Stakes excessive as Johnny Depp’s libel case in opposition to UK tabloid closes

London, July 28

Johnny Depp’s libel case in opposition to a British tabloid that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard wraps up Tuesday after three weeks of courtroom hearings that dissected a poisonous movie star love affair.

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star is suing News Group Newspapers, writer of The Sun, and the newspaper’s govt editor, Dan Wootton, on the High Court in London over an April 2018 article that known as him a “wife-beater”.

He strongly denies being violent to Heard and says her claims are a “hoax”. Depp’s lawyer David Sherborne is because of make his closing arguments that may final many of the day. Then choose Andrew Nicol will retire to sift declare and counterclaim as he considers his verdict. He is predicted at hand down his ruling in a number of weeks.

What is the choose deciding?

Neither Depp nor Heard is on trial, although it has been simple to overlook that in a case that raked over messy particulars of the couple’s unstable relationship.

Depp is the claimant within the civil case, NGN and Wootton are the defendants and Heard is their foremost witness. To defeat Depp’s libel declare, the newspaper should persuade the choose that, on the stability of possibilities, its story was correct.

NGN’s lawyer Sasha Wass mentioned in her summing-up that there was little question Depp “regularly and systematically abused his wife” and so the “wife-beater” label was correct.

What is in dispute?

The two sides agree that the connection between Depp and Heard, which started after they met on the set of 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary”, soured lengthy earlier than they divorced in 2017. Texts, emails and recordings attest to the more and more bitter relations between Depp, now 57, and the 34-year-old mannequin and actress.

But they disagree utterly over who began and escalated their fights.

Depp denies Heard’s declare of 14 separate incidents during which he allegedly hit, slapped and shoved her, pulled her hair and threw bottles at her “like grenades”. The choose was proven photographs of Heard with black eyes, purple marks on her face and an injured scalp — all proof of Depp’s violence, the defence mentioned.

Depp mentioned the photographs have been a part of a “dossier” of pretend proof and claimed that Heard hit him, even severing the tip of his finger throughout one fracas in Australia. Under cross-examination, Depp admitted headbutting Heard as soon as throughout a tussle however mentioned it was by chance as he tried to cease her punching him.

Heard acknowledged having a brief mood and mentioned she punched Depp as soon as in March 2015. But she mentioned it was to forestall him from hitting her sister.

What have we realized?

The trial has supplied an up-close and sometimes unflattering have a look at Hollywood stardom, revealing particulars of Depp’s lifetime of wealth, luxurious, emotional turmoil and substance abuse.

Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at legislation agency Howard Kennedy, mentioned the sensational case “has all of the hallmarks of the Roman arena”. “People will remember this case, not for the results, but for the evidence — the rather nasty, gory evidence — that was involved,” he mentioned.

The settings for the disintegrating relationship have been as glamorous because the allegations have been sordid. The alleged assaults happened on Depp’s personal island within the Bahamas, his suite of Los Angeles penthouses, a luxurious prepare and a non-public jet.

Depp mentioned within the witness field that he had made $650 million since he joined the profitable “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise — and ended up $100 million in debt after his monetary advisers uncared for to pay his taxes for 17 years. Friends described Depp as a beneficiant massive spender and he mentioned he’d spent $5 million sending the ashes of his literary hero, drug-fueled journalist Hunter S Thompson, into area.

Whichever partner was responsible, the connection left a path of destruction. Damage to a rented home in Australia the place the couple had an altercation was estimated at greater than $1,00,000. The couple’s downtown LA penthouse was trashed throughout one other argument.

The low level of the connection, in line with Depp, got here when an individual or animal defecated in a mattress on the penthouse. Heard blamed one of many couple’s two Yorkshire terriers however Depp suspected Heard or one among her mates was responsible.

Who are the winners and losers?

British libel legislation is broadly thought of to favour claimants over defendants however Depp may find yourself a loser even when he wins.

Depp mentioned he sued The Sun as a result of his profession had been harmed by Heard’s allegations. But the case has amplified the claims for tens of millions of individuals around the globe, regardless of the choose finally ends up deciding.

“It almost beggars belief that anyone rational has taken this case to court,” Stephens mentioned, including: “Now, I know that many people say it’s all about vindication. It’s all about proving he’s not a wife-beater. But the stakes are very, very high for everybody. And at some level, mud sticks.”

Heard additionally has had her character questioned and has been accused of fabricating proof. She was accused by a #MeToo activist, Katherine Kendall, of appropriating a violent rape that occurred to Kendall for her personal ends.

The most probably winners are Wass and Sherborne, powerful attorneys who each made sturdy instances for his or her purchasers. Sherborne additionally has a starring function within the 12 months’s different massive movie star trial in London — he’s representing the Duchess of Sussex in her lawsuit in opposition to the Mail on Sunday newspaper over publication of a non-public letter she despatched to her father Thomas Markle.

Will the decision be the top of the story?

Not seemingly. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in Virginia over a Washington Post story about home violence. The trial is because of be held subsequent 12 months. AP

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