Jury asks judge question and Depp’s team ask for ‘inappropriate’ statement to be ruled out as deliberations go on
Jurors considering opposing lawsuits brought by former spouses Johnny Depp and Amber Heard continued deliberations on Tuesday after sending a question to the judge overseeing the trial on the actors’ multimillion-dollar defamation claims.
he jury will resume their deliberations on Wednesday.
At the centre of the legal case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in the Washington Post in which she made the statement about domestic abuse. The article did not mention Depp by name but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.
After about four hours of deliberations on Tuesday, the seven-person jury asked Judge Penney Azcarate to answer whether they should consider the entire article or just the headline. The headline said Heard “spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath.”
Azcarate said she would tell the jury that the headline was the statement they should consider to reach their verdict.
Depp’s attorneys also asked Judge Penney Azcarate to instruct the jury to disregard a portion of the closing argument made by Heard’s attorney.
In their written motion, Depp’s attorneys said Heard’s lawyer told the jury that its decision in the case would send a message to “every victim of domestic abuse everywhere.” Heard attorney Benjamin Rottenborn told the jury that a ruling against Heard “sends a message that no matter what you do as an abuse victim, you always have to do more.”
“No matter how honest you are about your own imperfections and your own shortcomings in a relationship, you have to be perfect in order for people to believe you. Don’t send that message,” Rottenborn said.
Depp’s attorneys argued that Rottenborn’s argument improperly asked the jury to focus on a larger social objective than the case they are being asked to decide.
“Such argument by Ms. Heard’s counsel improperly invites the jury to decide the case ‘based on passion and prejudice’ and a specific jury instruction is necessary to cure this impropriety,” Depp’s lawyers argued.
The judge told Depp’s attorneys in court that she would not entertain the motion because the case is in the hands of the jury now.
Depp, the 58-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, sued Heard in Virginia for $50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a newspaper opinion piece.
Heard, 36, countersued for $100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax.”
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming “The Rum Diary” and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.
Testimony during the six-week trial featured a litany of lurid details of the couple’s short marriage. Heard testified that Depp physically or sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times. During his testimony, Depp testified that he never struck Heard, that she concocted the abuse allegations, and that she was the one who physically attacked him, multiple times.
During closing arguments on Friday, both sides told the jury that a verdict in their favour would give their clients their lives back.
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