Johnny Depp, Amber Heard: Move that could backfire in court battle

Amber Heard’s legal team may plan to have Johnny Depp take the stand again, but experts say there is a reason that could work against her.

Amber Heard calling Johnny Depp back to the stand could be a “risk”, partly because of how likeable he was when he first testified during bombshell defamation trial he has brought against his ex-wife, legal experts have said.

Sources close to Heard told The Post last week that her legal team may have Depp testify again as they argue her side in the ongoing courtroom battle in Fairfax, Virginia.

But any such plan could backfire, as the actor, who was already on the witness stand for four days, came across as believable and likeable to the jury, experts said. Giving him a second round on the stand might unintentionally hurt Heard’s case.

“There is a risk that he is going to have more time being likeable on the stand,” civil claims lawyer Katherine Lizardo said, “when it’s actually Amber Heard’s time to present her case.”

Seattle defamation lawyer Bruce Johnson agreed that Depp’s apparent likability could be a problem for Heard.

“That is a huge risk if he’s a good witness and he’s going to perform well again,” Mr Johnson told The Post.

Halim Dhanidina, a criminal defence lawyer and former California judge, said Depp’s “very unique personality” likely made him appealing to the jury the first time around.

“He didn’t really strike me as someone who was putting on an act or fabricating,” he said. “The jury is going to want to know whether they can rely on testimony not based on how smart the witness appears, but how sincere they are.”

Depp, 58, is suing his 36-year-old ex-wife for $US50million ($A70 million), accusing her of defaming him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.

Heard has filed a $US100 million ($A134 million) countersuit, claiming it was Depp who defamed her by accusing her of lying about the alleged abuse.

Her side is now presenting its case, wrapping up with Heard’s fourth day on the stand on Tuesday, and continuing to call witnesses until closing arguments, expected May 27.

“Right now we are hearing Amber Heard’s … side of the story,” Ms Lizardo said.

“To call her opponent to speak on your behalf sounds counterintuitive.”

Mr Dhanidina noted that Depp could try to gain the “advantage” if he gets a chance to address the jury again.

“If he has been landing with the jury and if the jury is liking him, then more time in front of the jury is a good thing for him,” he said. “It may be something that [Heard] does out of necessity but that [Depp] himself can benefit from.”

Jurors, however, wouldn’t be given an explanation as to why Depp is back on the stand, which could “confuse” them, Ms Lizardo added.

“Most of the time when you are doing cross-examination, it sounds hostile,” she said. “A jury might think, ‘OK, he’s back on the stand. Are they badgering him again?’”

Defamation lawyer Mr Johnson also said Heard’s team needs to weigh whether calling Depp again will stretch the jury’s attention, as some jurors have reportedly been spotted dozing off while the trial stretches into its fifth week.

“You are putting on a performance for a jury and you don’t want to drag it on for too long,” Mr Johnson said. “In any long trial, that is a consideration.”

Some of the experts, however, said that Heard’s legal team may try to get the upper hand over Depp if they put him back on the stand.

“I would suspect that they would want to cut [Depp] down to size,” Virginia defamation lawyer Jeremiah Denton told The Post.

“He did reasonably well in his first appearance on the stand, so I guess they feel they have to necessarily attack his credibility – it might be his memory, his truthfulness [or] covering something that hasn’t been covered,” Mr Denton said.

Dhanidina said Heard’s lawyers might be able to catch Depp off guard with their questions as they will likely “have new topics and new areas to cover,” including topics they weren’t allowed to quiz him about the first time around.

But the more time Depp has on the stand, the more opportunity he has to slip up and contradict something he said previously, the experts all agreed.

“The more a witness talks, the more likely it is they will be saying things that could be easily contradicted,” Mr Johnson said. “Even if they’re trying to be honest, we all have memory lapses.”

Mr Dhanidina said he can’t predict which side would benefit more from a second Depp stint on the stand, but if it happened it would certainly get the world’s attention.

“Buckle up, because it’s about to get really, really interesting,” he said.

“Any time you have a party being questioned by the other side, it can be very, very hard to predict who is going to win and whether it resembles a chess match or a knockdown, drag-out fight,” Mr Dhanidina said. “And we don’t really know what we are going to get.”

Depp and Heard’s reps both declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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