Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrive at the High Court as libel hearing continues
Johnny Depp’s multi-million libel lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, began in Virginia on Monday morning with jury selection. Seven jurors and four alternates were chosen to hear the case.
It claims a 2018 article written by Heard in The Washington Post – in which she spoke about domestic violence against women – implied that Depp, her former husband, was an abuser.
Although the 35-year-old didn’t name the actor, Depp’s lawyers say Heard’s allegations have made it difficult for the 58-year-old to land the roles he had before.
Depp is known for starring in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeny Todd and Charlie and the chocolate factory. Heard has appeared in titles such as Aquaman and driving angry.
He is seeking $50m (£38.2m) in damages at the trial in Fairfax County Courthouse. Heard has meanwhile filed a libel counterclaim against Depp, whom she divorced in 2017, for nuisance.
Depp has already lost a UK libel case against a British newspaper The sun regarding the claims in Heard’s 2018 article.
ICYMI: Dispatch from outside the courtroom
Writing from outside the courtroom in Fairfax, The Independents Clemence Michallon said:
“Spectators, supporters and potential jurors began gathering at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia.
Today begins Johnny Depp’s $50 million libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. He alleges she defamed him in an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018. Heard countersued for $100 million and asked for immunity from his claims.
Potential jurors line up inside the courthouse, as do spectators seeking access to the courtroom. The procedure should begin at 10 a.m. with the selection of the jury. Jury selection, in turn, is expected to be completed by the end of the day.
Outside, television cameras are installed. Supporters also showed up early. During Johnny Depp’s trial against The Sun in the UK, he was known to occasionally stop to greet fans, occasionally picking up flowers and stopping for photos.
Olivier O’ConnellApril 12, 2022 12:45 a.m.
The legal dispute was at the center of the TV documentary ‘Johnny v Amber’ last year
The high-profile legal disagreement between Depp and Heard was documented in a TV documentary series last year on Discovery Plus, which sought to reveal the reasons for the couple’s two ‘polarized perspectives’.
The program – Johnny vs. Amber — was also billed as the “breakup” story of Depp and Heard’s relationship, including “how it turned into the celebrity court case of the decade.”
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 11:45 p.m.
Inside the first day of the trial
Fans showed up early, vying with members of the press for neon pink wristbands which on that day guaranteed entry to an overflow room in which proceedings could be followed live via video link. This setup was specific to day one and jury selection; in the coming days and for the duration of the trial, the public will be admitted to the courtroom, from where the case will be televised. Depp fans brought signs and flowers, in a setup reminiscent of Depp’s lawsuit against The sun UK. (The actor sued News Group Newspapers, the company that publishes the newspaper, for alleged defamation over a headline calling him a “wife beater”; he lost that case in November 2020 as a judge ruled on the allegations against Depp” essentially true”.)
During the London affair, Depp was known to occasionally greet fans outside of court, occasionally collecting gifts and flowers from them. Heard, a witness in that trial, was also seen waving to supporters and being approached by fans. The rules in the Virginia case turned out to be different early on. Judge Penney Azcarate, who is handling the case, asked Depp and Heard not to pose for photos or sign autographs outside the Fairfax County Courthouse. Both made discreet entrances on Monday and were only photographed briefly late in the day.
Clemence MichallonApril 11, 2022 11:41 p.m.
Why is the trial taking place in Virginia when Heard and Depp live in Los Angeles?
Although the couple both live in California, Depp’s libel case against his ex-wife is set in Virginia, where the trial will take place in the Fairfax County Courthouse.
Online editions of The Washington Post are published through servers located in Fairfax County, which is believed to be one of the reasons Depp’s attorneys decided on the location.
Another is due to Virginia’s anti-Slapp law, which is not as broad as California’s. The provision allows a person to claim protection from legal action when speaking on matters of public interest.
Lawyers for Heard, who filed a counter-libel suit, are expected to use the anti-Slapp law during the trial. He comes four years after her Washington Post article titled: I spoke out against sexual violence – and faced the wrath of our culture. This must change.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 10:45 p.m.
Heard and Depp pictured leaving the courthouse after the first day of the trial
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 10:35 p.m.
Opening statements will begin Tuesday morning
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 10:28 p.m.
Heard: “I’ll be away for a few weeks”
Here is the statement Amber Heard posted on her Twitter and Instagram accounts on Saturday, in which she tells fans that she will be “offline for the next few weeks.”
She also thanked her fans for their support, saying “in these next few weeks, I’ll be leaning on it more than ever.”
Heard also addressed Depp’s claim that she defamed him in a 2018 article in The Washington Postand said she continues to “pay the price” for speaking out on the issue of domestic violence.
Depp denies any wrongdoing.
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 10:06 p.m.
Judge Heard Rules Can Use Anti-Slapp Provision
Heard may argue during the trial that she is exonerated from liability because her Washington Post 2018 article on domestic violence was an important issue in the public interest.
Depp’s attorneys had argued for the court to refuse to allow Heard to use the law, known as the anti-Slapp (strategic lawsuit against public participation) provision, because it was a civil case.
The two will testify at the trial, which will see the Fairfax County District Court assess Heard’s counter-libel claim against Depp.
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 9:47 p.m.
Heard said in 2020 that she wanted to be ‘left alone’
Appears as a witness in Depp’s trial against a British newspaper The sun in 2020, Heard said she wanted to be “left alone” and wanted her ex-husband to end the domestic violence lawsuit to “save her embarrassment.”
“I didn’t want to do this, I didn’t want to expose the full extent of what really happened to me,” Heard told the Royal Courts of Justice in London. “I didn’t want to talk about everything that happened in our marriage and in our relationship.”
While Depp denies the allegations, Heard told the court of 14 allegations of “abuse” by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in places such as a rented house in Australia, his private island in the Bahamas and a private jet, such as The Associated Press reported two years ago.
The judge ruled against Depp, who accused the publisher of The Sun of defaming it with a headline including the words “battered woman”. His lawyers later called the judge’s decision “perverse.”
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 9:28 p.m.
Who could testify during the trial?
Ahead of the trial set to begin today in Virginia, Depp and Heard each released a list of witnesses their teams may wish to call, writing The Independents Clemence Michallon.
They have each filed lists of objections to some of the other side’s witnesses, so the final group of witnesses will become clearer and can evolve as the proceedings progress.
Some of the people named as potential witnesses so far include Tesla founder Elon Musk and actor James Franco…
Olivier O’ConnellApril 11, 2022 9:09 p.m.