- Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against Amber Heard kicked off with opening statements on Tuesday.
- Heard’s lawyer told the jury that Depp is trying to ruin his ex-wife’s career with the lawsuit.
- Depp’s legal team claimed that he lost film roles because of Heard’s domestic violence allegations.
A lawyer for Amber Heard argued that her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, is trying to “ruin her life” and “destroy her,” in opening statements at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star’s defamation trial on Tuesday.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, claiming that an op-ed she wrote in 2018 insinuated that he was a domestic abuser and damaged his career, causing him to lose film roles. Heard responded by countersuing Depp, alleging that he physically assaulted her on 10 incidents before and during their marriage.
In opening statements on Tuesday, Heard’s lawyer, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, told the jury that Depp is “going to try to turn this case into a soap opera” about his tumultuous relationship with Heard. But that the core of the lawsuit is whether Heard was exercising her First Amendment right to Free Speech in writing her domestic violence op-ed, which doesn’t even mention Depp by name.
“The answer is very clearly yes,” Rottenborn said.
At one point Rottenborn read out the full op-ed, and argued that it was clear that the article wasn’t meant to drudge up allegations against Depp, but speak about an issue impacting pending legislation.
Had she intended to describe her relationship with Depp “believe me, the article would have looked very, very different,” Rottenborn said.
“She could fill a book with those details … She would have told you about the monster, but she didn’t. That wasn’t the point of this article,” Rottenborn said.
Rottenborn said he’s not sure why Depp has brought the lawsuit because the evidence that will be shown at trial “isn’t very pretty.”
“Because Johnny Depp brought this case, all of that is going to come out. Just know Amber Heard didn’t want to unearth for the public who the real Johnny Depp is … You’ll see the real Johnny Depp, behind the pirate costume,” he said.
Bringing the case in Virginia, where neither Depp nor Heard live, is just one way that Depp is trying to hurt Heard, Rottenborn said.
“He wanted to make her life hard, he wanted to ruin her life. He wanted to destroy her,” Rottenborn said.
“I wish I could say that’s surprising … But the evidence will show that for years, all Mr. Depp has wanted to do is humiliate Amber, to harm her, to wreck her career.”
While Depp’s lawyers argued that Heard sought to destroy Depp’s career, Rottenborn argued that the opposite was true. The public had known about Heard’s allegations since 2016, and the Washington Post op-ed didn’t change anything, Rottenborn said.
Depp’s lawsuit alleged that Heard’s allegations lost him the chance to star in a sixth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. But Rottenborn said evidence gathered in the case will show that Disney had already considered dropping Depp from the franchise by the time the op-ed was written and that Depp had lost interest in making a sixth “Pirates” movie as well.
Following the release of “Aquaman,” however, Heard’s career was on the rise. Rottenborn said that Depp couldn’t stand to see her success, so he filed the lawsuit.
“Any damages that he suffered in his career were not because of this career,” Rottenborn said. “And it’s time for Mr. Depp to take responsibility.”
Rottenborn’s comments followed opening statements from Depp’s legal team.
Attorney Benjamin Chew blasted Heard as a liar, saying her claims ruined Depp’s career and alienated him from producers who once feted the movie star.
“When, like Mr. Depp, your career depends on your image and your reputation, or whether movie producers want their movie associated with you, that can be particularly harmful,” Chew told the court.
Camille Vasquez, who continued Depp’s opening statements after Chew, told jurors that Depp may have his demons, but that he would never abuse Heard. She said Depp’s mother “lived in anger” that often “boiled over” and resulted in the domestic abuse of Depp and his father. But, like his father, Depp’s reaction was to sit there and take it.
She also admitted that Depp took drugs and drank alcohol. According to Heard, Depp’s drug usage led to violent episodes. Vasquez told jurors not to believe her.
“Struggling with drugs and alcohol doesn’t make you an abuser,” she said.
The opening statements kicked off what is expected to be a highly charged, personal, and star-studded trial.
Both Heard and Depp have indicated in court filings that they intend to call celebrity friends as witnesses, all of whom would testify through remote video. Heard’s lawyers said they may call Elon Musk and James Franco, both of whom Depp suggested maintained relationships with Heard during their marriage, according to court filings. Depp plans to call Paul Bettany, with whom he exchanged text messages criticizing Heard.