Shortly before Johnny Depp and Amber Heards The jury began deliberating, both attorneys presenting wildly different legal views as to whether the First Amendment protected their client’s alleged defamation.
On Heard’s side, attorney Benjamin Rottenborn argued that a jury doesn’t even have to decide who they think tossed Depp’s suit over them Washington Post Comment posted December 18, 2018. The editorial didn’t mention Depp’s name, but noted that she “became a public figure representing domestic violence” two years earlier.
Believe it or not, said Rottenborn, that’s true.
“This trial is about so much more than Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard. It’s about freedom of expression,” said Rottenborn. “Face it. Protect it and dismiss Mr. Depp’s allegations against Amber.”
Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez balked at this argument.
“They spoke about the importance of free speech,” Vasquez said, noting that she agrees.
“The First Amendment doesn’t protect lies that hurt and defame people, and that’s a difference,” she added. “MS. Heard has no right to tell the world that Mr. Depp physically or sexually assaulted her when it’s not true.”
Heard’s domestic violence claims against Depp span from early 2013 to May 2016, the length of their 15-month marriage and earlier in their courtship.
A British court hearing the case broken down Heard’s allegations into 14 alleged incidents and credited a dozen of them.
For Heard’s theory of the case, Heard does not have to prove any of them, and it prevails even if it proves only one. Rottenborn took the further maximal view that any verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of its client could be an agent of domestic violence.
Vasquez took a diametrically opposed view.
“Either you believe everything, or you believe none of it. She’s either telling the truth, even in her most extreme allegations, or she’s lying,” the attorney said.
In both of Vasquez’ summation speeches, she identified this “extreme” claim as the former couple’s March 2015 fight in Queensland, Australia. At that point, Heard claimed that Depp sexually assaulted her with a whiskey bottle. Depp vehemently denies that, claiming Heard was the one who attacked him with a liquor bottle – vodka.
Depp testified that Heard threw it at him and that it shattered and cut off the tip of his finger.
For Vasquez, the jury’s verdict on Heard boils down to a simple assertion.
“Either she was raped with a bottle, or she’s the kind of person that would take the stand in this courtroom and lie to you and the world about being raped,” Vasquez said.
To make the question clearer, the lawyer added: “What you have in the end is Ms Heard’s word. Do you trust it?
Heard wrote her op-ed in her capacity as a women’s rights ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped write her editorial during the height of the #MeToo movement. The ACLU has been criticized for its role in the case, given its historic role in protecting the defendant’s due process rights.
For Rottenborn, civil liberties values and Heard’s concerns were one and the same.
“We ask that you, ladies and gentlemen, hold Mr. Depp accountable for his actions,” he said. “Stand up for victims of domestic violence everywhere who are suffering silence. Stand up for the freedom of speech, the freedom to talk about your life, that the First Amendment protects. Give Amber Heard her vote back. Give Amber Heard her life back.”
Vasquez began the closing arguments on the same note as Depp sought his life back, six years before the day Heard sought a restraining order against him. She said there were “no #MeToo-s.” dork v. Heard. “Just ‘not me,'” she added.
The jury began its deliberations just before 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Read Law&Crime’s coverage of Johnny Depp’s attorneys’ closing arguments here: “‘What is at stake in this trial is a man’s good name’: Attorney urges jury to believe Johnny Depp and give him ‘his life back ‘ admit”
Read Law&Crime’s coverage of Amber Heard’s attorneys’ closing arguments here: “Amber Heard’s attorney called Johnny Depp’s lawsuit ‘victim allegations at their most disgusting’ and told the Op-Ed jury that it was not a ‘hit piece.’ “
(Photo by STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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