Amber Heard

Jury duty in a Depp-Heard trial does not track public debate

Fairfax, Virginia (AFP) – A seven-person Virginia civil jury will resume deliberations Tuesday in Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against Amber Heard. What the jury considers will be very different from the public debate that swept the high-level proceedings.

For six weeks, the testimony focused on details of the alleged abuse that Heard says she suffered at the hands of Depp. Heard identified more than a dozen specific cases in which she said she was assaulted by Depp.

Depp has denied any physical or sexual assault, and says Heard made the allegations to destroy Depp’s reputation. The legions of Depp’s fans online have focused on their belief that Heard was not being honest, and that that would determine the outcome.

But the case itself is a defamation suit. Depp sued Heard for defamation — for $50 million — in Fairfax County Court during a December 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post describing herself as a “public figure who represents domestic violence.”

This article didn’t even mention Depp by name, but his lawyers say he was defamed nonetheless. Most of the article discusses public policy as it relates to domestic violence, and Heard’s attorneys say she has a First Amendment right to participate.

In closing arguments, however, Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez argued that Heard’s rights to free speech have limits.

She said, “The First Amendment does not protect lies that harm and denigrate people.”

Depp’s lawyers refer to two passages in the article that they say clearly refer to Depp.

In the first passage, Heard writes that “two years ago, I became a public figure of domestic violence, and felt the full force of our culture’s outrage.” Depp’s lawyers call it a clear reference to Depp, given that Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016 – two years before the article was written.

In the second clip, she said, “I had the rare view of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” (Depp’s lawyers are also seeking damages for the title that appeared at the top of the online version of the article, although Heard did not write it.)

The jury, which must make a unanimous decision to issue a verdict, must decide whether those passages in the Washington Post were defamatory. The judgment form gives them step-by-step instructions on how to determine this.

Heard’s lawyers say they have presented a wealth of evidence that Heard was mistreated. But they say that even if a jury somehow believed she wasn’t mistreated even once, she still has to prevail in the lawsuit.

That’s because defamation law states several factors that must be taken into account. First, the allegedly defamatory statements must be made about the plaintiff. Heard’s lawyers said the article was not about Depp at all. It is not mentioned, and they say the focus is on Heard’s experience in the wake of speaking publicly. Her lawyers emphasized that these statements remained objectively correct even if she was not mistreated in reality.

Despite this, Depp’s lawyers say the two clips are clear references to Depp, given the publicity surrounding the 2016 divorce proceedings.

In addition, since Depp is a public figure, Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if a jury determines that Heard acted with “real malice,” which requires clear and convincing evidence that she either knew that what she was writing was false or that she acted indifferently. stray for the truth.

Heard attorney J. Benjamin Rothenborn said during closing arguments Friday that Heard carefully reviewed drafts of the article — the first draft was not written by her, but by the ACLU — with her attorney to ensure what was written passed legal muster. Rotten-Bourne said that fact alone was proof enough that she hadn’t acted with real malice.

As for the abuse itself, Depp’s lawyers attempted to suggest to the jury that if they believed Heard was lying or falsifying any of her allegations of abuse, she could not be trusted and that all of her allegations of abuse should be dismissed as untrustworthy.

“Either you believe all of that, or you don’t believe any of it,” Vasquez said. “Either she is the victim of ugly and horrific abuse, or she is a woman who is willing to say anything at all.”

In Heard’s conclusion, Rothenborn said that the confusion over Heard’s evidence of abuse ignores the fact that there is hard evidence on her behalf and sends a dangerous message to victims of domestic violence.

“If you don’t take pictures, it won’t,” Rothenborn said. “If you take pictures, they are fake. If you don’t tell your friends, they are lying. If you tell your friends, they are part of the trick.”

He dismissed Vasquez’s suggestion that if the jury thinks Heard may have been embellished over a single act of abuse, they should disregard everything she says. He said Depp’s libel claim should fail if Heard suffers even one incident of abuse.

“They are trying to trick you into thinking that Amber must be perfect to win,” Rothenborn said.

2022-05-31 11:14:53

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