Former “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Johnny Depp and “Aquaman” actress Amber Heard are back in court to decide whether Heard slandered her ex-husband in 2018 by writing an op-ed that she believes falsely portrayed him as a domestic abuser. .
And Heard has filed a countersuit against Depp accusing her lawyers of defaming her.
The new trial, which is expected to last more than a month, is the latest legal battle between the famous former couple, who appeared in court this week.
Jury selection in the case began Monday in the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia. A civilian jury of seven members and four alternates was selected to hear the case during a trial presided over by Judge Penney S. Azcarate, according to the Associated Press. Opening statements were made on Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know to get up to speed on the case.
Who are the key players?
Depp, 58, and Heard, 35, began dating in 2012 after meeting on the set of 2011’s “The Rum Diary,” based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name. That same year, Depp split from Vanessa Paradis, his girlfriend of 14 years, with whom the Academy Award nominee has two children.
The global superstar married Heard in February 2015, but the marriage lasted less than two years.
She filed for divorce in May 2016 citing irreconcilable differences. That was also the time that she first publicly accused Depp of domestic violence, allegations Depp denied. She also brought a photo of herself with a bruised face to court, prompting a judge to order Depp to stay away from her.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound together by love,” the actors said in a joint statement released after Heard dismissed their request for a restraining order. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intention of physical or emotional harm.”
They announced a divorce settlement in August 2016, and in January 2017, a judge finalized the acrimonious separation. Still, they continued to publicly argue over her complicated relationship, including Heard’s decision to donate her $7 million settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization for which she is an ambassador for women’s rights.
Was there no prior trial?
Yes, in Great Britain, but it wasn’t directly against Heard.
In November 2020, a court in the UK rejected Depp’s libel suit against the editor of the British tabloid The Sun, who called him a “wife beater” in an article.
The three-week trial included testimony from Depp and Heard, who presented scandalous and conflicting testimony about their turbulent years together, including admissions of heavy drug use by Depp and allegations of violence on both sides.
In March 2021, Depp’s attempt to appeal the verdict was rejected. After his case was dropped in the UK, the Hollywood rocker Vampires was kicked out of playing him in several movies in “Fantastic Beasts”.
3″ from Warner Bros. and resigned at the request of the studio.
What did Heard write in the op-ed at the center of the current case?
In December 2018, following the #MeToo movement and in the midst of controversial confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Heard wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “I spoke out against sexual violence and stood up the wrath of our culture. That has to change.”
Although she did not name Depp in her piece, the “Justice League” actress said that in 2016 she “became a public figure representing domestic abuse.” She reflected on her own experiences with abuse, beginning at a young age, and advocated that Congress “reauthorize and strengthen” the Violence Against Women Act “to strengthen and build institutions that protect women.”
“I felt the full force of our culture’s anger at women speaking out,” she wrote. “Friends and advisers told me that she would never work as an actress again, that I would be blacklisted. They attached a film to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me. Doubts were raised about whether I could keep my role as Mera in the ‘Justice League’ and ‘Aquaman’ movies.
“I had the rare advantage of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse,” he wrote.
Heard alleged that she had to change her phone number weekly due to death threats, rarely left her apartment for months, and was chased by cameras and photographers.
What is this latest lawsuit about?
Not long after the opinion piece was published, Depp filed a $50 million libel lawsuit against Heard in March 2019 over the article.
The US lawsuit, filed in Fairfax Circuit Court, said that while Depp was not named in the Post article, it was clear that Heard and other media outlets reporting on the article were talking about Depp. the. The lawsuit called his ongoing accusations of domestic abuse “categorically and demonstrably false” and said Depp never abused Heard.
“Her allegations against him were false when they were made in 2016. They were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career,” the lawsuit says. She also alleges that “she is the perpetrator” and noted that she had previously been arrested on suspicion of violently abusing her former domestic partner.
The suit says Depp’s reputation and career were devastated when Heard first accused him of abuse in 2016 and that the op-ed led to a new round of financial loss and “public contempt,” including removal from his iconic role as captain. Jack Sparrow in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
Heard responded to Depp’s lawsuit with a $100 million countersuit of her own, alleging that the “Edward Scissorhands” star coordinated a campaign designed to smear her.
His lawyers also argued that Heard’s op-ed addressed matters of public concern (such as legislation), while Depp’s statements about her were not and should not be protected by the First Amendment.
Who else is involved?
Both Depp and Heard are expected to take the stand again during this trial, and several people have been served subpoenas, including divorce attorney Laura Wasser; Depp’s publicist, Robin Baum; Heard’s talent agent, Jessica Kovacevic; and Heard’s ex-girlfriend, Tasya van Ree.
Actors Paul Bettany and Ellen Barkin, SpaceX boss Elon Musk and actor James Franco, whom Depp accused of having an affair with Heard, are also on witness lists.
Some will appear in person, while others will appear through video services.
Why is it held in Virginia?
The case was originally filed in Virginia and Heard’s attorneys have sought to move it to California, where they live and where the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) provisions are strongest.
But the Virginia judge ruled that Depp is entitled to bring the case in Virginia because the Washington Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County.
Depp’s lawyers have also said they filed the lawsuit there in part because the laws are more favorable to his case. Last month, Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, tried to block Heard’s lawyers from claiming immunity, arguing that the anti-SLAPP rules are not designed to interfere in private disputes, such as Depp’s claim that his ex-wife defamed him. the Associated Press reported.
Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, argued that her client’s Post article did not mention Depp by name and that it addressed an issue of public interest: the prevention of domestic violence.
Judge Azcarate ruled against Depp, but that doesn’t mean Heard has immunity for what he wrote. His legal team can present that argument to a jury as part of his defense.
Times staff writer Christie D’Zurilla and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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