MAR 27 — Jurors will begin deliberations on the dueling defamation claims from actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard today following six weeks of explicit and graphic evidence and testimony that detailed the former Hollywood couple's soured relationship.
The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star, 58, sued Heard in Virginia for US$50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself "a public figure representing domestic abuse."
Heard, 36, countersued for US$100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a "hoax."
Attorneys for both sides will deliver closing arguments on Friday before the case goes to the jury. If jurors do not reach verdicts by this evening, they will reconvene on Tuesday, Judge Penney Azcarate said.
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship. The pair met in 2011 while filming "The Rum Diary" and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised about two years later.
Over six weeks of proceedings, jurors have listened to recordings of the former couple's fights, seen graphic photos of a bloody finger and heard arguments about feces found in the couple's bed.
Depp said Heard threw a vodka bottle that cut off the top of his finger during an argument in 2015. Heard denied injuring Depp's finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle.
He also said he believed Heard or a friend left feces in the bed the morning after an argument on Heard's 30th birthday. Heard said it likely came from one of their dogs.
At the center of the legal case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in the Washington Post. The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.
Depp, once among Hollywood's biggest stars, said Heard's allegations cost him "everything." A new "Pirates" movie was put on hold, and Depp was replaced in the "Fantastic Beasts" film franchise, a "Harry Potter" spinoff.
Heard's attorneys have argued that she told the truth and her opinion was protected free speech under the US Constitution's First Amendment. They said she also lost work opportunities in Hollywood because of Depp's accusations.
Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid that labeled him a “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
Depp’s lawyers filed the US case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant. — Reuters