Six Things Johnny Depp’s Lawyers Did Right To Win His Defamation Case

The Overview – What To Know About The Case

Johnny Depp, star of Pirates of the Caribbean, and his ex wife, Amber Heard, squared off in a heated legal battle that recently concluded. Depp said he only wanted his name cleared, to get his life back and that’s why he was seeking the defamation trial. Depp’s lawyer, Vasquez said that Heard fabricated her claims to bolster her career. Vasquez accused Heard of lying throughout the trial and said Depp’s career had been harmed. Amber Heard’s legal team argued that if jurors found that Depp abused Heard even once, her op-ed would not be defamatory. Heard’s lawyer, Ben Rottenborn, claimed that Amber Heard suffered abuse that “took many forms”.

Johnny Depp’s legal claims in the United Kingdom had already been denied in which a The Sun had called him a “wife beater”.

Heard claimed that Depp’s prior lawyer, Adam Waldman, defamed Heard and damaged her career when he claimed that she and her friends were perpetrating an “abuse hoax.”

The trial was presided over in Fairfax County by Penney Azcarate.

As a brief summary of the case: the jury heard opening statements, then Depp’s sister, Christi Dembrowskithe took the stand. Depp’s Longtime Friend Isaac Baruch then testified. Kate James, Heard’s former personal assistant testified for Depp’s legal team. Laurel Anderson, a marriage counselor who saw the former couple for 4 sessions testified for Depp. Depp’s personal doctor, Dr. David Kipper, and Depp’s nurse, Debbie Lloyd, appeared in video depositions and thereafter, Depp took the stand.

Depp was cross examined, as were Depp’s other witnesses. Dr. Shannon Curry, a clinical and forensic psychologist hired by Johnny Depp’s legal team testified. Depp’s former talent agent, Christian Carino also testified for Depp. Terence Dougherty, the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of the ACLU testified for Depp’s legal team. Depp’s bodyguard, Sterling Jenkins, testified for Depp. Outside of court, Heard had hired a new public relations team. Depp’s bodyguard, Travis McGivern, also testified. Dr. Alan Blaustein, testified for Depp as did Kate Moss.

Amber Heard called Ellen Barkin and and Heard’s sister Whitney Henriquez to testify. Raquel Pennington’s taped deposition was played for the court at Heard’s legal team’s request. And of course, Amber Heard took the stand on her own behalf and faced a sharp cross examination. Heard testified about sexual assault allegations, such as Depp allegedly penetrating her with a bottle. Heard’s team also called Dr. Dawn Hughes to testify. The attorneys then argued motions and made closing arguments.

Ahead of the jury verdict, lots of media pundits had opinions as to how the trial would turn out. One thing Blaine Clooten, contributor for FairPunishment.org said, ahead of the verdict was that “You never know what a jury is going to do.” Many thought that the jury would favor Amber Heard’s team based on the evidence presented.

Media pundits got some things right but other things wrong. The jury gave a split the award between the parties. Johnny Depp‘s award was larger and he’s claiming a victory in public. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard will remain a compelling case for alleged abuse, and will serve as the defamation lawsuit “example” for years to come.

Depp’s legal claims stemmed from and article that Heard wrote in December 2018 for the Washington Post, an Op Ed. The 2018 op ed never mentioned Depp by name. Ultimately, jurors were asked to weigh whether the statement, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” the headline that appeared on a version of Heard’s op ed, was defamatory.

The Jury also had to consider whether the statement, “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out” and whether or not that was defamatory. The last statement they considered was “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The jury considered each of these statements individually. For Depp to win his claim, they could have decided that one or more of these statements were defamatory or that they all were. Ultimately, the jurors found all the statements were defamatory.

Depp’s team carefully orchestrated trial claiming that any physical abuse was mutual that Heard and Depp were mutually combative and Heard craved conflict. Depp did not shy away from drugs and alcohol in his testimony and in fact, Depp hired experts to help explain his personal dealings.

What were six things done right by Johnny Depp’s team?

Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard as a Public Figure

Depp’s team had the more famous celebrity and the more likable public figure and they used both to their advantage. Johnny Depp has starred in many, many films over the course of his career. He treated this case is the role of a lifetime. During trial Depp and Depp’s lawyers painted a picture of Heard as troubled and craving conflict. Throughout his court case Depp could be seen scribbling notes furiously looking at his counsel and making faces as witnesses spoke. Depp and his team appear to have rehearsed every aspect of this trial, and game played out various possible scenarios on cross examine. It seemed Depp’s testimony was practiced like lines in a movie. Depp acted as way to victory.

Convincing the Jury of Reasonable Doubt

Depp’s lawyers convinced the jury that what Amber Heard said wasn’t true, or mostly wasn’t true. Depp’s legal team effectively rebutted every argument Heard’s legal team presented as counter-arguments to Depp’s claims. This was no small feat considering the evidence that was presented in court and having lost a previous battle for a substantially similar case in the United Kingdom. The jury in this case was persuaded that the statements made in the article were not true, or were tantamount to defamation. It’s hard to crawl into the mind of a jury/juror or to know what was exactly said in that jury room and maybe more will come out overtime, but what is clear is that the jury sided with Johnny Depp and this is in no small part to Johnny Depp‘s lawyers.

Presenting Evidence to Favor Johnny Depp

Depp’s attorneys presented the evidence in a way that favored Johnny Depp in the jury‘s eyes. From presentation of text messages, to eliciting testimony from witnesses, and cross-examining opponents, winning a case with the jury is all about the lawyer’s presentation of evidence. This includes the sequence in which lawyers present items to the jury, the order in which they call witnesses and in the questions they ask. Consideration must also be given to the exhibits presented to the jury, and whether or not particular exhibits (like text messages) are included. Finally, for presentation, Depp’s legal team was able to bring in effective star witnesses, like Kate Moss, who helped turn the jury in favor of Depp. Johnny Depp’s lawyers did a better job of presenting evidence to the jury and ultimately that led to a win.

Winning the Narrative Battle

Depp’s attorneys won the narrative battle in the courtroom. The jury was not supposed to consider media attention in this case. But, in a case of this magnitude, it’s almost impossible to drown out all the noise. In a “he said she said” case, which are often the hardest to overcome, narrative is the key. Johnny Depp‘s lawyers won the narrative battle painting Amber Heard and her statements as untrue and Johnny Depp’s statements as either true or more true than what Amber heard said. A lot of credit goes to Johnny Depp’s lawyers for crafting their narrative and sticking to their story from opening statement, through evidence, and all the way through closing argument.  Depp’s lawyers were also able to overcome and control the narrative around certain “challenging” evidence, such as the restraining order. Winning key battles leads to winning the war, and the jury agreed with Depp’s narrative.

The Media & Public Opinion

Depp’s Attorney’s won the battle of public opinion in the media. This was one of the most surprising victories as public opinion had seemed to favor Amber Heard and victims of Domestic Violence. Through the attorney’s campaign, public opinion turned in favor of Johnny Depp during the trial and against Amber Heard. Credit must be given to the attorneys for their impact of turning public opinion through the course of the trial and through their recommendations for how the trial would be run for Johnny Depp. This is a culmination of several of the aforementioned factors, but, without turning the tide of public opinion, winning the defamation case would have been extremely unlikely.

Winning Key Court Battles

Depp’s lawyers won key court battles. There are a number of court battles that Johnny Depp‘s attorneys won on their way to winning a jury verdict. The first major legal battle victory was over venue, or where the case would be tried. There’s a little doubt that if the case had been tried in Los Angeles, California with anti-slap laws and the jury’s less star-struck view of celebrities the case would have likely favored Amber Heard more greatly than Johnny Depp. 

By having the trial heard in Fairfax County, Virginia this clearly ended up favoring Johnny Depp, and this was one of the most significant legal victories for Depp’s legal team. During the case in chief, there were a number of key victories within the courtroom itself. For instance what evidence was going to be let in was decided frequently by the judge and objections over relevance. One of those pieces of evidence that has been discussed frequently was the dog and dog poop. The judge allowed in this evidence over objections from Heard’s attorney. There were also other objections that were either sustained or not sustained and it’s clear that Johnny Depp‘s attorneys got in more of the evidence that they were seeking an Amber Heard‘s lawyers were either not able to limit that evidence or not able to get in more of the evidence that they wanted in.

Johnny Depp’s lawyers won more of the key battles fought in the courtroom regarding admissibility of evidence and what would be heard by the jury. Winning these battles is not only an objective victory as to what evidence is allowed in and considered. Winning arguments over evidence admissibility in front of the jury can have a subconscious effect on the jury as well. The value of winning these arguments in front of the judge cannot be understated.

Summary

Depp’s attorneys didn’t do everything right. Heard’s lawyer didn’t do everything wrong. Depp’s lawyers weren’t necessarily professional (high-fiving in the courtroom is usually frowned upon, act like you’ve been here before). But, they won at least these 6 key areas in route to winning the case. Give credit where credit it is due.

Do you think this was a false accusation or was it a fair verdict?