Closing arguments are to be held on Friday in the bitter multi-million dollar defamation case between Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp and his former wife Amber Heard.
Lawyers will make their final appeals to the jury following dozens of hours of testimony and six weeks of blistering mutual accusations of domestic violence between the celebrity couple.
Judge Penney Azcarate is expected to hand the case over to the seven-person jury Friday afternoon. The panel will be off over the weekend and on Monday, a public holiday, and resume deliberations on Tuesday.
The 58-year-old Depp filed a defamation suit against Heard in Virginia over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
The Texas-born Heard, who had a starring role in Aquaman, did not name Depp in the piece, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $50 million in damages.
Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming that she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.
Dozens of witnesses testified during the high-profile trial which began on April 11, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, psychiatrists, doctors, friends, and relatives.
Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial which attracted hundreds of fans of the Pirates star to the town of Fairfax near the US capital.
Video and audio recordings of heated, profanity-laced arguments between the couple were repeatedly played for the jury, which was also shown multiple photographs of injuries allegedly suffered by Heard during their volatile relationship.
Hours of testimony featuring medical experts were devoted to a finger injury that Depp suffered while filming the fifth installment of Pirates in Australia in March 2015, a month after the pair were married.
Depp claimed the tip of the middle finger on his right hand was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him during an argument. Heard said she did not know how the injury occurred.
Both agreed that Depp went on to scrawl messages on walls, lampshades, and mirrors using the bloody digit.
Heard said Depp would become a physically and sexually abusive “monster” during alcohol- and drug-fueled binges and resisted her repeated efforts to curb his drinking and drug use.
Heard said Depp had promised to bring her “global humiliation” if she left him, and she has been the target of a vast #JusticeForJohnnyDepp social media campaign.
“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” she said and suffers from panic attacks, nightmares and trauma.
“People want to kill me and they tell me so every day,” she said. “I receive hundreds of death threats regularly, if not daily, thousands since this trial has started, people mocking my testimony about being assaulted.”
The trial has been attended daily by fans of Depp, some of whom have queued for hours overnight to secure one of the limited seats in the public gallery.
Heard was the final witness to take the stand before closing arguments.
Depp testified the previous day and said it has been “unimaginably brutal” to listen to his ex-wife's “outlandish” accusations of domestic abuse.
“No human being is perfect, certainly not, none of us, but I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse,” he said.
Damaged Hollywood careers
Depp said he brought legal action because he needed to address “what I’ve been carrying on my back, reluctantly, for six years.”
Heard, who was married to Depp from 2015 to 2017, obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016, citing domestic violence.
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, filed a libel suit in London against the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” He lost that case in November 2020.
Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers.
Heard’s legal team presented an entertainment industry expert who estimated that the actress has suffered $45 to 50 million in lost film and TV roles and endorsements.
An industry expert hired by Depp’s side said the actor has lost millions because of the abuse accusations, including a potential $22.5 million payday for the sixth installment of Pirates. (AFP)