Resuming tomorrow after a weeklong break, the proceedings that started on April 11th in Virginia will find the Aquaman co-star under cross examination from her litigious ex-husband’s pricey Brown Rudick attorneys later on Monday. “During the cross examination next week, Camille Vasquez plans to call out Ms. Heard on the many lies and inconsistencies in her timeline that have changed considerably over the last six years,” a source close to the former Pirates of the Caribbean actor’s camp told Deadline.
After an occasionally sobbing Heard testified in the first week of May about Depp’s alleged heavy drug and alcohol intake, plus seemingly rampant psychical, emotional and verbal violence abuse of her, the plaintiff’s side will be trying to drag the jury’s attention back to their contention that Depp is the true injured party in the couple’s considerably contentious relationship and out of the 2018 Washington Post op-ed that lit this legal fire. Graphic revelations of multiple alleged sexual assaults by Depp of Heard, which were affirmed by the defense’s first witness clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn Hughes, have also presented Depp’s lawyers with a potential leg-hold trap to be caught in if they make a wrong step.
All of which means, a scorched-earth approach to Heard from the often acerbic Vasquez is very likely – at least to the defense.
“We expect Depp’s attorneys will instead pound away on the victim,” a Heard spokesperson told Deadline of their view of the next stage of the trial. “We fear it will be equal parts shameful and desperate. And, the overwhelming evidence — the truth — is not on Depp’s side,” the rep added. “The one thing we suspect Depp’s attorneys will avoid is the central issue of this trial: does Amber or any woman have the First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech.”
As distasteful as that may sound, Depp’s side doesn’t have much choice if they want to leave this trial with a win in both the courtroom and the court of public opinion. The fact is, despite a phalanx of siblings, former and current staffers, paid medical professionals, ex-agents and talent managers giving testimony for Depp, this has truly come down to a sharp tongued and bare knuckles He Said/She Said – and who does Judge Penny Azcarte and the jury believe?
The current explicit legal display of spoiled meat and filthy laundry between Depp and Heard, who divorced in 2016 amidst restraining orders and media frenzy, started when the former sued the latter in March 2019 for that late 2018 WaPo op-ed on domestic abuse and the fallout that victims can be subjected to. Timed to Warner Bros’ release of Aquaman, the article by the ACLU ambassador on women’s rights never mentioned Depp by name. However, in his subsequent filing, the past Oscar nominated actor claimed the piece in the Jeff Bezos-owned broadsheet cost him lucrative roles and “devastated” his career. Going on to say he in fact was the abused party, the much litigious Depp added that his former spouse’s allegations against him were “part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career.”
In his defamation action, it is noteworthy and pretty much unmentioned in the trial so far that Depp did not sue the deep-pocketed Washington Post, the actual publishers of the piece. Though paper being printed in Virginia was in part why the state was picked as the site of the suit. The weaker anti-SLAPP laws of the Old Dominion as opposed to California or New York played a not-insignificant role in the jurisdiction as well it has become clear.
Subsequently, as pink slipped Fantastic Beasts star Depp tries to figuratively flip the script on his damning November 2020 UK loss in a “wife beater” libel action against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid, Heard’s summer 2020 filed $100 million countersuit against her Rum Diary co-star is at play in the Fairfax County-set trial too.
The break in the proceedings over the last few days has allowed some in the media to take stock of the impact of the trial, often focusing on the rabid fan base Depp or the smaller but vocal support for Heard. A glance at the waterfall of commentary on the side of livestreams of the trial or pointed online posts shows the fervency of the interest — but also how easy it has been for followers to lose sight of what is actually at stake.
Despite what many of his fans proclaim, Depp is not on trial, but is by choice forcing the intimacies of his marriage of Heard into public view. Inside the courtroom and in the strictest legal terms, the once blockbuster actor actually has a rather high threshold to meet to show that Heard’s op-ed, and its reference to being “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” was false and defamatory, as well as an act of malice.
At least so far, the trial has not been embraced as a milestone in the MeToo movement, perhaps because of some of the groups behind the movement have gone through upheaval, or perhaps because this is a case that does not center around workplace power dynamics, but the complexities, messiness and even the tragic aspects of a doomed marriage. While giggling, grins and one-liners on the stand from Depp charmed some, the almost total lack of eye contact from the sunglasses wearing actor when Heard was testifying escaped no one’s notice.
The MeToo movement may be near silent on the Depp-Heard trial, but late night comics, and even a touring Chris Rock have had plenty to say in what has proven a dysfunctional celebrity smorgasbord for an often unshockable America.
Last week, Saturday Night Live threw in a passing joke about the spectacle of the trial, as Kate McKinnon, appearing as a 13th Century witch, said, “If you think our customs are weird. You should watch the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.” This week, the NBC late nighter spotlighted the proceedings and the “human fecal matter” found in the couple’s DTLA bed in 2016 in its cold open. Leaning into a full on freakshow POV, SNL‘s Cecily Strong portrayed Judge Azcarte telling the assembles lawyers and a Kyle Mooney played Depp that she would allow footage of the stained bed to be shown in court “because it does sound fun and this trial is for fun.”
Capturing the American moment and contradictions of the trial, Strong’s Azcarte added: “This trial has given me a lot to consider. On one hand, I believe Mr. Depp’s story. But on the other hand, your constant little smirk lets me know that this is not the first woman you’ve made so mad that she pooped in your bed.”
Aiming for a verdict near Memorial Day, the trial is expanding its hours to 9 AM – 5:30 PM ET every day of the week as of tomorrow. In that, the jury will now sit on Fridays too, which had not been the case for the first four week of proceedings.