Actor Johnny Depp is expected to testify in a Virginia courtroom on Tuesday in the US libel trial where he accuses ex-wife and actress Amber Heard of ruining his career with trumped-up accusations of violence in their relationship.
Depp, 58, alleges that Heard, 35, defamed him when she wrote a December 2018 opinion piece in The Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic violence. He filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018.
The article never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp’s attorney, Benjamin Chew, told jurors a week ago it was clear Heard was referring to the leading man in Hollywood.
Heard’s lawyers argued that she spoke the truth and that her opinion was protected as free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Among the witnesses called by Depp’s lawyers are friends of the Pirates of the Caribbean star and a doctor and nurse who said they treated him for drug addiction. Witnesses said they were aware of the arguments between the couple but did not witness any physical abuse by Depp towards Heard.
“Their arguments were an emotional trigger for him,” Debbie Lloyd, who worked as a nurse for Depp when he was engaged to Heard, said in a deposition recorded March 8 and released to the jury on Monday. “They would upset him, add stress.”
When asked by a lawyer for Depp if she knew that one of Depp’s arguments with Heard got physical, Lloyd replied, “No.”
A state court judge in Fairfax County, Va., is overseeing the trial, which is in its second week and is expected to last six weeks.
In the wake of the British trial
Less than two years ago, Depp lost a libel case against The Sun, a British tabloid that called him a “wife beater”. A High Court judge in London ruled that he repeatedly assaulted Heard and made him fear for his life.
In the US case, both Depp and Heard submitted long lists of potential witnesses they could put on the stand.
Heard’s list includes her ex-boyfriend and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whom she texted about Depp. Actor James Franco is also on the list of potential witnesses.
The Washington Post is not accused in this case. Depp’s attorneys said they filed the case in Fairfax County, outside the District of Columbia, because the newspaper is printed at a facility there.
The United States is a difficult forum for libel plaintiffs, especially public figures like Depp, who must prove with clear and convincing evidence that Heard knowingly made false statements.
Heard seeks $100 million in damages from Depp
Depp and Heard met while filming a 2011 movie The rum journal and married four years later. Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse after filing for divorce in 2016.
Heard, known for his roles in Aquaman and Justice Leaguefiled his own libel suit against Depp, claiming he defamed her by calling her a liar.
Heard’s counterclaim will be decided at trial. Heard is seeking $100 million in damages from Depp, according to court documents.
Following the November 2020 ruling in the London libel trial, Depp was replaced by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the third film of the fantastic beasts franchise, a spin-off of the Harry Potter books and movies.