Our take: No one wins In Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp

The US defamation lawsuit between actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Aquaman actress Amber Heard, has been nothing short of sordid, with mutual gory accounts of domestic abuse. And now there’s a verdict. 

The six-week trial ended yesterday with a jury of five men and two women finding both had defamed each other, but effectively weighing more strongly with Depp. He celebrated the win while Heard expressed her intense disappointment

The entire case rested over a line in an oped by Heard, published in the Washington Post in 2018. She said: “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.”

Depp sued for defamation for implying he was a domestic abuser, even though he was not named, and sought $50 million in damages. Heard countersued, asking for $100 million.

It’s worth noting that Depp lost a libel case against The Sun tabloid in the UK in 2020 for calling him a “wife beater” – harsher words, and in a country where freedom of speech isn’t as protected as in the US. One media lawyer noted the jury system probably played a role in Depp’s victory. 

The case dominated social media, with TikTok supercuts of the trial mocking Heard. It also exposed a deeply troubling relationship, with horrific episodes involving faeces, chopped off finger tips and words written in blood. 😳

It’s important to note that Heard may well have been abusive to Depp and previous partners, and that Depp also shares a history of violent incidents for which he usually settled out of court. It’s difficult to know the truth in the he-said, she-said account of the events. 

What we do know is that it was deeply unsettling to watch the vitriolic cyber attacks on Heard by Depp supporters. As one commentator wrote: “While the throngs of Depp fans may believe that they’ve picked the right side in this trial, they are also enabling damaging stereotypes about survivors. The public humiliation of Heard will only make victims more afraid to come forward. No matter who ‘wins’ this lawsuit, it feels as if we have all already lost.”

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