As Depp v Heard resumes, so does the process via social media | Johnny Depp

lLast week’s hiatus in the defamation Johnny Depp-Amber Heard case, which resumes Monday, has temporarily halted a torrent of disturbing testimonies and slowed down the PR war between the two once-married actors, but the parallel court of public opinion has scarcely dwelt on his deliberations on a matter eagerly followed around the world.

In part two of the Depp v Heard case in Fairfax, Virginia, Heard concludes her testimony and is then cross-examined by Depp’s legal team before her attorneys call witnesses, including Hollywood star Ellen Barkin, who was dating with Depp in the 90s, and Heard’s sister, Whitney Henriquez.

But four weeks later, the terms of the case have already been established. And it’s not one case, but two. In one, Depp alleges defamation of a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which Heard described himself as a survivor of domestic violence; on the other, and perhaps more valuable to the actor, is his attempt to regain a reputation and career that was badly damaged when Heard issued a temporary restraining order against him in 2016. She opposes his claim that her accusations are fraudulent.

“He was willing to let all the ugly, dark sides of him come out. The details didn’t make him look good, and the public wasn’t necessarily aware of them, to clear his name about the abuse,” said Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney Mitra Ahouraian. “That’s powerful to me, because he’s trying to win the court of public opinion.”

But Heard has also made her defense more complicated than necessary. “She had to determine that she was a victim of domestic violence, but her testimony has taken her on a much greater burden by describing the ongoing multiple episodes – not just domestic violence, but sexual assault, vaginal searches, rape with a bottle,” said Dr. Jill Huntley Taylor at Taylor Trial Consulting.

The standard of defamation for public figures in the US is high – Depp has to prove that what was said wasn’t true and Heard knew it wasn’t true, or that it was malicious. But he could also win in the court of public opinion — essentially on social media, and among moviegoers — by losing.

“His claim may not be viable in the legal system, but he certainly wins in the court of public opinion,” Ahouraian said. “People share clips that they find endearing and don’t pay as much attention to things that might make him look bad, or dismiss them as a normal reaction to someone being an aggressor.”

But Heard did not complete her testimony and was not subject to cross-examination.

Heard out of court in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 21. Photo: Consolidated News Photos/Getty Images

“This case is far from over, and many experts have spent this off-week drawing conclusions about Ms. Heard’s testimony and discussing how Depp is likely to lose in court,” noted Los Angeles attorney Allison Hope Weiner. . “Even if he doesn’t win in court, the real issue is whether the public is willing to see his films and the studios will reverse his cancellation.”

An investigation into TikTok memes and views points to a clear bias towards Depp, despite the ex-spouses both claiming to be victims of intimate partner violence, and Heard aligning her experience with the #MeToo movement.

“What’s coming out on social media, on Instagram and TikTok, is pretty abhorrent because these are serious allegations of abuse on both sides,” said Alex McCready, head of reputation and privacy at Vardag’s law. At the same time, McCready acknowledges that “the PR strategy surrounding a case can be just as important.”

The TikTok tag #JusticeforJohnnyDepp has over 10 billion views – more than the #AmberHeard (8.4 billion) and #JusticeforAmberHeard (37.2 million) tags. During Heard’s testimony on May 4, 587,285 people watched the Law & Crime livestream.

But the case is complex for other reasons: Depp’s lawsuit was allowed to proceed only implicitly over the defamation doctrine — Depp was not mentioned in Heard’s ACLU-drafted article, nor did it repeat any of the abuse allegations. Instead, Heard wrote that she “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.

The doctrine holds that apparently neutral and accurate statements can still constitute a defamatory innuendo. The eleven-member jury – with seven people who will deliberate and four deputies – will have to deal with it after May 27, during the closing arguments.

But they may also face other challenges. During the jury selection, Deadline reported, a potential juror said he texted his wife that he might be called.

“Amber is psychotic. If a man says a woman beats him, they will never believe him,” was the reply. Asked by Heard’s lawyers if he could still be impartial, the man said he could. “She tends to exaggerate.” When asked if his wife would be mad if he side with Depp, he said, “She gets mad at me all the time.”

It sounds bizarre. But then the whole thing has often felt like an extreme exercise.

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