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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Attorneys trade accusations in opening remarks of Depp v. Heard trial

Jurors will decide whether a 2018 op-ed in which actress Amber Heard described herself as a domestic abuse survivor devastated the career of her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Throughout a short and volatile marriage, Johnny Depp contends that his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, physically abused him, only for her to later claim that he assaulted her.

Heard claims that Depp’s episodic violence, fueled by substance abuse, made her fear for her life, with one of her attorneys describing Depp as an “obsessed ex-husband hellbent on revenge.”

The two competing versions of events are at the center of a high-profile trial that began with opening arguments Tuesday morning. As both actors looked on from different sides of the courtroom, attorneys laid out dramatically different narratives which they plan to support with witness testimony, legal documents and depositions over the coming weeks.

Depp's attorneys contend a 2018 op-ed in which Heard described herself as a domestic abuse survivor devastated his career. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor was once associated with his phenomenal success as an actor but that is no longer the case, his lead attorney said Tuesday.

“’Today his name is associated with a lie,” argued Benjamin Chew of Brown Rudnick. He added that Depp had been falsely and unfairly characterized as a villain and wrongly accused of abuse.

“Words matter,” the attorney said. “They paint a picture in our minds of what we know or what we think we know."

But Heard’s attorneys painted a different picture.

“Amber did suffer sexual violence at the hands of Depp,” Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers told the jury. “You will hear in the most graphic and horrifying terms about the violence that she suffered. You’ll hear that straight from her.”

Another of Heard's attorneys, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said the trial will "tell you the story of a very different Johnny Depp.” He has the charismatic side that Heard fell in love with, she added, but he "has an enormous amount of rage.”

Chew pointed out to jurors that Depp has been in other long-term relationships but none of those women accused him of abuse.  

The jury will decide whether Depp was defamed by a 2018 Washington Post editorial written by Heard that was focused on supporting women who speak out about abuse. It never mentioned Depp by name, but he contends that Heard was talking about him. The article refers to a period in which she was married to him. Days after it was published, Disney fired Depp from his "Pirates" role.

Rottenborn, who read Heard's op-ed in the courtroom, noted that Depp didn't sue the Post – and could have since it published the article.

"He chose to bring Amber to court here in Virginia where she has no ties, has never lived, he's never lived, where they never spent any time, because he wanted to make her life hard. He wanted to ruin her life. He wanted to destroy her,” the attorney said.

Heard didn't want to unearth for the public who the real Depp is, Rottenborn said. If she had, he said, "she would have described the man who described the violent side of himself as 'the monster.'”

Depp's lawsuit, filed in Virginia because the Post is printed there, asks for $50 million in damages. Heard’s counterclaim demands $100 million.

This is the second trial in which Depp contends he was defamed by false charges of domestic violence. He also brought a libel suit against a newspaper in England after a 2018 article described him as a "wife beater." He lost that case.

Categories / Entertainment, Media, Trials

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