Johnny Depp’s multi-million dollar trial of ex-wife Amber Heard is set to begin Monday in Virginia
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Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard is set to begin Monday.
The actor, 58, and Amber, 35, will face off in court in Falifax, Virginia, with the trial scheduled to be televised.
The former Hollywood power couple is expected to testify in person at the trial, and high-profile figures such as James Franco, Paul Bettany and Elon Musk are slated to testify.
They will fight it out again in court after the biggest English defamation trial of the 21st century in 2020, in which Johnny lost his case against the News Group Newspaper after claiming The Sun had wrongly called him a “wife beater”.
Here’s everything we know about the case so far:
Why are they going to court?
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Johnny is suing his former partner for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post in which she spoke about her experiences of domestic violence.
Amber divorced Johnny in 2017, just two years after their marriage. A year later the piece was released with the title: “I spoke out against sexual violence – and faced the wrath of our culture”.
While the article doesn’t mention Johnny by name, his attorneys will argue that this is a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”.
They say the article falsely implied that Amber was physically and sexually abused by Johnny when they were married and the allegations have made it difficult for him to get the kind of roles he once had.
What did Amber Heard say in the Washington Post op-ed?
The actress wrote how she felt she lost a number of roles after feeling “the full brunt of our culture’s anger at women who spoke out against domestic violence.”
In part, she said, “Like many women, I was molested and sexually abused when I was college-age. But I was silent – I didn’t expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as such a victim.
“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic violence, and I felt the full brunt of our culture’s anger at women speaking out.”
When did Johnny take legal action?
Johnny initiated the $50 million defamation lawsuit in 2019, claiming the play caused him to be dropped from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
He also claimed Amber was the one who abused him – something she vehemently denies.
The case has been delayed due to the pandemic but is expected to last two weeks.
Several high-profile celebrities will testify.
James Franco, Paul Bettany and Elon Musk are on witness lists alongside representatives from The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. and the Los Angeles Police Department.
What’s at stake?
The Hollywood star has sought damages of “no less than $50 million” as he claims the comment hurt his career.
In August 2020, Amber filed a counterclaim in response to his defamation lawsuit. The actress accused him of launching a “smear campaign against her” and said his lawsuit was just that Johnny continued his “abuse and harassment”.
The Aquaman star has claimed damages of “no more than $100 million.”
What should Amber’s lawyers argue?
Amber’s attorneys are expected to argue that she should be immune from the defamation lawsuit under a Virginia law known as the Anti-Slapp Provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).
The provision is designed to protect people from harassment claims when speaking about matters of public interest.
The actress’ attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, has argued that the article addresses a very serious issue of public interest: the prevention of domestic violence.
The actress has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against the actor because of testimony about Johnny’s attorney.
The case is being brought in Virginia and not in California, where the actors live, because the Washington Post’s online editions are published from servers in Fairfax County.
Johnny’s attorneys say one of the reasons they brought the case in Virginia is that the state’s anti-slapping law isn’t as comprehensive as California’s.
What was the court case before that?
Johnny lost a similar libel case in the UK against The Sun newspaper publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN).
An article also written in 2018 by The Sun editor-in-chief Dan Wootton referred to Johnny as a “wife beater” in the headline.
After a 16-day trial in July 2021, a judge found the content of the article to be “essentially true.”
The actor was denied permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.
When were you married?
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Amber married Johnny in 2015 after they began dating in 2012.
The actress filed for divorce from the Hollywood star in May 2016 and obtained a restraining order against him, alleging in her court statement that he verbally and physically abused her throughout their relationship.
Johnny denied claims and said it was “an attempt to secure an early financial settlement”.
Their divorce was finalized in January 2017 and Amber lifted the restraining order, and they issued a joint statement saying their “relationship was very passionate and sometimes volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains. There was never any intent to cause physical or emotional harm.”
But in 2018, Johnny sued Amber for defamation over her Washington Post opinion, with the case due to go to trial this week.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/johnny-depp-amber-heards-50m-26683731 Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's $50M lawsuit - why they are in court and what's at stake