Jury deliberations begin in Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial: Here are the possible outcomes

·9-min read
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's lawyers deliver closing arguments in the pair's defamation case on Friday, May 27, 2022.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's lawyers deliver closing arguments in the pair's defamation case on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photos: Getty Images)

Johnny Depp violently abused Amber Heard more than a dozen times during their four-year relationship. Or, the 36-year-old actress orchestrated this hoax to extort Depp during their contentious 2016 divorce and "ruin him" for leaving her. That's, in part, what a jury will have to decide when deliberations begin in the pair's defamation trial — there's little middle ground in the he-said, she-said case.

On Friday, the sixth anniversary of when Heard filed for a temporary restraining order, the actors were in a Virginia courtroom hoping for vindication. Each side offered closing arguments to the jury wrapping up a seven-week media circus. Depp's internet famous lawyer Camille Vasquez, who handled Heard's tough cross-examinations, was the first one to deliver final remarks. She implored the jury to "give Mr. Depp his life back" and "hold Ms. Heard accountable for her lies."

"[Heard] ruined his life by falsely telling the world she's a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Mr. Depp," Vasquez declared. "There is an abuser in this courtroom and it is not Mr. Depp."

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post about surviving sexual violence and abuse. Specifically, the actor claims three statements she made are defamatory as he's steadfast in his assertion that he never abused the actress.

Vasquez said it was the Pirates of the Caribbean star who suffered "persistent verbal, physical and emotional abuse by Ms. Heard during their relationship." She called the actress a "deeply troubled person, violently afraid of abandonment" and that Heard "was violent, she was abusive and she was cruel." Vasquez played audio clips in which Heard admits to hitting Depp. In another, Heard seemingly taunts her ex that no one would believe he's the victim of domestic abuse.

Vasquez claimed Heard put on a performance in court — but not a good one. She cited the Aquaman star's acting coach who said Heard had difficulty fake crying. "Ms. Heard sobbing [on the stand] without tears... it was a performance.

"Either Mr. Depp sexually assaulted Ms. Heard with a bottle in Australia, or Ms. Heard got up on that stand in front of all of you and made up that horrific tale of abuse," Vasquez continued. "Either she's the victim of truly horrific abuse, or she's a woman who's willing to say absolutely anything."

Actor Johnny Depp and his attorney Camille Vasquez look on during Depp's defamation case against ex-wife, actor Amber Heard
Actor Johnny Depp and his attorney Camille Vasquez look on during Depp's defamation case against ex-wife, actor Amber Heard. (Photo: Reuters)

Depp's attorney, Ben Chew, spoke after Vasquez about the harm the actor suffered as a result of Heard's "defamatory" remarks: "Mr. Depp was canceled because Miss Heard falsely accused him of domestic violence.

"This is '#MeToo' without any '#MeToo,'" he said. "No woman ever, before Amber Heard, ever claimed that Mr. Depp raised a hand to her in his 58 years."

Chew walked the jury through why her statements in the op-ed are defamatory, noting the implications are "clear" she is referring to Depp, although the actress never mentioned him by name in the article.

Even though Depp is entitled to monetary damages, according to Chew, that's not what the actor cares about.

"This case, at least for Mr. Depp, has never been about money. Nor is it about punishing Ms. Heard. It's about Mr. Depp's reputation and freeing him from the prison in which he has lived for the last six years," he said. "Six years to the day."

A source close to Heard tells Yahoo Entertainment: "We've been watching the clock being turned back for women in court. The Depp team has been 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."

After unsuccessfully getting Depp's defamation lawsuit tossed, Heard countersued the actor for $100 million over statements his lawyer, Adam Waldman, made to the media in 2020. Waldman called Heard a liar and was acting on Depp's behalf as an "attack dog," the actress's lawyer argued.

Ben Rottenborn addressed the jury first on behalf of Heard and wasted no time going after Depp and the actor's legal team.

"In trying to convince you that Mr. Depp has carried his burden of proof in proving that he was never abusive to Amber on even one occasion, think about the message that Mr. Depp and his attorneys are sending to Amber, and by extension, to every victim of domestic abuse everywhere," Rottenborn began.

"If you didn't take pictures, it didn't happen. If you did take pictures, they're fake. If you didn't tell your friends, you're lying. If you did tell your friends, they're part of the hoax. If you didn't seek medical treatment, you weren't injured," he continued. "If you did seek medical treatment, you're crazy. If you do everything that you can to help your spouse, the person that you love, rid himself of the crushing drug and alcohol abuse that spins him into an abusive, rage-filed monster, you're a nag. And if you finally decide enough is enough — you've had enough of the fear, enough of the pain, and you have to leave to save yourself, you're a gold digger. That is the message that Mr. Depp is asking you to send."

Rottenborn said Heard's op-ed wasn't "a hit piece on Johnny Depp" and argued that freedom of speech is at the center of the case.

"If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time, then she wins," he told the jury, noting it doesn't have to be just physical abuse. Abuse can mean "emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse."

Rottenborn read several of Depp's graphic, disturbing text messages again — like how he hoped the actress's "rotting corpse is decomposing in the f****** trunk of a Honda Civic."

"Ladies and gentlemen, these words are a window into the heart and mind of America's favorite pirate. This is the real Johnny Depp," Rottenborn declared.

Heard's attorney Elaine Bredehoft addressed the jury about the actress's counterclaim.

"We're not asking you to give $100 million, we're asking you to just look at the damages in this case and just be fair and reasonable in whatever you determine," she explained. "But we do ask that you fully and fairly compensate Amber for everything that she's been through, both in terms of reputation and emotional distress."

Bredehoft previously said that Heard incurred $6 million in legal fees, which is why the she has yet to fulfill her pledges to charity. (When Depp and Heard settled their divorce in 2016, the actress said she would donate the $7 million sum, but has yet to do so.)

After lunch, each side got one more chance to address the jury. Vasquez picked up right where she left off, calling Heard's "story" a "constantly moving target" that "doesn't hold up."

"It never stays the same," Vasquez declared. "Mr. Depp owns his mistake, he owns all of them. You saw him do it on the stand in a raw and powerful way ... she cannot take any responsibility for what she has done."

Vasquez continued, "You saw her get caught in lie after lie. ... The time has come for those lies to come to an end."

Vasquez called out Heard's lack of public support.

"You may have noticed that no one showed up for Ms. Heard in the courtroom other than her sister. Every other witness who traveled to Virginia for her was a paid expert. This is a woman who burns bridges, her close friends don't show up for her," she declared, before highlighting that many of Depp's witnesses showed up for him.

"Why are you here? You're here because of a lie," Vasquez concluded. "And that was a lie that Miss Heard repeated in the op-ed."

Heard's attorney implored the jury to "give Amber Heard her voice back" and "her life back."

"Stand up for victims of domestic abuse everywhere who are suffering in silence. Stand up for freedom of speech," Rottenborn declared.

The jury briefly began deliberating on Friday afternoon before adjourning for the holiday weekend. So what are the possible outcomes in this civil case? There are several.

"The jury could find Amber Heard liable for defamation on all or some of Depp's three claims. Johnny Depp could be found liable for one or all of Amber Heard's claims of defamation," legal analyst Emily D. Baker explains to Yahoo. "The jury could find neither party liable for defamation. The jury could be unable to reach a decision and hang."

Both Depp and Heard say their career suffered because of the other's defamatory statements. If either party is found liable, "then the jury will determine damages, in an amount they deem appropriate," adds Baker.

Entertainment lawyer Domenic Romano, founder of Romano Law, tells Yahoo, "No matter what the jury decides, there are no real winners in this case."

"Depp's career might benefit from renewed interest brought about by trial and related social media memes — he has resurrected his relevance — but given that some evidence showed that Depp's own actions might have contributed to his plight, this is not a sustainable certainty," Romano adds. "While the court of public opinion seems to have weighed in Depp's favor, if the jury is following instructions, that should not decide the outcome of this case. The ultimate defense against defamation is truth, and in this case if the jury believes that Depp was abusive, even once, then he cannot prevail ... notwithstanding that she might also have behaved badly."

The jury will will resume deliberations on Tuesday.

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