Media lawyer: ‘The reputations of both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are tarnished irrevocably’ by London lawsuit
A British judge will rule next Monday on whether Johnny Depp was libelled by a tabloid newspaper that branded him a wife-beater — an accusation his lawyer called a « reputation-destroying, career-ending » false allegation.
Judge Andrew Nicol will deliver his verdict in writing on November 2, without a hearing at the High Court, where Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard had a dramatic three-week legal showdown in July.
The case, with its accusations of drug abuse, emotional turmoil and drunken fights, cast a stark light on the private lives of the celebrity couple, who met on the set of 2011 comedy « The Rum Diary » and married in Los Angeles in 2015. They separated the following year and divorced in 2017.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens told The Associated Press that both parties are going to lose in this case as the reputations of both Depp and Heard are damaged.
« The lawyers were the winners in this case. They walk away. They’ll be putting their kids through private education for years to come. But actually, the reputations of both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are tarnished irrevocably and I think that it’s going to persist because whoever wins in this case, the way in which this case was presented, the issues that came up, particularly around gendered presentation of the case, I think that’s going to be studied for years to come. So when you go to look at the law books or your sociological books or any of those other gender studies books, they’re going to be looking at Depp versus The Sun and Amber Heard to see how it is done or how it shouldn’t be done. »
« Pirates of the Caribbean » star Depp sued News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that accused him of assaulting Heard.
Over several days in the witness box, Depp, 57, branded the allegations a « hoax » and claimed Heard was the aggressor during their volatile relationship.
« He has never hit a woman in his entire life — period, full stop, nada, » Depp’s lawyer David Sherborne said in closing arguments.
Heard, 34, testified as the main witness for the defense, saying Depp turned violent under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She alleged 14 separate incidents between 2013 and 2016 in which he hit, slapped and shoved her, pulled her hair and threw bottles at her « like grenades. »
« I didn’t want to do this, I did not want to expose this totality of what really happened to me, » Heard said in court. « I didn’t want to talk about everything that happened in our marriage and happened in our relationship. »
The Sun’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, said in her summing up that there was no doubt Depp « regularly and systematically abused his wife. »
But Depp’s lawyers accused Heard of fabricating evidence, calling her an unreliable witness and « a compulsive liar. »
Whichever way the judge rules, it’s unlikely to be the end of the legal drama. Depp is also suing Heard for $50 million in Virginia over a Washington Post story about domestic violence. The trial is due to be held next year.
Stephens is a media lawyer at the firm Howard Kennedy.