Closing arguments in the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard $50 million defamation case wrapped up on Friday as the six-week trial comes to a close in Fairfax County.
Depp’s lawyers asked a jury Friday "to give Mr. Depp his life back" by finding that ex-wife Heard committed libel.
"This case for Mr. Depp has never been about money," said Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew. "It is about Mr. Depp’s reputation and freeing him from the prison in which he has lived for the last six years."
Heard’s lawyer, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, said the lawsuit is not about Depp’s reputation but is part of an ongoing smear campaign Depp launched after Heard filed for divorce.
"In Mr. Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr. Depp," he said. "If you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you."
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia over a 2018 op-ed she wrote identifying herself as a victim of domestic abuse, which he says ruined his reputation and career.
In a $100-million countersuit, Heard alleges that her ex-husband conspired with his former attorney to defame her by calling her abuse allegations a hoax.
Though the counterclaim has received less attention at the trial, Heard lawyer Elaine Bredehoft said it provides an avenue for the jury to compensate Heard for the abuse Depp has inflicted on her by orchestrating a smear campaign against her.
"We’re asking you to finally hold this man responsible," she told the jury. "He has never accepted responsibility for anything in his life."
Depp says he never struck Heard and that she concocted the abuse allegations to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings. He has said he was often physically attacked by Heard.
"There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp," Vasquez said.
Heard testified about more than a dozen episodes of physical and sexual assault that she said Depp inflicted on her.
Vasquez, in her closing, noted that Heard had to revise her testimony about the first time she said she was struck. Heard said Depp hit her after she inadvertently laughed at one of his tattoos. Heard initially said it happened in 2013 — after a fairy-tale year of courtship and romance — but later corrected herself to say it happened in 2012, very early in their relationship.
"Now in this courtroom she has suddenly erased an entire year of magic," Vasquez said.
Jurors have seen multiple photos of Heard with marks and bruises on her face, but some photos show only mild redness, and others show more severe bruising.
Vasquez accused Heard of doctoring the photos and said evidence that Heard has embellished some of her injuries is proof that all her claims of abuse are unfounded.
"You either believe all of it, or none of it," she said. "Either she is a victim of ugly, horrible abuse, or she is a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything."
In Heard’s closing, Rottenborn said the nitpicking over Heard’s evidence of abuse ignores the fact there’s overwhelming evidence on her behalf and sends a dangerous message to domestic-violence victims.
"If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen," Rottenborn said. "If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, they’re lying. If you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax."
Rottenborn told jurors that even if they tend to believe Depp’s claim that he never abused Heard, he still can’t win his case because Heard has a First Amendment right to weigh in on matters of public debate.
The jury began deliberations in the case around 3 p.m. Friday, but after two hours of deliberating, no verdict was returned. The jury will next return to the court for deliberations Tuesday at 9 a.m., as they have off over the weekend and on Memorial Day.
Heard took the stand again on Thursday as the final witness, telling jurors that a harassment campaign waged against her by her ex-husband has left her humiliated and scared for her life from multiple death threats, and said she just wants "Johnny to leave me alone."
British supermodel Kate Moss, the ex-girlfriend of Johnny Depp, testified Wednesday and addressed the infamous staircase rumor that claimed Depp pushed her down a flight of stairs during an incident while the two were dating.
"No. He never pushed me, kicked me or threw me down any stairs," Moss answered when asked if Depp was responsible for the incident.
Depp also took the stand on Wednesday for the second time, calling Heard’s accusations of sexual and physical abuse "insane."
"Ridiculous, humiliating, ludicrous, painful, savage, unbelievably brutal, cruel, and all false," Depp said when asked about his reaction to hearing Heard’s allegations when she testified earlier in the trial.
The final week of the trial began with a hand surgeon's testimony that Depp could not have lost the tip of his middle finger the way he told jurors it happened. Surgeon Richard Moore testified about the severed finger as jurors saw gruesome photos of the injury.
Also on Monday, a psychiatrist testified that Depp's behavior fits the pattern of a person whose drug and alcohol abuse contributes to domestic violence.
Once the jury begins deliberating, a verdict could come as early as Friday afternoon, but deliberations are expected to go into next week. The jury will not deliberate over the holiday weekend.
When the jury deliberates, it will have to focus not only on whether there was abuse but also whether Heard’s op-ed piece can be considered legally defamatory.