‘Depp V Heard’ Explained: Why Did Amber Heard Lose The Case Against Johnny Depp?


Depp V Heard became a trending topic of debate all over the media and internet once the Pirates of the Caribbean actor filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. The case reminds us of the infamous trial, K.M. Nanavati vs. the State of Maharashtra, after which the jury system came to an end in India. Just like in Johnny Depp’s case, there was a lot of media coverage, which somewhere had an impact on the final judgment, and even before Nanavati stepped inside the court, the nation had already given their decision, and they saw him as a national hero. So, let’s find out what the Netflix documentary, Depp V Heard, has to offer and if it is able to take an unprejudiced look at the scheme of things.

What Allegations Did Heard And Depp Make Against Each Other?

In 2018, Amber Heard gave an interview to the Washington Post, and there she stated how she had been a victim of domestic abuse, but she did not mention Johnny Depp’s name in it. But obviously, everybody knew that she had been married to the famous actor, how tumultuous their relationship had been, and how she had in the past approached the court and asked for a restraining order against Mr. Depp during the time she was filing for her divorce. Johnny Depp filed a defamation lawsuit and asked for 50 million dollars as damages in the trial that was held in Fairfax County, Virginia.

After the explosive opening statements from the lawyers of both teams, the trial commenced, and one after the other, intimate details that the people should never have known were brought to light. It made everybody very uncomfortable, but it seemed like Johnny Depp wanted to prove a point as he had explicitly asked for an open court hearing contrary to what Amber’s lawyers wanted. They both had done things that nobody expected any sane person to do, and it made you realize how botched up they were in their heads and how much they were in need of therapy. The first allegation that was brought from Heard’s side was that once she had asked Johnny about the tattoo he had of his ex-girlfriend, Winona Ryder, and instead of replying to her in a civil manner, something irked him, and he ended up assaulting Heard.

Whitney Henriquez was the only person throughout the trial who stated that she had witnessed Johnny assaulting her sister firsthand. Her testimony became very crucial because of her stance, and she stated that passing misogynistic comments and being violent came very naturally to Depp when he was in an inebriated state, and moreover, he had no qualms about it. A video was presented in court by Ben Rottenborn, Amber’s lawyer, in which Depp was seen banging things in a drunken state. Depp contended that what was presented in court was only a small part of the entire proceedings that had taken place that day, and though he was breaking things, he had not even touched Heard.

Then there was the infamous human feces incident, where it came to Depp’s attention that before going for her vacation in Coachella, Amber had defecated on his side of the mattress. Heard’s side of the story was that it was Depp’s dog who had done it, and she showed through the text messages presented as evidence that the dog did suffer from bowel issues for a long time. Allegedly, Depp and Heard also engaged in a physical fight in which the former got gravely injured and almost lost one of his fingers. The kind of accusations made by both parties shocked everybody, and be it on social media or news channels, Depp V Heard had become a hot and trending topic. 

Why Was Public Perception Against Amber Heard?

It cannot be denied that the internet was biased against Amber Heard, and a few things that happened during the cross-examination strengthened the beliefs and the preconceived notions of the people even more. First and foremost was a voice recording that was presented as evidence by Johnny’s team, where it could be heard very clearly that Amber was telling Johnny that nobody was going to believe that he was a victim of domestic abuse because he was a man. This recording did the greatest amount of damage to Amber’s case, and once it was presented, she also probably knew that she wouldn’t be able to get past it. The recording was way too direct, and she had implicated herself in the eyes of the public. Actually, more than proving Johnny right, it aroused a lot of anger in the masses, who felt that she was taking advantage of being a woman.

We have to accept the fact that in a battle of narratives, where perceptions matter more than reality, Amber Heard made some really bad moves, and it wouldn’t be wrong to call her a weak witness. No other witness spoiled her case more than she did herself. The witnesses from Johnny’s side gave perfect statements, and that’s where Amber lagged behind. In another voice recording, Amber was heard accepting the fact that though she started a physical fight, Johnny shouldn’t be so fussy about it as she had barely hit him. These voice recordings made it very clear that Amber also used to hit Johnny, and that was all that Camille Vasquez and her team needed to prove.

At the end of the day, in any trial, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, and the only thing a party needs to do is convince the jury to believe in their narrative. But the execution has to be done in a tactful manner where it should never feel like a person is merely pretending and not being truthful. It is just like acting, where if you go a notch higher, the performance loses credibility, and you can never convince the audience that you are the character that you’re playing. We understand that this is not a very ethical aspect of the legal justice system, but this is how things are, and especially in cases of domestic violence, where there is no primary evidence most of the time, things become even more complex.

Amber Heard dug her own grave when she took Kate Moss’ name and said that she feared that Johnny would push her sister down the stairs just like he had done with his ex-girlfriend. Kate Moss came to testify in court, and it was a blessing in disguise for Depp’s team, as earlier, they had no plans to call Kate Moss for the cross-examination. Camille Vasquez very cleverly brought to the court’s attention that Heard had not donated the 7 million dollars that she had gotten during the divorce settlement from Johnny Depp.

Back in the day Amber Heard had declared on a Dutch TV program that she would donate every single penny to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and as soon as it came to light that she had not actually donated but only pledged, people commented on her integrity on the internet. Heard said that for her, the words pledged and donated were synonymous with each other, but the public perception had already been made, and she was branded a liar apart from being called extremely manipulative. The documentary, Depp vs. Heard, shows us that Amber was not saying something irrational, as it was a common practice to use the words interchangeably, but then again, the case was never about facts; it was merely about who could influence the viewpoint of the jury and the public.

Why Did Heard Lose The Case?

During Depp V Heard‘s ending, the Jury ruled that Johnny Depp had been defamed by whatever Amber Heard had said in the Washington Post article, and he was awarded damages totaling 15 million dollars. Amber Heard was also given 2 million dollars as compensatory damages, but the people saw it as a crushing defeat for a woman who, according to them, was a pathological liar and who deserved such a fate. There were many documents that the court did not allow to be presented as evidence, and when those documents were brought into the public’s purview, the people realized that the reality was not as simple and one-sided as it seemed. There was evidence that proved that Johnny Depp was a violent man, and both of them got physical with each other at times.

Even if we believe that Amber Heard might have had malicious intent by portraying to be a victim of domestic abuse, it cannot be denied that she was inhumanly harassed on the internet also. We cannot unsee the kind of language that Johnny Depp used in the text message that he sent to Paul Bettany, and it spoke volumes about the kind of man he was. Maybe he had said it in anger, but if we give him that benefit of the doubt, then we also have to give an equally fair chance to Amber’s narrative too, because at the end of the day, no one apart from them knew what had happened in their bedroom. As we said, domestic abuse cases are very tricky, and nobody can be 100 percent sure that what they believe to be the truth is the reality. Through those unsealed documents that were never presented in court, it came to be known that Stephen Deuters, via texts, had told Amber Heard how embarrassed Johnny was when he realized that he had kicked Amber on the plane, henceforth proving that the man did have violent tendencies.

Depp V Heard proved one thing: they both were in a toxic and violent relationship, and the only mistake that Amber committed that tipped the scales in favor of Johnny was that she gave an interview in which she portrayed herself as this innocent victim who was tortured by her husband, whereas there were times when she was also the aggressor. The public perception was biased and flawed, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised if it would have impacted the decision of the jury as well. When it came to their personal lives and relationships, neither Depp nor Heard were as naive and innocent as they pretended to be. They both had their own flaws and vices, but in the end, Johnny Depp’s legal team made all the right moves; he conducted himself with a lot of solemnity; his witnesses stuck to their narrative; and Depp’s stardom and fan following became a blessing for him that gave him an extra edge in the trial and helped him get a judgment in his favor.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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