Johnny Depp’s $69 million defamation trial against his ex-wife has begun, as Amber Heard’s lawyers made gruesome claims against him. WARNING: Graphic.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard agree on at least one thing — the Pirates of the Caribbean star’s reputation is in shambles.
But during opening arguments in their bombshell defamation trial Tuesday, Depp’s team claimed his ex-wife destroyed his life with “a lie,” while Heard’s defense said the actor’s downfall was self-inflicted.
“The evidence will show that Ms. Heard’s false allegations had a significant impact on Depp’s family and his ability to work in the profession he loved,” Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew said in the Fairfax, Virginia courtroom.
Heard’s lawyers, meanwhile, said they would show how Depp was an “obsessed ex-husband hellbent on revenge” who engaged in “crushing drug and alcohol abuse” and even called himself a “monster.”
“Make no mistake, Johnny Depp’s reputation is in tatters. His career is in a free fall,” defense lawyer Ben Rottenborn said in his opening. “But it’s because of problems that he created … It’s not Amber’s fault. It’s because of the choices he made.”
Depp, 58, is seeking $69 million in damages from his ex-wife, who he claims defamed him when she wrote in a 2018 Washing Post opinion piece that she was a victim of “sexual violence.”
While Depp wasn’t named in the op-ed, the actor claims it ruined his reputation and career after it was widely assumed Heard was writing about their five-year relationship.
His lawyer told the jurors they probably know Depp as a “respected artist whose name was associated with success at the box office, but: “Today his name is associated with a lie.”
“A false allegation can devastate a career and it can devastate a family,” Chew said.
Heard, 35, who wore a gray suit with a black shirt and her hair tied back, looked mostly stoic throughout the opening statement while Depp’s lawyers painted her as a lying and deceptive temptress, but at times appeared pained.
“The evidence will show that Ms. Heard used allegations against Mr. Depp to raise her own profile and advance her career,” one of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, told the court.
She claimed Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse were “designed to shock” “overwhelm” and “distract from the evidence” — and that the Aquaman actress wrote the op-ed in a bid to “manipulate” the #MeToo movement and advance her career.
Depp, who had walked into the courtroom with a big smile on his face, to gasps from onlookers, sat back in his chair looking sombre in an all black three-piece suit, white tie and white pocket square, as his attorneys spoke.
He smirked or cringed during the opening statement from Heard’s legal team — who did not shy away from detailing his claims of violence and abuse.
Heard’s lawyers alleged Depp ripped off her clothes, hurled bottles at her, dragged her across the floor over broken glass, punched her, threatened to kill her, said he “f***ing hates her” and “penetrated her with a liquor bottle ,” during their infamous stint in Australia in 2016.
More than a dozen fans—some from as far as Portugal and London—lined up outside the courthouse before sunrise, including several who camped out overnight, in order to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood stars.
In the courtroom, some cried during the opening testimony from his lawyers.
Judge Penney Azcarate has already banned the A-list litigants from signing autographs or posing for pictures in or outside the courthouse in a bid to prevent the case from turning into a media circus.
Heard’s lawyers sought to have the case tried in California, where both actors live, but a judge ruled Depp was within his rights to bring the suit in Virginia because The Washington Post‘s computer servers for its online edition are located in Fairfax County.
On Tuesday, Heard’s team argued that freedom of speech “is the central issue in this case.”
“Of those words that Amber wrote: are those protected by the First Amendment? And the answer is very clearly yes,” Rottenborn said.
Depp’s lawyers acknowledged the actor’s “real struggle” with substance abuse, including during his five-year relationship with Heard. But they said that while Depp is “not a perfect person,” he “does not abuse women.”
“You’ll learn that Johnny Depp is a kind soul who would never raise a hand on a woman,” Vasquez said.
She also claimed to the jurors that Heard would use her skills as an actress to try to manipulate them.
“She has been living and breathing this lie for years now, and she has been preparing to give the performance of her life in this trial,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez detailed how they met in 2009 on the set of the film The Rum Diary, in which Heard “pursued him” and went to “great lengths to win him over.”
“It worked. He fell head over heels in love with her,” Vasquez said, before claiming Heard soon became “violent.”
“She would resort to physical violence, throwing things at him, hitting him, she would tell him he was a coward, he wasn’t man enough because he wouldn’t stay and fight with her.”
At times, Depp combed his long hair with his hands, swirled in his flesh and touched his face. He patted and rubbed his lawyer’s shoulder after the opening statement. On break, his 50-plus fans in court tried to rush toward him.
The trial is expected to last more than a month and include testimony from both Heard and Depp and a string of other high-profile names, including Elon Musk and James Franco.
Depp’s sister is expected to be called as the first witness Tuesday, local time.
This story originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission