After an ugly legal battle in the UK, Depp is suing his ex-wife in a $50 million defamation suit.
Warning: This article contains descriptions of domestic violence.
Proceedings to select jury members began Monday morning at a courthouse in Fairfax County Virginia in a trial to hear Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. The effort is a hail mary pass for redemption after Depp lost a libel lawsuit in the UK in 2020 against the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid The Sun, after the publication called him a “wife beater” in a 2018 article. Heard’s legal team tried to have the US lawsuit thrown out based on the UK ruling, but judge Penney Azcarate ruled that it would go against precedent.
During the UK ruling, Justice Andrew Nicol found the verbiage of The Sun’s article “substantially true” in a 129-page court document that also concluded that Depp did abuse Heard in proven episodes. “I accept her evidence of the nature of the assaults he committed against her,” Nicol wrote. “They must have been terrifying. I accept that Mr. Depp put her in fear of her life.” Heard has accused Depp of choking her, leaving cuts on her arms, head butting her, and cutting his own finger to write intimidating messages in blood, among other things. After losing roles in franchises like Fantastic Beasts and Pirates of the Caribbean, fighting allegations of domestic violence in dramatic court battles has been Depp’s main role since his divorce from Heard began in 2016 — and this one will likely prove no different.
The saga has been a media frenzy, and this particular court hearing has even drawn Depp fans from across the globe in support. Deadline reported roughly 20 fans had lined up with protest signs by Monday morning to vocalize their stance and wait to potentially snag one of the witness spots in the courtroom.
Depp’s stance has long been that Heard made up the salacious domestic abuse stories against him as a way to further her career — a tired defense that we’ve also seen play out in the case Marilyn Manson is waging against Evan Rachel Wood. This lawsuit began in 2019 over a 2018 op-ed Heard penned for the Washington Post titled, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Heard has also countersued for $100 million, citing that Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, has defamed her in public remarks. The UK case also had texts from Depp to Avengers star Paul Bettany read in court, in which Depp said of Heard, “I will f*ck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.”
Deadline reported that sources close to Heard’s legal team said, “[Depp] threatened to ruin [Heard’s] career and inflict global humiliation upon her, and after losing in the UK, this is his last gasp attempt. ... A jury verdict against Johnny will send a message to the millions of women out there who suffer from intimate partner violence every single day, that they can move safely on with their lives. And it will allow Amber to move on as well.” In turn, a source close to Depp’s camp said of the dawn of this new trial, “He just wants the truth to come out. He wants to clear his name, and this is the forum in which he has chosen to do so, in a court of law, where she is a party, and in the UK, she was not a party in that.”