Jury duty in the Depp-Heard trial does not haunt public debate

FAIRFAX, Va. – A seven-person civil jury in Virginia will resume deliberations on Tuesday Johnny Depp’s Amber Heard Defamation Trial. What the jury considers will be very different from the public debate that has engulfed the high-profile proceedings.

For six weeks, testimony focused on details of the alleged abuse Heard says was suffered by Depp. Heard has described more than a dozen specific cases in which She says she was attacked by Depp.

Depp has denied any physical or sexual abuse, and says Heard fabricated the claims to blast Depp’s reputation. Depp’s legions of online fans have focused on theirs believe Heard was untrueand that will determine the outcome.

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But the case itself is a libel lawsuit. Depp sued Heard for defamation — for $50 million — in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018, she wrote in the Washington Post She describes herself as “a public figure who represents domestic violence”.

That article doesn’t even mention Depp by name, but his lawyers say he was defamed anyway. Most of the article addresses public policy regarding domestic violence, and Heard’s attorneys say she has a First Amendment right to speak out.

In closing arguments, however, Depp attorney Camille Vasquez argued that Heard’s right to free speech had limits.

“The First Amendment doesn’t protect lies that hurt and defame people,” she said.

Depp’s attorneys point to two passages in the article that they say clearly relate to Depp.

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In the first passage, Heard writes that “two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic violence and I felt the full brunt of our culture’s wrath.” Depp’s attorneys call it a clear reference to Depp, since Heard Depp Publicly accused of domestic violence in 2016 – two years before she wrote the article.

In a second passage, she says, “I’ve had the rare opportunity to see in real time how institutions are protecting men accused of abuse.” (Depp’s lawyers are also seeking damages over a headline that appeared above the online version of the article, although Heard did not write them.)

The jury, which must be unanimous to reach a verdict, must decide whether these passages in the post are defamatory. And the judgment form gives you step-by-step instructions on how to determine that.

Heard’s attorneys say they have presented a mountain of evidence that Heard was molested. But they say that even if the jury somehow believed she was never molested once, she should still prevail in the lawsuit.

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That’s because the defamation law lists several factors that need to be considered. First, the allegedly defamatory statements must relate to the plaintiff. Heard’s attorneys said the article was not about Depp at all. He is not mentioned, and they say the focus is on Heard’s experience of the consequences of speaking. Those statements remain objectively true, even if she was not in fact abused, her attorneys claim.

However, Depp’s lawyers say the two passages are clear references to Depp given the publicity surrounding their 2016 divorce proceedings.

Additionally, since Depp is a public figure, Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if the jury finds Heard acted with “actual malice,” which requires clear and convincing evidence that she either knew that what she wrote was false, or that she acted in reckless disregard of the truth.

Heard attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn said during Friday’s closing arguments that Heard carefully reviewed drafts of the article — the first draft was written by the American Civil Liberties Union, not her — with her attorneys to ensure that what was written passed the legal test. Rottenborn said the fact alone was sufficient proof that she did not act with actual malice.

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As for the abuse itself, Depp’s attorneys tried to suggest to the jury that if they believe Heard is lying or embellishing her abuse allegations, then she cannot be trusted and that all of her abuse allegations must be dismissed as untrustworthy.

“You either believe all of it or none of it,” Vasquez said. “Either she’s the victim of some ugly, horrific abuse, or she’s a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything.”

In Heard’s closing remarks, Rottenborn said the sophistication about Heard’s evidence of abuse ignores the fact that there is overwhelming evidence supporting it and sends a dangerous message to victims of domestic violence.

“If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen,” Rottenborn said. “If you took photos, they are fake. If you haven’t told your friends, they are lying. If you told your friends, they are part of the scam.”

And he dismissed Vasquez’s suggestion that if the jury believes Heard could embellish a single act of abuse, they should ignore everything she says. He said Depp’s defamation lawsuit must fail if Heard suffered even a single incident of abuse.

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“They’re trying to get you to believe that Amber has to be perfect to win,” Rottenborn said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/entertainment/2022/05/28/jurys-duty-in-depp-heard-trial-doesnt-track-public-debate/ Jury duty in the Depp-Heard trial does not haunt public debate

Sarah Y. Kim

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