Horrifying texts open ‘window into heart of America’s favourite pirate,’ Heard’s lawyers charge
Johnny Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez asked the jury in a Virginia courtroom Friday “to give him his life back” by finding his ex-wife, Amber Heard, guilty of libel.
Jurors began deliberations on the defamation claims from the former spouses following six weeks of graphic testimony and photographic evidence that revealed the sordid details behind the onetime couple’s tumultuous relationship.
The trial is ending exactly six years to the day that Heard tipped off TMZ, “got a restraining order and ruined his life,” Vasquez told the jury in closing arguments.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million in Virginia’s Fairfax County over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the article didn’t mention him by name, Depp claimed it was inferred that he was the abuser and he lost acting work, including a proposed sixth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, because of the allegation.
Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his lawyer Adam Waldman called her accusations an “abuse hoax.”
When he took the stand last month, Depp was forced to admit his past drug abuse, but he alleged that Heard abused him throughout their five-year relationship and severed the tip of his finger during a 2015 fight in Australia.
“She has a need for violence. It erupts out of nowhere,” Depp said.
Over the course of six weeks, jurors heard recordings of the former couple’s nasty arguments and heard how their relationship eventually ended after poop was discovered in the couple’s marital bed.
Depp told the court that the feces was left by Heard or one of her friends, but she maintained it came from one of their dogs after they consumed his marijuana. Starling Jenkins, a security guard who worked for Depp, said that Heard admitted to him it was “a horrible practical joke,” which she denied.
“There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp,” Vasquez said, noting that Heard’s pattern of behaviour during their relationship was “violent, abusive and cruel.”
As she addressed the jury, Vasquez methodically picked apart pieces of Heard’s testimony and played audio from some of their disputes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t hit you across the face in a proper slap,” the Aquaman star was heard saying. “I was hitting you, but I wasn’t punching you. Babe, you’re not punched.”
“Imagine that was Mr. Depp saying that to Ms. Heard on that recording?” Vasquez questioned.
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Jurors were reminded how security guards had seen him at points with a swollen eyelid and various bruises and scratches. Elsewhere, Vasquez read how Heard had referred to her then-partner as a “washed up” a “f—ing c—” and a “deadbeat dad.”
“She took the low blows and hit him where it hurt,” Vasquez said. “Ms. Heard spat at him and left him with a shiner.”
Recounting Heard’s violent allegations, including one in which she said Depp assaulted her with a bottle that left her bleeding, Vasquez carefully outlined how the actress was photographed at various public events, including an appearance on James Corden’s late-night show, with no visible signs of injury and no medical report that documented bodily trauma of any kind.
Photos entered into evidence by Heard’s legal team purporting to show bruises, she stressed, appeared to have been manipulated.
“Either you believe that she was assaulted with a bottle or she was a woman who was willing to say anything,” Vasquez said.
She also reminded the court that LAPD officers testified in April that when they visited the couple’s condo after a fight in 2016 that they did not notice any visible injuries on Heard and did not identify her as a victim of domestic abuse.
Other members of Depp’s legal team also spoke, with his attorney Benjamin Chew calling Heard’s accusations, “#MeToo without any #MeToo.”
Charging that “the lies have grown,” Chew reminded the court that while Depp may have had his personal issues with drugs and alcohol, “no woman ever claimed he raised a hand to them.”
“Mr. Depp’s name will be forever tarnished by these false claims,” he said. “We implore you to give you his name and his reputation back.”
Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the U.K. Sun, after the tabloid labelled him “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
As Heard fought back tears, her lawyer Ben Rottenborn presented his closing arguments by saying that Depp’s graphic text messages, in which he wrote about wanting to “f— her burnt corpse” and his hopes that she was “decomposing in the f—ing trunk of a Honda Civic,” opened “a window into the heart and mind of America’s favourite pirate.”
Rottenborn advised jurors Friday that “If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time, then she wins” And he was clear to specify that the abuse didn’t have to be physical and could include “emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse.”
In her rebuttal closing arguments delivered after lunch, Vasquez rested Depp’s case by raising questions about Heard’s character.
“No one showed up for Miss Heard in this courtroom other than her sister. Every other witness who traveled to Virginia for her was a paid expert,” Vasquez said. “This is a woman who burns bridges. Her close friends don’t show up for her.”
The case is now with the jury.