Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard over allegations of domestic violence began in Fairfax, Virginia.
Depp filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018 Washington Post Editorial, which chronicled her experience as a domestic violence survivor. Although she never mentioned Depp by name, the actor’s lawyers maintained that Heard’s references to their client were clear, claiming that the opinion piece had damaged Depp’s career and reputation.
The two met on the set of the 2011 drama rum notes He married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce from Depp in 2016, filing a restraining order against the actor for domestic violence and accusing him of physically and verbally abusing her during “violent and volatile” episodes under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Depp denied all allegations.
Opening statements on Tuesday began after Monday’s jury selection, with attorneys for both representatives giving statements on their behalf. The jury must decide whether Heard acted with “real malice” or “reckless disregard” of the truth when she wrote the piece. They will also review the issues raised in Heard’s $100 million defamation suit brought by Depp.
Jason Kempin / Getty Images Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in 2015.
Below, a primer on the highly publicized legal battle, including some famous witnesses, and how it was broadcast online.
How long is the trial and why Virginia?
With both Depp’s defamation lawsuit and Heard’s counterclaim, the trial could last as long as six weeks. While the two live (and married in) California, Depp’s lawyers took the case to Virginia because they believed it would be a more favorable state than California, which has stronger legal protections for defendants like Heard, according to Reuters. The actress initially tried to take the case to Los Angeles, but it was unsuccessful.
Who will participate?
A number of familiar faces can be called to testify. Heard’s witness list includes friends and former employees of James Franco, Ellen Barkin, Jason Momoa, James Wan and Elon Musk, all of whom Heard has contacted regarding the alleged abuse. Emails between Depp and Harry Potter Creator J.K. Rowling and musician Jack White are also included in the court transcripts, making them witnesses. WandaVision Star Paul Bettany is also on Depp’s witness list due to his controversial text messages with Depp about “burning”, “drowning” and having sex with Heard’s “burned body”. Heard and Depp are also expected to testify, but it is unclear when. (EW has reached out to Heard and Depp’s legal representatives for clarification.)
Is this the same as the UK lawsuit?
no. In the UK case, Depp sued the British newspaper the sun for defamation over a 2018 article that described him as a “wife-beater” in the context of Heard’s allegations of abuse. Both Depp and Heard testified in person during the three-week trial in London during the summer of 2020. Depp lost the defamation case in November of that year after a judge ruled that the article proved to be “largely true” and “the vast majority of the alleged assaults Mrs. Heard by Mr. Depp has been substantiated by civil standards.” Depp tried to overturn the ruling, but it was unsuccessful. Citing the UK’s decision, Heard initially sought to dismiss the Virginia case, but the judge granted Depp the right to pursue a defamation lawsuit in the United States.
Where can you broadcast the trial?
Depp and Heard’s Virginia trial is available to air on Court TV. “Court cases like this often cause a lot of noise, and it can be difficult for viewers to break through these distractions to get a clear picture of the facts, but that’s where we come in,” Ethan Nelson, acting president of Court Television, said in a statement. “Between live camera feeds from the courtroom and our top-tier talent lineup, Courthouse Television will be the true source of an unbiased and mediocre perspective on the trial as it unfolds.”