After six weeks of trial, attorneys for Amber Heard and Johnny Depp made their closing arguments to a Virginia jury on Friday, with each side making the case that their client was defamed in the wake of the couple’s divorce.
Each side argued that the jurors had gotten to see the “real” Johnny Depp — though they differed wildly about who that is. Depp’s attorney, Benjamin Chew, presented him as a “decent, well-liked man” whose life had been destroyed “by a vicious lie” that he had abused Heard.
Heard’s lawyer, Ben Rottenborn, countered with audio and video recordings and text messages in which Depp poured out rage against Heard, including one text in which he said he hoped that “that cunt’s rotting corpse is decomposing in the fucking trunk of a Honda Civic.”
“These words are a window into the heart and mind of America’s favorite pirate,” Rottenborn said. “This is the real Johnny Depp.”
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, claiming that she destroyed his reputation and his livelihood when she wrote in a 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post that she was a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard is countersuing for $100 million, claiming that her own career has been devastated by his attorney’s claim that she perpetrated an “abuse hoax.”
The seven-person jury has seen days of testimony from both Depp and Heard, as well as their friends, former friends, relatives, agents, lawyers and employees. They have also seen dueling testimony from experts in psychiatry and substance abuse, as well as two competing hand surgeons, who gave differing opinions on how the tip of Depp’s middle finger was cut off in Australia. They have also seen pictures of bruises and scratches, and they heard intimate audio recordings of the couple’s fights.
Much of the case boiled down to a simple question of whether Depp or Heard offered the more convincing account of reality. Heard testified that Depp abused her many times over the course of their relationship, punching her, hitting her, choking, ripping out her hair and sexually assaulting her.
Depp’s lawyer, Camille Vasquez, argued that the evidence showed that it was Heard who repeatedly hit Depp, while he would typically flee from conflict.
“There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp,” Vasquez said. “And there is a victim of domestic violence, but it is not Ms. Heard. Ms. Heard is in fact the abuser and Mr. Depp is the abused.”
Vasquez described Heard as a “woman who’s willing to say absolutely anything.”
Depp’s team has argued that Heard concocted fake allegations in order to extract a sizable divorce settlement from Depp. She ultimately received $7 million, which she said at the time would be donated to the ACLU and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Depp’s team has shown that Heard in fact donated only about $1 million, though she has said she intends to make the full contribution over time.
Heard’s lawyers have presented evidence showing that Depp’s career was already in a tailspin before the couple’s 2016 divorce, thanks to his drug and alcohol abuse and his habit of showing up late to set. They also argued that the vast weight of the evidence shows that Heard is telling the truth about the abuse she endured.
“Mr. Depp cannot and will not take responsibility for his own actions. It’s always someone else’s fault,” Rottenborn said, urging the jury to hold him accountable. “Any damage to Mr. Depp’s career is self-caused.”
But Chew rejected that interpretation.
“Mr. Depp wasn’t canceled by Hollywood because he was sometimes late to set,” Chew said. “He was canceled because Ms. Heard falsely accused him of domestic violence and sexual violence in the pages of the Washington Post on Dec. 18, 2018.”
The jury is set to begin deliberating later on Friday.
Update, Friday afternoon: After about two hours of deliberations, the jury was sent home for the weekend at 5:15 p.m. The seven jurors will return at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.