The Ongoing Depp-Heard Circus

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Unless you live under a rock (or are shunning all media), you’ve no doubt heard about the Depp v. Heard defamation trial in Fairfax, Virginia. The trial, which started April 11, sprouted from actor Johnny Depp’s 2019 lawsuit against a 2018 Washington Post op-ed written by his ex-wife, Amber Heard, The editorial, which did not name Depp directly but appeared to be about their relationship from 2011 to 2016, claimed that women are more easily abused by men in power.

In the editorial, Heard implied indirectly that Depp had physically abused her, and as an apparent result of her insinuations, Depp was told to step down from his role of Grindelwald from the Fantastic Beasts series. He also lost his role as Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

However, in 2019, Depp criticized Heard’s op-ed, saying that she wasn’t the one getting abused, but instead that she was the perpetrator. In 2020, The Daily Mail published audio of Heard saying she hit Depp. Meanwhile, Depp sued the British newspaper The Sun for libel for calling him a “wife-beater.” Depp lost the trial (although libel is a charge which is notoriously difficult to prove), and later sued Heard for defamation of character to the tune of $50 million. In 2020, Heard counter-sued Depp for $100 million, and in 2022, after much delay, the trial began.

It’s all very complicated, so let’s talk about the trial now. The trial began with four days of Depp’s testimony. Now it’s Heard’s turn to testify. One of the main things many have pointed out online is how poorly Heard’s lawyers have performed throughout the trial. For example, one thing that observers noted was the word “hearsay” was used multiple times by Heard’s lawyer and that the lawyer also later objected to his own question. With more people, including assistants for Depp and Heard, coming out to testify against Heard, some feel the trial hasn’t gone her way. For example, during Depp’s testimony, many negative stories have come to light, such as how Heard allegedly threw two vodka bottles at Depp, with one breaking and supposedly cutting the tip off Depp’s finger.

So why are so many people, including FCHS students, so interested in this trial? Many fondly remember Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as his roles in movies such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, the Fantastic Beasts series, and Edward Scissorhands, so many appear ready to defend an actor who brought them so much joy. “[I’m interested] because Johnny Depp is an actor that many of us know and love from classic movies and who we watched as kids. It’s also a situation that I haven’t seen before,” said junior Sophia Harris.

In contrast, many students at FCHS appear to be siding against Heard, an actor known for her role in 2019’s Aquaman. “I don’t believe Amber Heard due to the extreme lack of evidence against Johnny Depp,” said junior Erika Schmack. “She has consistently proven that she has lied about her occurrences with Depp and she was arrested for domestic abuse back in 2009 after hitting her girlfriend at the time. I believe she is doing it to get money out of Depp and is a dirty, lying cockroach,” she said.

On May 3, Heard’s lawyers asked the court to throw out the trial. Also on the same day, Depp’s team rested their case. On May 4, Heard first took the stand to present her side after three weeks of listening to Depp’s testimony. In one part of her testimony, she said that “This is the most painful and difficult thing I’ve gone through. For sure.” The trial is expected to last into the second week in May, and then it will be up to the jury to decide who wins and who loses. If Depp wins, he may be awarded up to $50 million from Heard.

Win or lose, the verdict is likely to have an impact on both actors’ careers. Whether that impact will be positive or negative remains to be seen.