FAIRFAX, May 25 — Lawyers for Amber Heard, after six weeks of scathing claims and counterclaims of domestic violence, rested their defence yesterday in the defamation suit filed by her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
Depp’s attorneys responded by asking that Heard’s countersuit against the Pirates of the Caribbean star be dismissed but the judge hearing the case in Virginia, near the US capital, declined to do so.
Judge Penney Azcarate said enough evidence has been presented for the seven-person jury to weigh the merits of Depp’s defamation suit against Heard and her countersuit against him.
The 58-year-old Depp filed 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.”
Heard, 36, who had a starring role in Aquaman did not name Depp in the op-ed, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking US$50 million in damages.
The Texas-born Heard countersued, asking for US$100 million and claiming she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.
Depp, during his four days on the witness stand, denied ever striking Heard or any other woman and claimed that she was the one who was frequently violent.
Heard testified about a number of occasions during which she said she was assaulted by an intoxicated Depp.
After the judge denied the dismissal motion by Depp’s attorneys, lawyers for the Pirates star called their first rebuttal witness.
Walter Hamada, president of DC Comics-based film production at Warner Brothers, testified about Heard’s contract with the studio for the Aquaman series.
Heard’s legal team has claimed her role and compensation for Aquaman 2 was harmed by allegedly defamatory remarks made about her by Depp’s former attorney, Adam Waldman.
Waldman’s statements form the basis of the counterclaim for defamation filed by Heard, who earned US$1 million for Aquaman and US$2 million for Aquaman 2.
Hamada said Heard’s compensation for Aquaman 2 was not affected by anything said by Waldman.
He said it was not the practice of Warner Brothers to renegotiate contracts although he acknowledged that the studio did so for the other Aquaman star, Jason Momoa.
Hamada said there had been “conversations” about recasting Heard’s role in Aquaman 2 but that was because of a perceived lack of “chemistry” between her and co-star Momoa.
“The reality is it’s not uncommon on movies for two leads to not have chemistry,” he said. “You know it when you see it.”
On Monday, a Hollywood expert called by Heard’s team, Kathryn Arnold, said Heard’s career was set for a “meteoric rise” after Aquaman but has been stymied by “negative publicity” surrounding her accusations against Depp.
Arnold estimated that Heard has suffered US$45-US$50 million in lost film and TV roles and endorsements.
Depp’s lawyers put experts on the stand who testified that he has lost millions because of the abuse accusations, including a US$22.5-million payday for a sixth installment of Pirates.
Depp’s lawyers also called a psychiatrist, Richard Shaw, yesterday to rebut the testimony of a psychiatrist, David Spiegel, who took the stand on Monday on behalf of Heard.
Spiegel told the jury that Depp displayed “narcissistic traits,” had possible cognitive issues and a substance use disorder.
Shaw said Spiegel was not in a position to render such opinions because he had never personally evaluated Depp and was in violation of the American Psychiatric Association’s so-called Goldwater Rule.
The Goldwater rule says it is “unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination.”
Depp filed the defamation complaint in the United States after losing a libel case in London in November 2020 that he brought against The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.”
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, and Heard were married in February 2015 and divorced two years later.
British model Kate Moss, 48, Depp’s former girlfriend, is scheduled to testify by video link on Wednesday.
Azcarate, the judge, has scheduled closing arguments for Friday. — AFP