in Heard’s 2018 article.
How long will the trial last?
The trial will likely last several weeks, according to analysts, with the previous case brought by Depp against The Sun newspaper taking three weeks to conclude.
Proceedings at the court in Fairfax, Virginia, began on Monday with jury selection. At the next stage, both sides will present their arguments – including a number of witnesses.
That could take some time to conclude, with the judge also having to rule on Heard’s counterclaim for defamation against her former husband.
She has accused Depp of smearing her with his defamation action, and will likely plead immunity in reference to her Washington Post article from 2018 about being a domestic violence victim.
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 17:37
Jury selection underway
The Independent’s Clemence Michallon reports from the courthouse:
Jury selection is underway for the defamation trial opposing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in Fairfax.
Proceedings began around 10am ET with jury selection. Depp and Heard are both present, each sitting on one side of the courthouse with their legal team.
Prospective jurors were first asked whether they’d face any hardship if they were asked to participate in a trial expected to last six weeks. Some were excused on that basis.
Then, the judge and each party’s lawyers asked prospective jurors whether they had read or heard anything about the case, and if so, whether they’d still be able to make an objective determination in this case.
Some jurors have acknowledged previous knowledge of the case, but have generally said they’d be able to keep an open mind if they’re part of the final jury.
Seven jurors and four alternates will be chosen in total.
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 17:29
Heard says in statement: ‘I continue to pay the price’
In a statement on Saturday, Heard said she was continuing “to pay the price” for being a woman “speaking out against men in power” and that she was dissapointed her and Depp’s life would again play out in front of a court.
“I never named him,” said Heard on Saturday. “Rather, I wrote about the price women pay for speaking out against men in power.”
“I continue to pay the price, but hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny,” she added of her former husband, who she said she has “always maintained a love for”.
Heard’s lawyers will likely argue that she is “immune” from liability during the trial because her opinion article in The Washington Post was a matter of public concern.
The article, which was published in 2018, was titled: I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change. It did not name her ex-husband.
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 17:18
Previous Depp and Heard trial appearances
This is not the first time Depp and Heard have appeared in court after he failed to sue the publishers of The Sun newspaper for defamation in 2020.
A judge ruled that the headline of an article written by The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton in 2018 was “substantially true”. It described the actor as a “wife beater”, which he denies.
Depp, whose lawyers called the judge’s ruling “perverse”, was not allowed to appeal the decision either.
He also denied the claims made in the article and by Heard, who spoke in court as a witness during the case in London’s Royal Courts of Justice.
While Depp says he was forced to stand down from his role in the film Fantastic Beasts – a Harry Potter spin-off – following the trial, he has attended a number of film events and was awarded by the San Sebastian film festival in Spain for his lifetime achievements. The decision proved highly controversial.
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 16:59
Who could testify during the trial?
Ahead of the trial due to begin today in Virginia, Depp and Heard have each published a list of witnesses their teams may wish to call upon, writes The Independent’s Clémence Michallon.
They have each filed lists of objections to some of the other side’s witnesses, so the final pool of witnesses will become clearer and may evolve as the proceedings go on.
Some of the people named as potential witnesses so far include Tesla-founder Elon Musk and actor James Franco…
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 16:40
Why is the trial taking place in Virginia?
Although the couple both live in California, the defamation case brought by Depp against his former wife is in Virginia, where the trial will play out at Fairfax County’s district courthouse.
Online editions of The Washington Post are published through servers located in Fairfax County, which is thought to be one of the reasons behind Depp’s lawyers deciding on the location.
Another is because of Virginia’s anti-Slapp law, which is not as broad as the one in California. The provision allows a person to claim protection from a lawsuit when speaking about issues of public concern.
Lawyers for Heard, who have filed a counter defamation claim, are expected to use the anti-Slapp law during the trial. It comes four years after her Washington Post article titled: I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 16:21
Johnny Depp fans waited outside the courthouse to catch a glimpse of the actor
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 15:52
Heard said in 2020 she wanted to be ‘left alone’
Appearing as a witness during Depp’s trial against British newspaper The Sun in 2020, Heard said she wanted to be “left alone” and wanted her former husband to end lawsuits over domestic abuse claims to “save him the embarrassment.”
“I didn’t want to do this, I did not want to expose this totality of what really happened to me,” Heard told London’s Royal Courts of Justice. “I didn’t want to talk about everything that happened in our marriage and happened in our relationship.”
While Depp denies the claims, Heard told the court of 14 allegations of “violence” by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in locations such as a rented house in Australia, his private island in the Bahamas and a private jet, as The Associated Press reported two years ago.
The judge ruled against Depp, who accused the publisher of The Sun of defaming him with a headline including the words “wife beater”. His lawyers afterwards called the judge’s decision “perverse”.
Gino Spocchia11 April 2022 15:30
Depp and Heard have arrived at the courthouse
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have arrived at the courthouse for jury selection in the $50m defamation trial.
Oliver O’Connell11 April 2022 15:17
Franco and Musk to provide testimony
James Franco and Elon Musk are among the high-profile names who will provide a testimony during the case between Depp and Heard.
Paul Bethany, of WandaVision, as well as representatives of the Walt Disney company and Warner Bros are also due to appear in the Fairfax County court, reported Deadline.
The long-delayed trial is due to begin later today with the selection of a jury.
Gino Spocchia11 April 2022 15:10