The gloves came off in the bitter defamation case between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard, as both parties got their final chance to sway the jury.
US actor Johnny Depp’s defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard is now in the hands of jurors who have started deliberations after hearing explosive closing arguments in court.
Lawyers for both Depp, 58, and Heard, 36, made their final appeals to the jury on Friday, local time after dozens of hours of testimony and six weeks of blistering mutual accusations of domestic violence between the celebrity couple in the Fairfax County Court, Virginia.
Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez landed one final savage blow by claiming the Aquaman actress had no friends.
“You may have noticed that no one showed up for Ms Heard in this courtroom other than her sister,” Ms Vasquez said.
“Every other witness who travelled to Virginia for her was a paid expert.
“This is a woman who burns bridges. Her close friends don’t show up for her.”
Ms Vasquez then delivered another brutal swipe at Heard, responding to her lawyers’ claims that all of Depp’s witnesses who testified in the case were “on his payroll” and too afraid to go against him.
“Kate Moss is most definitely not on Mr Depp’s payroll,” Ms Vasquez said, referencing the British supermodel’s explosive testimony this week dispelling a rumour Depp pushed her down a flight of stairs.
Depp’s team painted him as a victim of what they say are Heard’s false allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, that have destroyed his career and reputation.
They claim Heard is a “deeply troubled person” who sought revenge when Depp triggered her deepest “fear of abandonment” and “split” during arguments.
In sharp contrast, Heard’s lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn called Depp “a monster” who not only abused his ex-wife, but continued an ongoing smear campaign after Heard filed for divorce. “In Mr. Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr. Depp,” he said. “If you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you.”
Vasquez delivered her closing argument first, telling the jury that Heard had “spun a story of horror” based on “wild, over-the-top and implausible” allegations of physical and sexual abuse against Depp.
“You either believe all of it or none of it,” Ms Vasquez told the jury on Friday morning.
“Either Ms Heard was sexually assaulted (by Depp) with a bottle in Australia … or she’s a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything.
“What Ms Heard testified to in this courtroom is a story of far too many women, but what the weight of evidence shows, is that it’s not Ms Heard’s story.”
Ms Vasquez described Heard’s allegations as “false” and “defamatory”, adding that they have caused “irreparable harm” to Depp and “ruined his life”.
She blasted Heard for her “performance” in court, claiming the starlet used her acting experience to play “the role of her lifetime as a heroic survivor of brutal abuse.”
Ms Vasquez told jurors that during the six-week trial, they have seen Heard “sobbing without tears while spinning elaborate, exaggerated, fantastical” claims of domestic abuse.
“It was a performance,” she added.
“She told you what she thinks you need to hear to convict this man as a domestic abuser and a rapist.”
The lawyer argued that the evidence presented by Heard’s legal team “does not bear out” that the actress had been abused “countless times,” including the fact that there are no medical records documenting her supposed injuries.
“There is nothing,” Ms Vasquez said.
Why Depp could lose the case
Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn began his closing argument by reminding the jury that the burden of proof was on Depp and that he needed to show that every single instance of abuse Heard has accused him of is false. He pointed out that it also has to be proven that the allegations were made by Heard with malice in order for Depp to win the civil case.
“If Amber was abused by Mr Depp even one time, then she wins,” Mr Rottenborn said.
“We’re not just talking about physical abuse, we’re talking about emotional abuse, physical, financial abuse, sexual abuse.”
While Depp appears to have an overwhelming amount of public support, his team has a high bar to reach in order to meet the requirements of proving defamation and win the case.
“It’s not about who’s the better spouse,” Mr Rottenborn said.
“It’s not about whether you think Ms. Heard may have been abusive to Mr. Depp.
“If you think they were both abusive to each other … then Amber wins.”
‘Into the heart and mind of America’s favourite pirate’
Mr Rottenborn pointed to text messages previously shown in court where Depp had written that he wanted to “f**k then burn (Heard’s) corpse” and another in which he claimed she was “begging for global humiliation”.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these words are a window into the heart and mind of America’s favourite pirate,” Mr Rottenborn said about Depp’s vulgar text messages about her.
“This is the real Johnny Depp.”
Heard appeared to be fighting back tears and could be seen taking deep breaths as her lawyer walked the jury through the many instances when she was allegedly abused.
“A ruling against Amber here sends the message that no matter what you do as an abuse victim, you always have to do more,” Mr Rottenborn said.
“No matter what you document, you always have to document more. No matter who you tell, you always have to tell more people. No matter how honest you are about your own imperfections and your own shortcomings in a relationship, you need to be perfect in order for people to believe you. Don’t send that message.”
‘The real Amber Heard is scary’
Another one of Depp’s lawyers, Benjamin Chew, wrapped up his team’s closing arguments.
“You have now come to know the real Amber Heard: it’s scary,” he began.
“Before Amber Heard, no woman ever claimed that Mr Depp raised a hand to her, in his 58 years …(nor) has any woman come since.
“This is ‘MeToo’ without a ‘MeToo’.”
Mr Chew went on to list several of Depp’s past girlfriends including British supermodel Kate Moss, US actor Winona Ryder and the mother of his children, Vanessa Paradis, whom he shared a 14-year relationship with.
He said none of these women had ever publicly accused Depp of violence towards them and further highlighted Ms Moss’ testimony defending Depp.
Mr Chew insisted that his client has “stoically” carried the serious allegations against him for six years and filed the lawsuit to tell the truth and clear his name, even though he knew the process would be embarrassing.
Judge Penney Azcarate handed over the case over to the seven-person jury on Friday afternoon.
“You must not base your verdict in any way on sympathy, bias guesswork, or speculation,” Judge Azcarate said while giving deliberation instructions to jurors on Friday morning.
“Your verdict must be based solely upon the evidence and instructions of the court. Your verdict must be based on the facts as you find them and on the law that you find in all of these instructions.”
The panel will be off over the weekend and on Monday, a public holiday in the US, and resume deliberations on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a source close to Heard accused the Depp team of “trying to misdirect the jury’s attention to look at sensational, salacious stuff – anything except what this case is about: Freedom of Speech”.
“We hope that the jury is not distracted by noise and nonsense,” the source said, according to a statement provided to news.com.au by Heard’s representatives on Friday.
Depp filed the suit against Heard over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.
Depp, 36, during his four days on the witness stand, denied ever physically assaulting Heard and claimed she was the one who was frequently violent.
Heard, who had a starring role in Aquaman, did not name Depp in the article, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $US50m ($A72m) in damages.
The Texas-born Heard countersued for $US100m ($A144m), accusing him of orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment”.
The counterclaim alleges Depp’s then-lawyer, Adam Waldman, defamed Heard when he called her abuse allegations a hoax.
Depp filed the defamation complaint in the United States after losing a separate libel case in London in November 2020 that he brought against The Sun newspaper for calling him a “wife-beater.”
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, and Heard met in 2009 on the set of The Rum Diary and were married in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised two years later.