Johnny Depp libel trial: Amber Heard is a ‘compulsive liar’ and an ‘unreliable witness’, court hears
On the final day of Johnny Depp’s libel trial, the High Court hears closing arguments from the actor’s lawyers.
Amber Heard is a “compulsive liar” and a “wholly unreliable witness” who has changed her story and swapped key dates in a bid to manipulate the case, Johnny Depp’s lawyers have argued at the High Court.
In the final day of speeches and submissions, Depp’s barrister David Sherborne told the court that Heard’s “lack of” credibility was key to the case, drawing on several examples – including the unexpected introduction of Kate Moss into the case.
Towards the end of the day, while court was still in session, Heard gave an impromptu speech outside the High Court, saying she just “wanted to move on with my life”.
She was standing with a group of her supporters, including her sister Whitney, girlfriend Bianca Butti and lawyer Jennifer Robinson.
Heard told the crowd of photographers, press members and onlookers that it had been “incredibly painful” to relive her breakup with Depp, along with the “traumatic and intimate details” of her life being “broadcast to the entire world”.
She also thanked her legal team, police and the “outpouring” of support she had received around the world.
Depp, 57, is suing the The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which labelled him a “wife beater”.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean star strenuously denies all allegations of violence.
NGN’s legal team made their final speeches and submissions on Monday, with Heard’s defence team concluding that there was “a wealth of evidence” to support the 34-year-old’s claims.
However, Depp’s defence team suggested there were numerous examples which implied doubt around Heard’s evidence.
Mr Sherborne described Heard’s revelation that Depp previously pushed British supermodel Moss down the stairs as an act of “unscripted malevolence”.
Moss dated Depp for four years in the 1990s.
Last week, when Heard was in the witness box, she said that during an alleged incident in March 2015, which took place on a staircase, she rushed to her sister’s aid after she remembered “information” about Depp and Moss.
She told the court she “did strike Johnny that day in defence of my sister”, but said it was because “he was about to push her down the stairs and, the moment before that happened, I remembered information I had heard [that] he pushed a former girlfriend – I believe it was Kate Moss – down the stairs”.
Heard added: “I had heard this rumour from two people and it was fresh in my mind.”
Mr Sherborne said this new information was “invented” and “blatantly made up”, and also questioned why Heard did not give details of this allegation in any of her previous statements.
“The unchallenged fact,” he said, whatever Heard’s claims, is that “Mr Depp has never hit another woman in his life”.
A second example he used to demonstrate Heard’s “unreliability” was the Boston Plane incident – an allegation of violence in 2014.
He said Heard “could not resist” an attack on Depp by saying he attacked a flight attendant, despite never previously referring to this in her witness statements.
The topic of shifting dates has been brought up throughout the case, with both Heard and her sister Whitney, who also gave evidence, both shifting the dates of the so-called “Disco Bloodbath” incident.
This was an alleged incident which is said to have occurred after a dispute over a painting by Heard’s ex-partner Tasya van Ree.
Heard has said during this fight Depp hit her “so hard that blood from her lip ended up on the wall.”
Heard first said this alleged incident happened on 8 March 2015, but later said it took place on 22 March of the same year. Her sister also altered her statement to reflect the date change.
At the time, Depp was filming a documentary on The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, and the court was shown a photo with Depp, Heard, Whitney and Richards, which may have been taken the next day.
In his final arguments, Mr Sherborne also reiterated why it was that Depp had put himself through this “painful, public” process.
He reminded the court that on 27 April 2018, The Sun published an article with the headline: “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
The column was written by executive editor Dan Wootton. Mr Sherborne made the comment that the showbiz journalist’s name had been as “absent from these proceedings as Mr Wootton himself”.
Employing court terminology, Mr Sherborne also said that in publishing the offending article, The Sun acted “as both judge and jury”, despite “no charge” being brought against Depp.
The court was also reminded of evidence of Heard’s alleged violence towards Depp, which the actor’s team said was “highly relevant”.
The court was played two audio recordings, which they said showed Heard’s propensity for violence, one in which she could be heard calling Depp a “f***ing baby” and another in which the actor says she “haymakered” him (an American phrase for punching wildly).
The trial was again read part of a statement from Bahamas estate manager Tara Roberts, who said: “I observed in December 2015 to my colleagues that Amber was a ‘thrower’, someone who threw projectiles.”
She described Depp as an “unusually kind man” and said she had never seen him be “violent or aggressive” with Heard, or anyone else.
Ms Roberts statement went on: “She was insulting him, calling him names, and in the middle of this onslaught I heard her say specifically ‘your career is over’, ‘no one is going to hire you’, ‘you’re washed up’, ‘fat’, ‘you will die a lonely man’, and also screaming things that were incomprehensible.”
Ms Roberts said that during “this entire incident, I never saw Johnny hit Amber, or push her back, nor did he physically react to the attacks. She would calm down and hug and apologise. Then he would say he needs to leave and it would start again”.
An extended video clip was played showing Depp banging cupboards (a shorter clip had previously been shown to the court several times).
In reference to this Mr Sherborne joked that the trial should have been about “Johnny Depp the kitchen cupboard beater rather than wife beater”.
There has also been much mention of the phrase “the monster” in court, which was noted by Depp’s team in their conclusions today.
Heard’s team allege the term was the name she gave to Depp when he committed acts of violence, while Depp’s team say it was a description he used “to placate” Heard and something she subsequently “became obsessed with”.
In his summing up, Mr Sherborne said the monster was being used to “bridge the gap” because of “lack of evidence in this case”.
As this is a civil claim, the burden of proof lies with the defendant (NGN). This means the publisher needs to prove on the balance of probabilities that Depp is a “wife beater”.
For clarity, this means the judge must be persuaded that it’s more likely than not that Depp committed at least one act of domestic violence (from the 14 allegations The Sun is relying on in court) to rule in the paper’s favour.
All bar one of the 14 acts of physical violence Depp is accused of rely entirely on Heard’s account, Mr Sherborne said.
The so-called “staircase incident” (mentioned above, in relation to Kate Moss) is the only allegation which claims to have a witness to violence between the couple, in the form of Heard’s younger sister, Whitney Henriquez.
Depp’s team have said that due to “the seriousness of the allegations published” they are seeking “a very substantial award”.
Despite a top limit for damages of around £325,000 ($418,000), the actor’s team are seeking additional “aggravated damages” which they say have “impacted on the claimant’s distress”.
These include Mr Wootton not personally giving evidence; The Sun not contacting Depp to offer right of reply and the fact that the article is still available to view on the paper’s website.
Today was the final day of the hearing, with a ruling due to be handed down by the judge in due course.
However, the outcome is unlikely to be swift, and with the High Court summer recess planned for August and September, we could be waiting several months.
In fact, many are seeing this case as merely a dress rehearsal for a separate and ongoing case in America.
While this case was between Depp and The Sun’s publishers, the actor is personally suing Heard for libel in the US over an opinion piece she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018.
The op-ed – which did not specifically mention Depp – was about being a public survivor of abuse and Heard said she had received “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.
That case is due to be heard in Virginia next year.