For seven weeks, our social media feeds were held hostage by the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial in Fairfax County, Virginia. Depp, who’d previously been found by a U.K. judge to have abused Heard on 12 occasions, alleged three counts of defamation by Heard related to a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post wherein she called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse” who spoke out against “sexual violence.”
The Pirates of the Caribbean star claimed the piece damaged his reputation and career to the tune of $50 million, prompting Heard to file a $100 million counterclaim against Depp. On June 1, after 61 hours of testimony from each side, including dozens of experts and witnesses, all of which was livestreamed to a ravenous public, the jury ruled that Heard had defamed Depp, awarding him $10.35 million in damages; Heard, meanwhile, was granted $2 million.
Heard’s team has since filed a post-trial motion asking the court to set aside the verdict or order a new trial, arguing that Heard played no role in crafting the op-ed’s headline that had the phrase “sexual violence” in it (this much was revealed during the trial); that the amount awarded to Depp was disproportionate; and that a juror may have impersonated another juror. The judge denied the motions, though Heard can still appeal. Depp, for his part, launched a TikTok account—presumably as a thank you to his legion of rabid fans, who flooded the algorithm with selectively curated clips from the trial favoring their hero—and quietly settled a lawsuit with a crew member who claimed that the actor drunkenly assaulted him on the set of City of Lies (that case was set to go to trial this month.)
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Over the weekend, more than 6,000 pages of court documents in the Depp v. Heard trial were unsealed. The docs, which were viewed by The Daily Beast, shed new light on the case seen ‘round the world, providing new insights into each team’s legal strategy. Ultimately, as you’ll see, the mountain of docs do not appear to reflect too well on Team Depp.
Did Depp want to submit Heard’s nudes into evidence?
In unsealed pretrial court documents, Heard’s team argued to the judge that evidence of a number of “irrelevant personal matters” should be excluded from the defamation trial, while alleging: “Mr. Depp inappropriately seeks to introduce evidence of the following Irrelevant Personal Matters: (1) nude pictures of Amber Heard; (2) Amber Heard’s sister Whitney’s reality show video; (3) Whitney and Amber’s past romantic relationships; (4) Amber’s brief stint as an exotic dancer years before she met Mr. Depp and Mr. Depp attempting to frivolously and maliciously suggest or imply that Ms. Heard was at one time an escort.”
Depp’s team tried to use the death of Heard’s friend against her
A deposition of Whitney Henriquez, Heard’s sister, dated February 3, 2022, is included among the newly unsealed court documents. During the interview, Depp’s attorneys ask a series of questions about “Logan,” a friend of Heard’s who passed away in a car accident as a teenager, which had a profound impact on Heard and, according to Henriquez, left her “devastated.” Depp’s attorneys first asked if Heard and Logan were romantically involved or ever fought, to which Henriquez replied no. They then attempted to insinuate that Heard told Henriquez she was with Logan the day he died and/or was driving the car he died in, to which Henriquez said that did not happen. Still, Depp’s attorneys continued to press Henriquez, asking whether Heard’s driver’s license being suspended “had anything to do with the accident in which Logan died,” to which Henriquez replied, “It had nothing to do with that.” Henriquez further testified that Heard had never hit, slapped, or thrown anything at her, adding, “I never said I was subjected to any violence because of Amber.”
Depp’s damning missing texts
Among the newly unsealed documents are exhibits of text messages that Depp’s then-assistant Stephen Deuters sent to Heard in 2014, about the time Depp had allegedly “kicked” Heard during a fight aboard a private jet. “If someone was truly honest with him about how bad it really was, he would be appalled,” Deuters texted Heard about Depp. “I’m sad he does not have a better way to really know the severity of his actions yesterday. Unfortunately for me, I remember them in full, in full detail, everything that happened. He was appalled, when I told him he kicked you, he cried.” Depp subsequently texted Heard, “Once again, I find myself in a place of shame and regret. Of course I am sorry…I will never do it again…My illness somehow crept up and grabbed me…I feel so bad for letting you down.” In messages retained by Heard, he subsequently texted to apologize while calling himself a “fucking savage” and a “lunatic.”
But Depp’s law firm, Brown Rudnick, could not find any record of the texts in Depp’s iCloud, and looked into whether they may have been, in their words, “deleted.” Ultimately, the law firm determined they were “missing” for reasons unknown. These texts regarding the “kicking” incident were presented in the U.K. trial but not deemed admissible in the Virginia defamation trial.
Heard walked away from millions
The court documents reveal that during their divorce proceedings, Heard’s lawyers begged her to reconsider her decision to walk away from “tens of millions of dollars”—since Depp shot the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie during their marriage, and therefore it was considered a “community property asset” with Heard entitled to half the income from the asset. Since Depp had earned over $33 million from Pirates 4, it stood to reason that the number would be that or higher for No. 5. But Heard refused, leading her lawyers to tell her via email that she was being “amazingly true to your word, that this is not about the money.” The judge, however, rejected the inclusion of any evidence related to their divorce proceedings in the defamation trial.
Depp said he was not ‘alleging harm’ from Heard
Though Depp’s team spent many hours of the trial trying to paint Heard as the abuser in the relationship, an unsealed motion by Depp’s team opposing a mental examination of Depp argued that the actor should not be subjected to an independent medical examination, “Because Mr. Depp Is Not Alleging Harm Based On A Specific Physical or Mental Injury.” Depp’s team further claimed that, “Mr. Depp does not allege a specific cause of action for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress; does not assert that Ms. Heard’s actions caused him a specific psychiatric injury; and does not claim that Ms. Heard’s actions caused him to experience unusually severe emotional distress.”
Heard’s list of ‘comparable actors’
A rather dubious claim made by Heard’s team in pretrial docs was that the actress suffered economic losses in the range of “$47-50 million” over a “3-5 year period” due to defamatory statements made by Depp and his inner circle. Heard’s team further listed a series of actors that they felt were “comparable” to Heard in stature, including Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Zendaya, Ana de Armas, and Chris Pine. All of these actors were clearly much bigger stars than Heard.
Were Depp’s photos and audio subject to ‘manipulation?’
According to the unsealed court documents, Heard’s team argued that metadata from photos and audio submitted by Depp as evidence in the case “reveals the items were ‘Modified’ days before their production in this case”; that Depp “produced multiple partial audio recordings that begin and end in the middle of a sentence”; and that metadata “indicates the recordings were created in September 2015 and then modified in June 2016, and again one day before their production, but Depp only produced the modified version. This raises significant concerns of manipulation, alteration, and deletion.”
Heard’s team repeatedly requested the full audio of these conversations but were denied it. As far as the photographs Depp produced allegedly showing scratches and bruises on his person from Heard, their metadata contained “Create and Modified” dates of years after the alleged incidents occurred, Heard’s team alleged. One had a date of 7/24/2019, another photo had no creation date but a “Modified Date of 7/4/2020,” and yet another one’s “‘Creation,’ ‘Modified,’ ‘Received,’ and ‘Sent’ Dates are July 22, 2019, despite Mr. Depp claiming this picture was taken in March 2015,” according to Team Heard. Another photo Depp submitted of an alleged injury had “no ‘Creation’ or ‘Modified’ date metadata and lists the ‘Sent’ and ‘Modified’ dates as July 3, 2020.”
Furthermore, Heard’s team retained Julian Ackert, a forensic expert at iDiscovery Solutions, who declared under penalty of perjury that he’d reviewed the metadata of Depp’s submitted evidence and found “anomalies that call into question the authenticity of the multimedia documents,” including “instances where the date metadata, such as creation and date metadata, is either missing or is significantly after the alleged date of the incident. Missing creation dates and/or modification dates that post-date the facts can be a sign of digital evidence manipulation.” Ackert later testified in court that photos Heard submitted of her bruised face were originals.
Depp’s team argued in a separate motion that the court should exclude any evidence of his then-lawyer Adam Waldman’s “supposed misdeeds,” including his “Russian connections,” which was granted by the court. Lawyers for Depp also fought to “exclude evidence of negative social media traffic and purported Russian ‘bot’ campaign regarding Ms. Heard.”
‘Unlikely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence’
Among the unsealed court documents is a counterclaim filed by Depp’s legal team on February 7, 2022, objecting to Heard’s “fourth set of interrogatories.” In response to Heard’s team’s demand that Depp “Please describe in detail each and every incident during which You contend that Ms. Heard inflicted any type of physical or emotional violence or abuse upon you,” along with “dates, times and location, as well as a description of the communications and actions leading up to, through, and following such alleged violence or abuse,” Depp’s team “further objects to this interrogatory as unlikely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and that it seeks documents and communications that are irrelevant, immaterial, or unnecessary to the issues in this Action.”
Depp’s team fought hard to exclude any “references to and evidence regarding Marilyn Manson” because they argued it would “smear Mr. Depp under a guilty by association theory.”
Heard Team’s testimony and evidence Depp fought to exclude
Depp’s legal team fought to convince the court to exclude the testimony of actress Ellen Barkin, who’d claimed Depp angrily threw a bottle in her direction while they were dating; Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist who testified on behalf of Heard about the alleged trauma inflicted by Depp; texts between Depp and his actor/pal Paul Bettany wherein Bettany suggested they submit Heard to a “drowning test” to determine whether or not she’s a “witch,” to which Depp replied, “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead”; and audio of Heard telling Depp, “I had dumped you a fucking week, week prior, a fucking week prior after you beat the shit out of me.”
Team Depp also wished to exclude the testimony of Dr. Dawn M. Hughes, a psychologist who met with Heard for 29 hours over four sessions and determined that she suffered from PTSD as a result of “intimate partner violence” by Depp; forensic expert Julian Ackert, who suggested that audio and photos submitted as evidence by Depp “raised concerns of manipulation, alteration, and deletion”; any evidence regarding Depp’s “medical condition and medical history” other than “physical injuries sustained by Mr. Depp during the parties’ relationship, or the use of drugs or alcohol in Ms. Heard’s presence in the context of alleged abuse,” as they worried Heard wished to “present evidence that Mr. Depp takes Valtrex”; and Dr. Amy Banks, who was a “relationship consultant” that met with the couple and answered in the affirmative in court when asked if Heard “was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Mr. Depp.”
UPDATE: A previous version of this story said that the testimony from Barkin and others was excluded from jury consideration, but those motions by Team Depp were not signed by the judge, so they still factored in.
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