When he first laid eyes on Amber Heard (as Chenault) in “The Rum Diary,” Johnny Depp (as Paul Kemp) asked himself, “Oh God, why did she have to happen, just when I was doing so good without her?” Later in the film, he tells his sidekick, “From the moment we met, I knew there was going to be something between us… I’m so hopelessly in love.”
Just as he sensed Chenault was trouble, Depp sensed Heard was trouble. But he was drawn to her like a moth to a flame because he had stepped into the shoes of his dear friend, Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote the story, and Depp was seeing Heard as Hunter’s ideal woman, not as the abusive opportunist she turned out to be in real life.
The seemingly endless defamation trial of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard, that began on April 11, 2022, in Fairfax County, Virginia, has now ended. The jury found that, in her Washington Post op-ed, Heard defamed him in three separate statements. They award him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages (later, punitive damages were capped at $350,000 because of Virginia law).
The jury found that Depp’s previous attorney, Adam Waldman, defamed her in one statement, and awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages and no money for punitive damages.
WHY DID THE JURY BELIEVE DEPP AND NOT HEARD?
Here are 7 reasons why the jury didn’t believe Heard:
1) Her stories were inconsistent from one day to the next and many didn’t make sense. For example, the two women on the jury surely knew that any woman who claims to have had a “cavity search” and to have been raped by a liquor bottle, would have gone to the Emergency Room immediately, or at least would have gone to an ob-gyn doctor the next day to check for injury.
2) There were witnesses who refuted many of her allegations, such as Morgan Night, the manager of the Hicksville Trailer Palace who testified Depp wasn’t abusive to her and didn’t destroy their trailer; Morgan Tremaine, the former TMZ employee who testified “someone” tipped them off to Heard being at the courthouse to file a temporary restraining order and “someone” sent in the video of Depp smashing pots in a kitchen – like the one Heard showed at trial. Kate Moss, who testified that Depp didn’t throw her down the stairs — and others.
3) The jury also didn’t believe her because Depp’s expert psychologist diagnosed her with Borderline Personality Disorder and said that Heard was feigning or malingering on psychological tests.
4) Her body language indicated she was lying – from the way she kept twisting herself to stare at the jury imploringly while overacting, to the bottom of her face grimacing while her forehead was blank, to her straining to create tears after social media pointed out that she wasn’t crying.
5) There’s a wise adage: people need to like you before they’ll buy from you. So, whether you’re selling books, t-shirts, real estate – or a story that you’re the victim of domestic violence, people won’t “buy” it unless you’re likeable. Heard was not likeable.
6) Only one witness testified that they saw Depp be physically abusive to Heard. This was her sister, Whitney, who would have many reasons to lie for Heard.
7) In comparison to Depp, who bared his soul and testified about the most intimate, embarrassing truths of his life – from childhood to the present – Heard’s testimony seemed that much more contrived.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DEPP, HEARD, #METOO?
My “prescription” for Johnny Depp:
In his post-verdict statement, Depp said, “From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.” And before the ink had dried on the verdict form, he returned to his original dream — playing music.
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Depp needs to take this second chance at life to deal with his demons – the abusive childhood that drove him to escape into his mother’s “nerve pills” and then other drugs and alcohol.
He needs to give himself the gift of spending at least three months at a residential rehab treatment center, and then continue intensive out-patient psychotherapy, as well as continued treatment for substance abuse. His talent as an actor and musician is indisputable, so after his soul-baring testimony, Hollywood will come calling again. But he needs to be at his best to make use of the new opportunities.
My “prescription” for Amber Heard:
Many have called Heard a “gold-digger.” In fact, she – and her friends and family – certainly did take advantage of Depp’s generosity – from parties to penthouses and VIP goodies to vacation getaways. But what Heard really set her sights on was Depp’s superstar status. She’d hoped that being on his arm at Hollywood galas and red carpets, as his girlfriend and then wife, would rocket her career from an unknown actress to an A-list star, herself.
As Depp revealed in his testimony, much to her consternation, he did help her get and keep her part in “Aquaman”, when there were murmurings about recasting her because of lack of chemistry with her co-star.
Ironically, it was her continued desire to remind the public of her former connection to Depp, to bring attention to the release of “Aquaman”, which motivated her to write the infamous op-ed that just cost her millions of dollars and a future in Hollywood. Poetic justice.
Her preening and lying on the stand will also cost her in the love department, since potential future partners have now seen what they would be in for if they developed a relationship.
I recommend that Heard not spend more money (that she apparently doesn’t have) to try to appeal the verdict. Her attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, has already come off as a sore loser, complaining that the judge allegedly suppressed some evidence and the jury allegedly allowed social media to influence them. Instead, Heard should retreat to her home in the desert, devote herself to taking care of her little girl, mend fences with her friends and get back into psychotherapy. She needs to wait, until the nightmare of a trial is only a vague memory in Hollywood’s collective unconscious, before she tries to audition again.
#MeToo, #HeToo and the First Amendment
This benchmark case will likely turn the tide and create a balance between the #MeToo and #HeToo movements. Instead of everyone believing a woman just because she’s a woman, there is now realization that men are victims of abuse, too.
Hopefully, more men will come forward after seeing how doing so didn’t make Depp look weak, but rather showed how courageous and strong he is.
As for the First Amendment, which Heard’s legal team brought forth in their Closing Argument, as a kind of “Hail Mary” to get the jury to consider something bigger than the weak case they put on, it does not apply.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, except for situations such as: incitement, fraud, obscenity, child pornography, fighting words, threats or defamation. So, just like you can’t yell, “fire,” in a crowded theater, you can’t yell “abuser!” when you have malice or reckless disregard for the truth.
Carole Lieberman, M.D., M.P.H., is a Board Certified Beverly Hills Forensic Psychiatrist/Expert Witness who has worked on hundreds of criminal (and civil) cases. She’s a bestselling/award-winning author and her upcoming book, Murder By TV: A Descent Into Madness, is the story of the Jenny Jones Talk Show Murder for which she was the defense psychiatrist. Dr. Lieberman is an Emmy-honored News-Talk commentator. She’s appeared on Oprah, Today, Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, HLN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Court TV, Law and Crime and many more. She was trained in Forensic Psychiatry at NYU-Bellevue. (www.expertwitnessforensicpsychiatrist.com)
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