Depp Trial Closing Arguments: If They Abused Each Other, Amber Wins

Each ex accused the other of ruining their life through lies and abuse and now a jury can try to make heads or tails of it

After six weeks of tears, laughter and, most of all, memories, the $50 million defamation trial brought against Amber Heard by ex-husband Johnny Depp in Fairfax County, Virginia over a Washington Post op-ed in which she called herself an abuse survivor, had its last gasp Friday as lawyers for the disastrous duo made their closing arguments.

Depp’s counsel, Camille Vasquez—the trial’s most persistent and aggressive interlocutor—got the morning rolling. Perhaps hoping to reflect her client’s assumed innocence in the mess of a marriage, Vasquez eschewed her usual suit for a summery white dress as she recounted her own greatest hits from the legal saga.

Heard, as Vasquez painted her, was as an unrepentant liar who could not be trusted, someone who would say anything to get her way, and an actress who had given “the performance of her life” on the stand and by representing herself as a “heroic survivor” of domestic abuse.

Heard “ruined [Depp’s] life” by telling the world she was a survivor of domestic abuse, Vasquez said. She asked the jury to “give him his life back.”

“What is at stake in this trial is a man’s good name,” she said. “There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp. Ms. Heard is the abuser, and Mr. Depp, the abused.”

Not only was Heard an abuser and a “deeply troubled person,” according to Vasquez, but also a liar.

“Lies. That is Ms. Heard’s narrative,” Vasquez said. “Lies upon lies.” Later in her argument, she elaborated, “Either she’s a victim of truly horrific abuse, or she’s a woman willing to say absolutely anything.”

Ben Chew, also from Depp’s counsel, discussed everything from Depp’s hardscrabble beginnings in a household with an abusive mother to cancel culture to the #MeToo movement, arguing that no other woman had ever come forward to accuse Depp of abuse. “This is Me Too without the Me Too.”

Chew accused Heard of ruining Depp’s career. Depp wasn’t “cancelled” because he could be unprofessional and was often late to set, according to Chew. “He was cancelled because of Ms. Heard accused him of sexual violence in the Washington Post.”

Although Heard didn’t name him, Chew said, “The op-ed is obviously about Mr. Depp.”

Chew told the jury that they would be asked to state the amount of damages “that Johnny Depp is entitled” and that “it is entirely within your discretion to quantify the amount of money.”

The case was ultimately about “restoring [Depp’s] lost reputation,” Chew said. “Only you can do this for him. The truth is worth fighting for. It is.”

Heard’s counsel argued in support of her $100 million counter-suit against Depp, which centers around a series of statements in which Depp’s then-lawyer, Adam Waldman, accused Heard of perpetuating an “abuse hoax.”

“Think about the message [Depp] and his attorney are sending to every victim of abuse everywhere,” began Heard lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn. “If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures, they’re fake.”

Rottenborn encouraged the jury to read the op-ed again. “The words that she wrote here… those words are true. And statements have to be false in order for Depp to win.”

Abuse had to occur on just a single occasion for Heard to win the case, Rottenborn said. “If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even one time, then she wins,” he explained. “And we’re not just talking about physical abuse. We’re talking about emotional abuse. Psychological abuse. Financial abuse.”

It didn’t matter if the jury believed that Heard had also hit Depp, he continued. “If you think they were both abusive to each other, then Amber wins.”

“One time,” he said later in his argument. “That’s all it takes.”

Heard had spent six million dollars on legal fees for this case, her lawyer Elaine Bredehoft noted. “We want to leave Amber alone and let her get on with her life and raise her child,” she said.  Although the counter-suit was for $100 million, she added, that monetary amount wasn’t necessarily expected. Instead, “We ask that you fully and fairly compensate Amber for everything she’s been through.”

Seven jurors will render two verdicts, one for Depp’s lawsuit, one for Heard’s counter-claim. The names of the jurors will be sealed for a year because of the high-profile nature of the case. The verdicts, said Judge Penney Azcarate, must be unanimous.

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