What to Know About the Defamation Trial Between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard As It Resumes

After a scheduled weeklong break, the high-profile defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard resumed on May 16. The trial, which began on April 11 in Fairfax, Va., centers on a defamation lawsuit Depp filed against Heard in 2019 over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote about domestic abuse.

In the piece, Heard referred to herself as a survivor of domestic abuse but does not refer to Depp by name. Despite this, Depp claims Heard defamed him with the article. Heard later filed a countersuit against Depp that revolves around a comment from Depp’s attorney, in which he called her claims a “hoax.”

What to Know About the Defamation Trial Between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard As It Resumes

Here’s what to know as the trial enters its final days.

What Amber Heard has said in her testimony

After a weeklong hiatus, Heard was back on the stand on May 16, testifying about the final months of her marriage to Depp. She spoke about an alleged instance of abuse on her 30th birthday, saying she decided to divorce Depp afterward.

“I knew I had to leave him. I knew I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t,” she said.

Heard began her testimony on May 4 with descriptions of her early romance with Depp, before their relationship was public. “I felt like this man knew me and saw me in a way that nobody else had,” Heard said. “He made me feel seen, made me feel like a million dollars.”

She claimed their relationship started to change after Depp began drinking again after a pause. Heard also detailed instances of alleged abuse—including her own recounting of an incident in Australia in which Depp’s finger was severely injured. She said her memories of the night came in “flashes”, and said she could “feel glass breaking” as Depp allegedly threw bottles in her direction. After taking sleeping pills, she said she woke up the next morning to find Depp “missing a finger.” (In his testimony, Depp claimed that Heard had thrown a bottle of vodka at him, which severed his finger.)

Read More: How Celebrity Cases Like the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial Have Shaped the National Conversation About Abuse

In her testimony, Heard said she hit Depp during another altercation, claiming she was trying to defend her sister, Whitney Henriquez, who Heard said tried to intervene as the couple fought on the top floor of their penthouse apartment. Fearing Depp might hurt her sister, she struck him.

“And I swung at him,” Heard said. “In all my relationship to date with Johnny, I hadn’t landed a blow … For the first time I hit him, like actually hit him square in the face. But he didn’t push my sister down the stairs.”

What to expect from Johnny Depp

After spending four days testifying on his own behalf in late April, Depp is expected to take the stand again for further questioning by Heard’s legal team.

During his initial testimony, Depp was asked about text messages he sent to actor Paul Bettany threatening violence against Heard, which he claimed was an expression of his “dark humor.” He was also asked to comment on recordings of the couples’ arguments, and recounted an instance in which he wrote messages on the wall with blood from his finger after it was severed during a fight.

Who is expected to testify next?

The final weeks of the trial will see Heard testify and be cross-examined by Depp’s legal team. The actor Ellen Barkin, who dated Depp in the 1990s, is also expected to testify as a witness for Heard.

According to Reuters, Barkin previously testified against Depp during his 2020 defamation case against the British tabloid The Sun, claiming that Depp threw a wine bottle in her direction during a fight. Heard’s sister, Whitney Henriquez, is also expected to testify on Heard’s behalf.

When is a decision expected?

Closing arguments are expected to be held on May 27. A jury will then deliberate.

What are the possible outcomes?

The jury will decide the outcomes of the suit and the countersuit at the same time. It is possible the jury might forgo awarding damages to either party. To win the case, Depp has to prove that Heard acted with actual malice in writing the op-ed. Public figures who sue for libel are required to show “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant acted with “actual malice,” which the Supreme Court defines as someone knowingly sharing information “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Having already lost a defamation case in the U.K. with less stringent defamation laws, experts say it is unlikely that he’ll win in the U.S., according to Deadline. However, as Depp’s lawyers said in the original complaint, “Mr. Depp brings this defamation action to clear his name.” Regardless of the outcome, the spectacle of the trial, from the live-stream coverage to the swarms of fans waiting outside the courthouse each day, the trial, has given both parties a platform.

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