Billed as the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century, Johnny Depp’s 16-day legal battle with Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid newspaper The Sun concluded on Tuesday after both sides made their closing arguments at the High Court.
Judge Justice Nicol is now set to take the coming weeks to deliberate over a verdict, which he is not expected to deliver until September at the earliest. It is likely to be a long wait for Depp, who has staked his reputation on the often ugly libel action, in which he has sought to disprove The Sun’s claim that he is a “wife beater.”
The Pirates Of The Caribbean star was present at the High Court for every day of the proceedings, as was his ex-wife Amber Heard, who presented 14 allegations of abuse against Depp. These formed the backbone of The Sun owner News Group Newspapers’ defense.
On the steps of the court on Tuesday evening, Heard acknowledged it had been a bruising three weeks, saying it had been “incredibly painful to relive the break up of my relationship.” Depp vehemently denies her allegations, with his attorney David Sherborne telling the court in his closing remarks that Heard is a “compulsive liar” and that his client is “no wife beater.”
When Justice Nicol delivers his verdict, it will come down to this: If the judge rules in Depp’s favor, it will effectively exonerate him from claims that he assaulted Heard. If the decision goes against the actor, he will ultimately be deemed a “wife-beater” in an English court of law.
But it’s unlikely to be the end of the matter. Depp is suing Heard for $50M in Virginia over a Washington Post column she wrote about domestic violence — a case that could reopen all the wounds that have been raked over in detail over the past three weeks in London.
Below is a recap of some of the libel battle’s most explosive moments in chronological order:
July 7: In opening remarks, Depp’s legal team said he is seeking “vindication,” not damages from The Sun. “Depp is either guilty of being a wife beater for having assaulted his ex-wife on numerous occasions, causing the most appalling injuries, or he has been very seriously and wrongly accused,” said Sherborne.
July 8: Taking to the witness stand, Depp denied slapping Heard after she laughed at his “Wino Forever” tattoo. “I didn’t hit Ms Heard,” he told court.
July 8: The court heard the contents of an unsent email Heard wrote to Depp, in which she detailed his alleged “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” persona during their relationship. “You have hit me repeated. Something you should Never have done. What a f*cking man you are,” she wrote.
July 10: A “defecation incident” in which feces were found in Depp and Heard’s bed was a “fitting end” to the couple’s relationship, Depp said. He was “convinced” that it was either Heard herself, or one of her friends, who was involved in the episode.
July 13: Depp said he did not intend to headbutt Heard during an alleged heated row between the couple at their Los Angeles penthouse. The argument took place the night before Heard was due to appear on The Late Late Show With James Corden.
July 14: The court is told that Heard wrote in her diary about a “terrible” fight with her former husband Depp on a train journey during their 2015 honeymoon in Southeast Asia. “Johnny… at one point found himself with his shirt wrapped around my neck,” she wrote.
July 15: Depp’s former estate manager Ben King recalled how he found the actor’s severed finger after an alleged altercation with Heard in Australia in 2015. Heard claimed the actor injured himself while smashing a telephone into a wall, but Depp alleged that the injury was the result of Heard throwing a vodka bottle at him.
July 16: Depp’s former lovers Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis are pulled from the witness stand, but their witness statements in his defense are published. “The idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the farthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved. I cannot wrap my head around these accusations. He was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me. He has never been violent or abusive towards anybody I have seen,” Ryder said.
July 17: Among the many sub-plots in the trial were accusations about Heard’s interactions with other men during her relationship with Depp. Alejandro Romero, a concierge at Depp’s LA penthouse, said Tesla founder Elon Musk regularly visited Heard late at night while Depp was away.
July 20: Heard began her evidence and said Depp made her scared for her life. “Some incidents were so severe that I was afraid he was going to kill me, either intentionally or just by losing control and going too far. He explicitly threatened to kill me many times, especially later in our relationship,” she said.
July 21: Heard admitted to punching Depp to stop him pushing her sister down the stairs after remembering a “rumor” he had done the same to Kate Moss. “I did strike Johnny that day in defense of my sister. He was about to push her down the stairs and, the moment before that happened, I remembered information I had heard (that) he pushed a former girlfriend – I believe it was Kate Moss – down the stairs. I had heard this rumor from two people and it was fresh in my mind,” she said.
July 23: The court is told of Heard’s texts to her mother calling Depp violent. “He’s nuts, mum. Violent and crazy. I’m heartbroken that this is who I love,” she wrote.
July 24: Johnny Depp’s lawyers said they have been provided with a video from “an anonymous source” which they said shows Heard “attacked” her sister. The footage showed Whitney Henriquez during the filming of a reality TV show, with one person heard saying “did you get in a fight?” and then “I can’t believe Amber beat your ass.”