UPDATE, 11:58 AM PT: “We ask ladies and gentlemen, that you hold Mr. Depp accountable for his actions,” Amber Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn exclaimed today in the final moments of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation trial against his ex-wife. “Stand up for victims of domestic abuse everyone. Stand up for freedom of speech. Give Amber Heard her life back.”
With less than ten minutes left in their closing statement allotment, Heard’s defense team went for the constitutional juggler with the very last word in the lurid case that has captivated America and the world over the past nearly two months.
“It’s simple, if you believe that Depp was abusive to Amber one time ..then your job is very easy,” Rottenborn said to the jury in the Virginia courtroom. “ You can not only deny Mr. Depp’s claim, but affirm Amber’s counterclaim
Directly following Heard being repeatedly called a “liar” and playing “the role of her life” and Depp’s vile communications being swept under the rug as “a dark, ugly humor,” in the plaintiff’s rebuttal from attorney Camille Vasquez, the defense’s last stand was the definition of short and sharp, as it had to be to have any impact.
Spilling over six weeks in a Virginia courtroom, this widely covered trial all stems from Depp’s March 2019 lawsuit against Heard over the late 2018 Washington Post op-ed she penned. In that piece for the Jeff Bezos-owned broadsheet, Heard called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” and detailed the blast radius that she and other women face.
While he said nothing to this effect during the couple’s 2016 restraining order-filled divorce, Depp has insisted over the last three years that he never abused Heard. The fired Fantastic Beasts actor actually claims that he was the victim of abuse in the relationship Proving unsuccessful in getting the lawsuit dismissed, Heard filed a $100 million countersuit in the summer of 2020. That countersuit came just a few months before Depp proved unsuccessful in his UK libel suit against The Sun tabloid for calling him a “wife beater.
Casting off from the closing arguments and final instructions from Judge Penny Azcarte after six weeks of trial, the seven-person jury now goes into deliberation on the defamation case. Check out the jury form they will take with them as a guide here.
Even though Depp’s Brown Ruddick legal team provided the sharpest POV for most of the trial, Heard’s defense went hard for the First Amendment in their closing. Perhaps too little, too late amidst the lurid accusations of physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse and parade of less than stellar witnesses that have dominated the trial since its April 11 start, the power of the defense’s 11th hour pivot now rests with the jury.
Of course, this will not end regardless if Depp triumphs in his defamation case or Heard wins with her $100 million counterclaim. Outside the Fairfax County Courthouse, the reputations of both parties are in tatters. Inside the court system, you can almost bet the Black Pearl there’ll be an appeal. For the record, Depp has unsuccessfully attempted to mount an appeal in his loss in his 2020 UK libel suit against the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Sun.
Now we wait.
PREVIOUSLY, 9:24 AM PT: “This whole case is about blaming Amber Heard for things she didn’t do,” the Aquaman star’s lawyer told a Virginia courtroom today in closing arguments in the $50 million defamation trial from Johnny Depp against his former wife.
“But that’s what Mr. Depp does, that’s what he’s always done,” started attorney Ben Rottenborn for the defense to the jury and Judge Penney Azcarate on Friday. “Blame other people, refuse to take accountability. But the problem for him here is he’s running head long into the United States Constitution.”
How To Watch The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial: Livestream Link & Trial Schedule
“Most of what you have heard in this trial, you do not need to make a decision on,” a mainly measured Rottenborn asserted after six weeks of “heinous abuse” claims and highly explicated testimony” recounted by both Depp and Heard, various staffers, doctors, family members, friends and well paid hangers-on. Rottenborn termed the whole case and trial as “victim blaming at its most disgusting” on the part of the Depp and his Brown Ruddick lawyers.
Having stumbled into various traps by Depp’s team and seemingly losing the plot over and over, Heard’s team today came out with precision on American’s sacred document, finally.
“Does the First Amendment give Ms. Heard the right to write the words she wrote in this article on December 18, 2018?” Rottenborn asked rhetorically. “Should someone be able to write an article like that in the United States of America without going through Hell?” he went on to say of the focus of the trial.
“Ladies and gentleman, let me be very clear, if Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time, then she wins,” Rottenborn added, calling it “ridiculous” Depp assertion that he never abused his Rum Diary co-star. “They are trying to trick you to believe that Amber has to be perfect to win. Actually, if he fails to prove he didn’t abuse Amber one time, she wins.”
Depp sued Heard in March 2019 over a December 18, 2018 Washington Post op-ed the actress wrote about becoming “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Though the op-end never mentioned Depp by name, the past Oscar nominee claimed it “devastated” his already waning career. As his attorneys have proclaimed over and over in the April 11 starting trial, Depp also said back in 2019 that he was in fact the one who was abused in the relationship. As was brought up this morning, those claims by Depp are an apparent contradiction to what both sides said publicly in their temporary restraining order filled 2016 divorce.
Characterizing Depp as vindictive on Friday, Rottenborn said the actor “will do everything he can to destroy your life, destroy your career.”
“Just because people might read the article and remember that Amber Heard used to be married to Johnny Depp and she accused him of abuse, that doesn’t mean that she designed and intended defamatory implications in writing about herself,” Rottenborn also noted in the opening of the defense’s closing argument, which are expected to last several hours today.
Having failed to get the case dismissed or moved out of Virginia, Heard in 2020 countersued for $100 million. That countersuit came months before Depp’s UK libel case against The Sun tabloid for calling him a “wife beater” proved dramatically unsuccessful in November 2020.
“This is the real Johnny Depp,” the lawyer said, noting the sexual assault claims and reading out and showing numerous texts from the former Pirates of the Caribbean star to friends like The Avengers’ Paul Bettany and staffers threating death, sexual violence and “global humiliation” against Heard. Audio tapes of self-describing “monster” Depp screaming at Heard that she is a “f*cking c*nt” and a disturbing 2016 video of an enraged Depp smashing up a kitchen bellowing “motherf*cker” were also played for the jury for maximum impact following the scorched Earth closing argument from the plaintiff’s legal team. “That’s abuse,” Rottenborn said, noting Depp’s habit of snickering when such evidence was shown in the Fairfax County Courthouse.
Briefly listing off all the accusations and dirty laundry that has stunk up most of this circus of a trial, Rottenborn exclaimed “none of that is in the article.” He added: It would be a very different article if she’d written about what she suffered, what she told you about the past six weeks.”
“The facts are absolute overwhelming of abuse,” Rottenborn reiterated near the end of his presentation, which was momentarily interrupted by an Amber alert going off on numerous courtroom attendee’s phones. “Any damage to Mr. Depp’s career is self-caused.”
Rottenborn will be succeed in the courtroom by his fellow defense attorney Elaine Bredehoft, who will argue the counterclaims. After that, Depp’s side will have an hour for rebuttal and then Heard’s team will have another hour themselves to address the jury. If all goes to schedule, later this afternoon, the seven-person jury will go behind closed doors to consider their verdict.
In theory, we could see a verdict today, before the Memorial Day long weekend begins. However, but in all likelihood, deliberations will continue into next week after the holiday.
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