Johnny Depp will have to “pull a rabbit out of a hat” to win his US defamation lawsuit against his former wife Amber Heard, and yet another legal loss could result in career ending, a media lawyer has said.
Lex Wade, a legal partner at Wiggin LLP, said the Virginia trial was the actor’s “final roll of the dice,” but that there was an “inherent unpredictability” to those jury trials.
Mr Depp is suing Ms Heard for defamation over a 2018 article she wrote in the Washington Post which his lawyers wrongly say physically and sexually abused the Aquaman star.
It comes after the actor lost a similar libel case in the UK he brought against The Sun’s editors, News Group Newspapers (NGN), for publishing an article that headlined him as a “wife beater”.
After a 16-day trial in July 2020, a judge found the article’s content to be “substantially true” and Mr Depp was later denied permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.
“This is absolutely his final roll of the dice,” Mr Wade told the PA news agency as the first week of the US trial drew to a close.
“If he loses that, I can’t see myself coming back as an actor, I guess.
“Hollywood likes a bad boy, absolutely, but after the hashtag MeToo, in today’s world, we see these things in a way that you can’t just be a little bit of a bad boy anymore.
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“This is abuse. This is active misogyny.
“Personally, I find it very difficult to imagine how a Hollywood studio would rehire Depp if he loses this case.”
Mr Wade said the actor “needs a rabbit out of a hat” but it was “possible” his large legal team, several of whom have flanked him in court, had to produce one.
Mr Wade and his colleague Matthew Dando, also a partner at Wiggin LLP, said there were several differences in the US process that may be more favorable to Mr Depp and his legal team.
The trial will not only take place before a jury of 11 members of the public, but will also be broadcast live from the court, which is legal in the US.
Mr Dando said that although television hearings would not affect the outcome of the trial, they would affect media coverage and public opinion.
“It will inevitably mean that the lawyers will not only play in front of the people in the courtroom, but directly over the television … they will play directly in front of the public,” he told PA.
“So that affects the dynamics of the process.”
Mr Wade added: “I think Depp’s team has some remarkable evidence to present.
“There has to be something that radically changes this, that could really convince people that Heard was lying, or at least was a liar on some important occasion.
“Juries have an inherent unpredictability and as such you would probably expect it to turn out the same as the UK case were this again heard by just one judge alone.
“But as Matt says, the various attorneys in the US will play before the jury.”
During the London trial, Ms Heard was brought in to testify about allegations of physical abuse against Mr Depp, although her US legal team say she also suffered “sexual violence at the hands of Depp”.
The actress’ attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, referenced a specific incident that Wade said was “calculated” during her opening statement on Tuesday.
“I don’t think (Bredehoft) would have accidentally mentioned that,” he said.
“She sets the stage for a new kind of allegation against Depp… it’s a whole new kettle of fish.
“To me that’s very, very smart and thoughtful, she just dropped a little time bomb … I’m sure that was pretty calculated.”
Mr Dando added: “Not least because you know you have to win at the end, not at the beginning.
“If you’re using your best cards and getting your quick effect, by the end of the study it may have worn off and the effect may be smaller and therefore less to your advantage.
“I think Alex is probably right that it was clever that it was put there… There’s an intrigue.”
The trial, which is expected to last a total of seven weeks, will resume Monday, April 18, in Fairfax County District Court.
https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/johnny-depp-needs-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat-to-win-us-lawsuit-says-media-lawyer-41557129.html Johnny Depp needs ‘a rabbit out of a hat’ to win US lawsuit, says media lawyer