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The Battle of Hearsay

Content Warning: This article contains conversation about domestic violence, drug abuse and mentions of self harm.

Another nail-biting court case has arisen out of Hollywood and this case is currently on trial for the whole world to see. This is the case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Depp is a revered actor, most famously known for his roles as Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka, and Heard is a rising star of DC for her role as Mera.

The case is centered around an op-ed which Heard wrote for the Washington Post in December of 2018. The article claimed that “two years ago, [she] became a public figure representing domestic abuse.” In May of 2016, Heard filed for divorce and a restraining order against Depp for domestic violence. Although she didn’t state his name in her op-ed, it was assumed that the alleged abuser was Depp.

As a result of Heard’s allegations, Depp has been cut by Disney, and overall ousted from the world of acting. He lost his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise and “Pirates of the Caribbean” removed their beloved Captain Jack Sparrow from the screen. Numerous brands also dropped Depp as a sponsor, although his perfume deal with Dior still remains intact. 

These accusations prompted him to file a 50 million dollar defamation lawsuit against Heard in 2019 for her allegations of verbal and physical abuse. Defamation means the action of damaging the reputation of someone, in the form of slander or libel. Depp argues that his reputation has been extremely tainted since the op-ed’s release, and in his opening testimony he stated that his goal is only truth: “it never had to go in this direction. I can’t say I’m embarrassed because I know I’m doing the right thing.”

Since the trial has come to order on April 11, 2022, we have heard Depp’s testimony, which lasted four days from April 19 to 21, and the 25. Heard’s testimony began on May 4 and 5, and after a week-long hiatus resumed on May 16. Before the testimonies were the crucial opening statements, which laid the foundation for the lawyers’ cases.

 Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez gave the opening statement on behalf of the Depp legal team. Throughout their statement they kept returning to the point that “no one had ever, in five decades, accused Johnny Depp of being violent with a woman,” as well as pointing out flaws in Heard’s story and alleged lies. 

Representing Heard was Benjamin Rottenborn and Elaine Bredehoft. In their opener they read out Heard’s op-ed, to show that despite the three quotes that Depp primarily based his case on, the whole article “is about the social change for which she is advocating.”

Every testimony has shed light on various aspects of Depp and Heard’s relationship. Psychologists have dissected the partnership, the couple’s staff have observed the alleged behavior changes, and friends have shared their perspectives. While all of these testimonies are extremely important, the direction of public support comes down to the couple’s testimonies. Depp and Heard’s testimonies are crucial because they describe not only an event or conversation itself, but their feelings and inner thoughts throughout. During a testimony, the witness answers questions from their own lawyers in a direct examination and the opposing lawyer in a cross-examination.

In the beginning of Heard’s testimony, you can see her strategy was garnering the jury’s sympathy. Heard rarely takes her eyes off the jurors, and the questions from her lawyers dealt with life before fame, her childhood in Texas, and her family. 

This line of questioning is different from the approach Depp’s team made during his testimony, which was to present the alleged truth, and stick with the facts of the case almost solely. Depp’s lawyers were attempting to win jury approval with logic instead of emotion. By using logic, Depp’s lawyers were able to cut through any part of Heard’s testimony, during the cross examination, that lacked factual evidence, and replaced it with evidence that contradicts her story.

During the duration of Depp’s four day testimony, many hard moments were recounted. One of these moments was played as a recording from inside a San Francisco hotel, where Heard had acquired a room in July 2016. The conversation between Depp and Heard commenced in close proximity, at Heard’s request, although she had filed a restraining order against him only 2 months prior. Confused and distraught by accusations of abusing Heard in the media, Depp was finished: “I was at the end, I wanted out,” he said during his testimony. He stated thinking, “I couldn’t understand why I was there, everything had been taken from me.” He had threatened to cut himself with a pocket knife, saying that the only thing that was left for her to take was his blood.

The relationship between the two didn’t start out in this way. One of the only things that was included in both Depp and Heard’s testimonies was their memories of the start. Depp stated that he thought “she was too good to be true,” and continued by naming all of her attributes that made her so unbelievable. 

Before the alleged abuse and trials he faced, Depp remembered being happy and perfectly in love. Depp explained, in his testimony, that “within a year, year and a half, she had become another person.” He claims that although he was accused, Heard is the true abuser in the relationship.

In being asked about an altercation, while in Australia, he alleged that “a very large bottle of vodka” thrown by Heard had severed the top of his middle finger. Many of their conversations were recorded and played to the court during the testimony. In one of the most famous clips from the trial, Depp answered a question about his response to Heard, in an audio file, “tell the world Johnny, tell them … I Johnny Depp, a man, I’m [also] a victim of domestic violence.” His response at the end of the audio file, and to the lawyer was, “yes, I am.” 

Heard’s testimony, unlike Depp’s, was cut short. Instead of the four days in a row Depp received, Heard was able to testify for only two days before the week-long hiatus. This very emotional testimony recounted the alleged physical pain she endured, and touched on the mental pain that was a constant struggle due to Depp’s drug and alcohol addiction. “I just wanted Johnny to say sorry, I wanted him to acknowledge that he could hurt me,” she testified. 

She recounted the first time he allegedly hit her, stating that she didn’t know how to react. She said she knew she needed to stand up for herself, although it was hard to do so. Throughout the first day of testimony she stated feelings of fear and embarrassment and said, “I had so much hope, growing old together kind of hope,” in reference to Depp before the alleged abuse.

The second day of testimony focused more on the emotional pain from addiction. “He was on a drug binge, no eating, little to no sleep, and he would just use cocaine and drink all day long. That would go for a period of time, then a major blow up, then he’d get sick, pass out, then feel really awful, and often, including this time, start a period of sobriety,” she alleged.

She recounted the struggles she felt, especially when she was around his kids, who she remembered feeling “in love with.” She also recalled his jealousy when it came to roles in shows or movies, stating she had to turn down many roles because they were too scandalous or raunchy, and even in the movies that were to his liking, she said that he would be jealous of the men and women around her. Oftentimes, many of the fights discussed on the stand allegedly started with Depp accusing Heard of cheating, flirting, or feeling aroused around co-stars. 

Along with Depp’s severe addiction, there were moments of sobriety that Heard talked about. She even stated that when he was sober “he came alive again,” along with his actions being kind and sweet, as opposed to violence. “Even though I had experience with drug use in my family I hadn’t seen anything like this,” stated Heard when asked about the period after Depp’s detox in 2014.

Throughout all his trials and tribulations, Heard said, “I did my best to support him.”  Whatever the outcome of the case is, many believe that both Depp and Heard experienced a lifetime of pain from the ordeal.

Due to this case being broadcasted, the world has been able to dissect and pull apart every part of the testimonies and questioning. The court of public opinion has favored Depp, with many saying that Heard is telling a story on the witness stand rather than just providing evidence. 

Although Heard has faced a fair amount of slander on the Internet, the majority has been directed at her legal team. Various online edits, taunts, and accusations of unprofessionalism have been planted across social media. A song has even been made making fun of the lawyer’s continuous use of the same word, “hearsay,” which has gained 2.3 million likes as of May 21 and has been used in over 3,000 other videos. 

Hearsay, meaning the report of another person’s words by a witness, is usually disallowed as evidence in a court of law. An objection of hearsay from Heard’s lawyers was so common that Depp could anticipate it frequently throughout his testimony. Heard’s lawyers objected on account of hearsay to the answers of questions they posed, and in predicting the content of Depp’s response.

TikTok has been a hub for updates and stories from the courtroom, and numerous influencers who have sided with Depp are using clips from the trial to expose and slander Heard. Depp’s supporters have been using #justiceforjohnnydepp on every clip, video, and breakdown of the case, as well as edits of Heard. The videos under the hashtag show the weight of his support, with over 14.3 billion views by May 21.

The case of Depp v. Heard, brought upon by an article, has uncovered so much more than most of the public anticipated. Both sides continue to try to prove who is the true victim and who is the abuser. The verdict of this case will determine much for the future of Depp and Heard. Many also believe that this case will forever change how people recognize the degrees and types of abuse, for instance mental abuse, which can go without external marks. Friday, May 27, will bring the closing statements and be handed over to the jury to deliberate, in hopes that the verdict will be announced by Memorial Day. 

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