After a high-profile libel case in London, actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard are headed back to court on Monday, this time in the United States, for a blockbuster defamation case revolving about allegations of spousal abuse.
Both are expected to testify, along with actors James Franco and Paul Bettany — and billionaire Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk.
The case centres on a column written by Heard and printed in The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she describes herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” who was pilloried online after her assault claims.
The column was entitled: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” The actress never names Depp, who she met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary and was married to from 2015 to 2017 — but he sued her for defamation for implying he was an abuser, seeking $50 million in damages.
“The op-ed’s clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false. Mr Depp never abused Ms Heard,” the complaint says.
Depp accuses Heard of seeking to “generate positive publicity for herself” ahead of the release of the film Aquaman, in which she had a starring role.
Heard countersued, asking for $100 million, saying she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.
“The frivolous lawsuit Mr Depp has filed against Ms Heard continues that abuse and harassment,” her counterclaim says.
After an ardent legal battle at each phase of the US case, jury selection begins Monday in a county court in Fairfax, outside Washington. Depp filed his case in Virginia as The Washington Post is printed there.
The state also has defamation laws considered to be more favourable to plaintiffs than those in California, where the two actors live.
Originally published in Dawn, April 12th, 2022