Experts testify in Johnny Depp’s defamation suit against Amber Heard

Testimony in Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard resumed Tuesday at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia as a former nurse for Heard and a forensic accountant took the stand.

Erin Falati, the nurse, was shown photographs she received in 2016 from Heard who appears to have red marks on her face, but said she didn’t recall the pair fighting.

Monday’s witnesses included Depp’s agent and a longtime security guard. The agent, Jack Whigham, testified that the 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post in which Heard described herself as a victim of domestic abuse was “catastrophic” to Depp’s career and coincided with the loss of a nearly $23 million deal for a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel.

Heard’s lawyers pushed back aggressively against the agent’s assertion on cross-examination, suggesting that the article was inconsequential amid a stream of bad publicity for Depp brought on by his own bad behavior.

Actress Amber Heard talks to her attorney in the courtroom during a break in the testimony on May 2, 2022. 


Depp is suing Heard for libel, saying her article defamed him when she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to abuse allegations Heard levied in 2016.
In testimony Monday, Whigham said Depp was still able to work after the initial allegations made against him in 2016. He was paid $8 million for “City Of Lies,” $10 million for “Murder on the Orient Express” and $13.5 million for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” all of which shot in 2017, albeit under contracts reached prior to the allegations made against him.

But he said The Washington Post piece was uniquely damaging to Depp’s career.
“It was a first-person account, extremely impactful,” Whigham said of the op-ed.

Actor Johnny Depp listens in the courtroom on May 2, 2022.


After that, he said Depp struggled to get any kind of work. He had to take a pay cut — down to $3 million — to do the independent film “Minimata,” and a $22.5 million verbal deal he had with Disney for a sixth “Pirates” film was scuttled, Whigham said.
On cross-examination, though, Heard’s lawyers asked whether the “Pirates” deal had already gone south by the time Heard’s article was published. Whigham acknowledged he never had a written deal for Depp to appear in a sixth “Pirates” film.” And while he said “Pirates” producer Jerry Bruckheimer talked favorably throughout 2018 about Depp coming back to the franchise, Disney executives were noncommittal at best.
By early 2019, weeks after Heard’s op-ed, Whigham said it was clear that Depp’s role in any “Pirates” film was scuttled and that producers were instead looking to move ahead with Margot Robbie in a lead role.
Heard’s lawyers have cited a variety of factors — including reports of heavy drug and alcohol use, a lawsuit by a crew member in July 2018 who says he was punched on set by Depp, and a separate libel lawsuit Depp filed against a British newspaper in 2018 — as things that damaged Depp’s image more than the Post article.
For Depp’s Virginia lawsuit to be successful, he not only needs to show that he was falsely accused, but he also needs to show that the op-ed piece — not Heard’s abuse allegations in 2016 when she filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order — is what caused the damage.
Depp’s lawyers also presented testimony from an intellectual property expert who testified about the negative turn in Depp’s reputation. But his own data, showing trend lines from Google searches, showed negative spikes occurring after the 2016 abuse allegations, but negligible or nonexistent changes after the Post article.

The court also heard testimony Monday from a longtime security guard for Depp who witnessed the couple’s increasingly volatile relationship. Travis McGivern described hearing arguments between them ramp up after they returned from a trip to Australia in March 2015 — “I wouldn’t say nightly, but every other night, several times a week,” he said.

McGivern said he was present for “lots of name-calling, lots of f-bombs,” which he said were typically from “Miss Heard, directing her feelings toward Mr. Depp.” He also described an argument in which “I saw Miss Heard throw a Red Bull can from her position that struck Mr. Depp in the back.”

The trial has now entered its fourth week. Much of the testimony during the first three weeks centered on the volatile relationship between Depp and Heard. Depp says he has never struck Heard. Her lawyers said during the trial’s opening statements that she was physically and sexually abused by Depp on multiple occasions.
Heard is expected to testify later this week.

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