The 5 keys to understand your legal dispute

In its second week, the trial facing Johnny Depp Y Amber Heard has captured the public’s attention.

It is one of the multiple legal battles – where lurid details of the relationship are aired – between both actors since they ended their relationship in 2016little more than a year after they were married.

We tell you here what the civil dispute that takes place in Virginia, United States, is about and how they came to this situation.

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1. How did it all start?

Depp and Heard began dating in early 2012after they met a few years earlier on the film set of the movie “The Rum Diary” (The rum diaries in Spain and Diary of a seducer in Latin America).

For 2015 they were already married. However, the romance was short-lived: 15 months later the relationship was over.

Heard asked for the divorce and restraining order and showed up in a Los Angeles courtroom with a bruised cheek.

There she said that her then-husband – 23 years older than her – had attacked her “violently” and had thrown a mobile phone at her face with “extreme force”.

There were also other alleged situations of harassment: “excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse“Heard wrote in court documents, as well as “furious, hostile, humiliating and threatening attacks”.

Depp denied the abuse allegations.

A judge granted Heard a temporary restraining order, but hours before a civil trial over this order was to begin, she and the Pirates of the Caribbean star released a joint statement saying they had ended their dispute.

“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent to cause physical or emotional harm.”

Depp gave Heard $7 million as part of your divorce settlementwhich she has pledged to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, something Depp’s team now disputes.

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2. Why is Johnny Depp putting Amber Heard on trial?

For a while, everything seemed pretty civilized between the ex-couple.

“He walked away, she walked away, that was it,” said journalist and author Cooper Lawrence, who has written extensively on the celebrity world.

But then in December 2018Heard wrote an op-ed in the newspaper The Washington Post, describing his experience as a “public figure representing the domestic abuse“.

“I felt the full force of our culture’s anger at women speaking out,” she wrote. “I had the rare advantage of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

In the piece, Heard did not mention her ex-husband or any other alleged perpetrators by name.

But according to Depp’s complaint, these three sentences equals defamation anywaywhich has harmed his career and “incalculably” damaged his reputation.

“The op-ed’s clear implication that Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false,” the star’s attorney wrote in the complaint.

“Her accusations … are part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Heard and advance her career.”

3. Why is the trial in Virginia?

Depp’s legal team successfully argued that the trial should take place in Virginiahome to two Washington Post offices and where the newspaper is physically published.

“It’s not uncommon for a plaintiff to choose forum,” explains Ryan Baker, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented clients in defamation cases. “But that doesn’t explain whyWhy did they choose Virginia instead of California?“.

The reason, he notes, is probably related to something called Anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).

These state statutes are essentially extensions of the First Amendment, providing additional protection for speech and other activities related to matters of public concern.

“If someone, like Amber Heard, writes something about domestic violence and spousal abusethose are clearly matters of public interest,” explains Baker. “She has some kind of immunity for saying those things.”

Both Virginia and California have their own versions of Anti-SLAPP laws, but California’s are stricter. There, defendants like Heard can immediately invoke protection. Virginia, by contrast, does not allow defendants to use this protection in the early stages of legal proceedings.

“In California, I think Heard would have solved this case right away,” says Baker.

Depp will still have to overcome an argument based on his ex-wife’s Anti-SLAPP law. Last month, a Virginia judge ruled that Heard could elevate the statute at trial, arguing that her op-ed It is protected speech.

“It’s going to be a real mountain to climb” for Depp, adds Baker, but he just “will be able to climb it much later in Virginia.”

4. But haven’t we already experienced a similar situation?

In 2018, before Heard’s op-ed was published, Depp sued News Group Newspapers Ltd, publishers of the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, for defamation.

The Sun had published an article in which it referred to Depp as a “wife beater”.

But while this legal battle was between Depp and The Sun, the three-week trial in London was more like a dispute between ex-spouses.

Depp’s chances of success were better in the UK than in the US, where a person maligned tShe has to prove that what was said about her is not true.

On the other side of the Atlantic it is the opposite: the burden of proof falls on the alleged slanderer, who has to prove that what he said is true.

Still, Depp lost. A British judge ruled that the “vast majority” of Heard’s abuse allegations could be proven under the civil standard, meaning the abuse was more likely to have occurred.

Last year, Depp’s appeal in that case was denied.

5. Who will testify at the Virginia trial?

There are around of 120 people on the list of possible witnesseswhich include a series of stars: Elon Musk, Ellen Barkin, Paul Bettany and James Franco.

The Tesla CEO is expected to testify on Heard’s behalf.

Musk, who reportedly dated Heard between 2016 and 2018, offered to provide “24/7 security” for the “Justice League” and “Aquaman” star to protect her from Depp, according to text messages read at the libel trial in London.

Franco is also expected to speak on Heard’s behalf. The actress said that she told Franco about the bruises she suffered in an alleged fight with Depp.

Paul Bettany, who described Depp as the “kindest and gentlest” man he knows, will side with his friend.

Bettany will likely have to answer questions about text messages exchanged between him and Depp in 2013.

“It’s going to be a circus,” said journalist Cooper Lawrence.

“Now we have to listen to all these really famous people because they witnessed all of this, they were there for it,” he added.

The legal battle, which is expected to last until six weekswill in many ways be a repeat of the London trial, exposing lurid details of Depp and Heard’s relationship, with accusations of abuse leveled at both sides.

Heard is expected to repeat claims of verbal and physical aggression by a volatile Depp throughout their relationship.

Depp, in turn, will likely re-claim that Heard was the aggressor and that she fabricated her story by presenting herself as a victim for financial gain and reputation growth.

“I do not think that none of them walk out of this with your head held high,” says Lawrence.

Indeed, whatever the outcome of the trial, Depp’s decision to aggressively litigate has caused the public to pay close attention to his personal life.

“It seems to me that their strategy may be failing,” says Baker. “Now there are endless opportunities for people to comment. At the end of the day, isn’t it better to just move on?”


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