When Johnny Depp first sued The Sun newspaper in the UK for calling him a “wife beater,” I was just as engrossed in the outcome of that of that trial as I was when he sued Amber Heard in the United States for defamation. I believed then, as I believe now, that Johnny Depp is innocent of the allegations against him. Not only did I believe him not to be a “wife beater,” I believed he was also a victim of serious physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his then wife — Amber Heard.
Many folks in the media and anyone anti-Depp likes to use the UK verdict to measure Johnny Depp’s innocence or guilt. In fact, many will argue that the standard for winning in the UK is even more difficult, as the burden is on the newspaper to prove the truth of what they printed as opposed to the burden being on Johnny Depp to prove that it is false. What these people don’t understand; however, is something very important — the law.
For starters, the UK involved different parties. Johnny Depp sued a newspaper, not Amber Heard. For Johnny Depp to win the case in the UK he would have to prove that The Sun had absolutely no reason to believe the truth of what they printed. All they needed to prevail was for Heard to testify as the source. “You see,” they would say, “the accuser herself has testified to the violence. It’s not up to us to strap her to a lie detector.” Simply put, all the The Sun had to prove is that they didn’t pull it out of thin air. It’s a much easier for The Sun than many suspect.
In the United States, there’s one thing we know for certain about suing a celebrity for defamation — it is hard as hell to win. Because Depp is a “public figure,” he must not only prove that Heard’s allegations are false, but that she had “actual malice” when she said it. That means at the time she wrote and published the now infamous Op-Ed in the Washington Post stating, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” she knew it was a lie. And after weeks of grueling testimony in a Virginia court, the jury decided that Amber Heard not only lied — she did so with purpose (or malice).
Many in the media have used this case to support their own personal agenda. Anti #MeToo republicans such as Megyn Kelly seem to have found some perverse joy in a woman being exposed for her lies, as if it’s some larger knock at a liberal agenda. Some major media outlets, on the other hand, are so unbearably biased that they printed thought pieces begging us to continue to “believe all women” rather than review the evidence at hand.
The New York Times, for example, called the trial a “sad spectacle” that “rested less on facts than on sympathies.” They also claimed that Depp was at a distinct advantage because “he’s a more familiar performer, a bigger star who has dwelled for much longer in the glow of public approbation.” And in the most heinous of statements (shame on you, NYT) they surmised that “the audience was primed to accept him as flawed, vulnerable, human, and to view her as monstrous…because he’s a man.”
I need not explain that Johnny Depp’s gender has done nothing but work against him since Heard first accused him of violence. Heard was immediately believed before anyone even looked at the evidence, and Depp was swiftly dropped from nearly every movie, including the very lucrative Pirates franchise, with little to no recourse. In the eyes of the public, the media, and perhaps some in his close orbit, he was a villainous monster who sexually assaulted and beat his wife. He was unemployable. And to make matters worse, he was the real victim who was simultaneously suffering the residual trauma of domestic violence at the hands of his wife. The idea that his gender worked to his benefit is therefore laughable.
Vogue published an article entitled, “Why It’s Time to Believe Amber Heard,” in which its author stated, “Though I’ve felt myself veering toward it, I can no longer ‘both sides’ this. It’s time to draw a line. It’s time to believe women—all women. It’s time to believe Heard.” Again, a blanket declaration based on gender…not evidence. The idea that we should automatically believe an accuser whose claims can destroy lives is a precedent I do not care to set. I’m a lawyer, and I believe in evidence. To quote Johnny Depp himself, I hope that “the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media.”
Even Monica Lewinsky got involved in an article for Vanity Fair, in which she deemed the trial a “celebrity circus” and challenged us to be far less cruel to Amber Heard, given Monica’s own unfair experience with the media. Lewinsky also admitted to not having watched the trial in full. Personally, I’d advise Lewinsky to no longer write articles on legal trials if she hasn’t watched said legal trials. Furthermore, I’d challenge her to explain to me how we’re supposed to talk about Amber Heard, if not with cruelty? If she were a man who beat up his wife over and over again, would she still encourage us to treat him with a little more kindness? No one treated Chris Brown with kindness after he assaulted Rihanna.
Heard herself tried to capitalize on the culture after her loss, stating that “It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.” This is an interesting sentiment, because it ignores violence against men. Should that be taken seriously? She also stated that she believes “Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech.” This argument also fails on its face, as Freedom of Speech comes with restrictions. Even those of us who did not go to law school know that you cannot scream fire in a crowded theater, nor can you defame people. Lies that destroy one’s reputation are not “protected” speech. Also, Amber Heard is a hypocrite. When Johnny Depp’s very close friend, Doug Stanhope, wrote an article in defense of Depp on the heels of Heard’s initial allegations, she sued him for defamation. So what about Doug’s Freedom of Speech, Amber?
It would be easy to chalk up Johnny Depp’s relationship with Amber Heard to mutual toxicity as so many in the media have. It would be easy to say they “both beat each other up” and to diminish the trial as a circus. No one wants to believe that a woman lied about domestic violence and sexual assault for revenge. No one wants to listen to the tapes of Amber Heard admitting to beating up her husband. No one wants to look at the photos of Johnny Depp with a black eye and a severed finger and believe that his wife attacked him. No one wants to believe that a human being would set out to obliterate another person’s reputation, on top of having already physically abused them. Who could possibly be that evil?
This case was not a spectacle, a circus, or a voyeur’s delight. It was a man fighting for his life back with a supervised trial as his last available option. Unless the public saw the evidence with their own eyes and listened to Amber Heard’s testimony with their own ears, Johnny Depp would be forever, unjustly tarnished.
I would encourage the media and the public at large to either watch every minute of the trial or not comment on it. These jurors devoted a lot of time and energy to this case, and they determined that Amber Heard lied on the stand. Almost every incident of violence alleged by Amber Heard had witnesses present, and every single witness contradicted her testimony. Furthermore, there are a plethora of pictures after each alleged incident of violence that directly impeach her testimony. The only person with visible injuries and hospital records is Johnny Depp. Lastly, I watched Amber Heard testify on the stand and she was not a credible witness. I understand that not all victims of domestic violence will behave the way we think they should behave, but I also understand what a liar looks like — and I believe Amber Heard is a liar.
For more on the trial, listen to my podcast below.