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Tipsheet

Guardian Op-Ed: Heard-Depp Trial Was 'An Orgy of Misogyny'

Court TV, via AP, Pool

The trial was a circus. It was a celebrity trial. Johnny Depp was suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation from a 2018 Washington Post op-ed where she alleged a long history of abuse by him. Heard countersued. The trial was held in Fairfax County. It was a six-week storm of 'he said, she said.' Allegations of drug abuse, physical abuse, and of course, defecation in the bed. Kate Moss was called to testify where she denied ever being pushed down some stairs by Depp during their relationship many moons ago. Depp’s legal team won the day for the actor, where the jury awarded him $15 million. Spencer covered the verdict and had a rundown of this spectacle:

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Following a six week-long trial, a civil jury sided with Johnny Depp on Wednesday in his $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge read the jury's findings on three claims made by Heard in a 2018 op-ed. As the jury's verdict concluded, Depp proved all elements of defamation, Heard's statements were about Depp, those statements were false and defamatory, and "clear and convincing" evidence proved Heard acted with "real and actual malice." As a result, the jury found that Heard must pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — but the judge lowered the punitive damages to just $350,000, per statute.

In Heard's $100 million counterclaim, the jury's findings were more mixed, only awarding $2 million in compensatory damages to Heard and zero dollars for punitive damages.

Depp was not present in the Virginia courtroom as the verdict was read — his team said he was in the U.K. on a previously scheduled work trip. Heard's team released a statement before the verdict came in saying "Johnny Depp plays guitar in the UK while Amber Heard waits for a verdict in Virginia. Depp is taking his snickering and lack of seriousness on tour."

The trial — which took place in Fairfax County, Virginia and began on April 12 — became a media spectacle for both Hollywood tabloids and everyday Americans who were familiar with Depp and Heard's acting careers. What was clear from the at times acrimonious testimony was that the two parties had a rollercoaster of a relationship that was rife with drama and often-toxic situations. 

After meeting in 2009 on the set of The Rum Diary, Depp and Heard got married in February 2015, but things fell apart soon thereafter and Depp filed for divorce in May 2016. 

Depp's libel case against Heard centered on a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post about speaking up against sexual violence. Though Depp is never mentioned by name in Heard's column, his legal team claimed that her words were clearly about a restraining order she sought against him two year before the op-ed was published.

For his part, Depp maintained his denial of ever striking Heard, and instead asserted that he was the victim of her aggression. Depp was also slapped with a $100 million counterclaim by Heard over claims Depp's former lawyer made that her charges of abuse were a hoax. Depp's team argued that Heard's accusations damaged his acting career and cost him roles. 

The trial saw days of testimony from both Heard and Depp, revealing some interesting claims about "mega-pints" of wine Depp had consumed and an incident in which Heard allegedly, literally, sh*t the bed. Heard claimed that "Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from Quaaludes Johnny," referring to the many substances and personalities Depp would take on during their relationship. Depp said Heard's allegations of uncontrolled drug abuse were greatly exaggerated.

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Believe all women once again took a hit. This is uber-liberal Northern Virginia, folks—and the jury apparently saw right through Heard’s shenanigans. Heard’s team had six weeks to make their case and they failed. This isn’t about men winning. This is about apparent liars being exposed. Alas, the feminist Left went out in full force saying that this was a calamity. That all the modest gains made during the Me Too moment are being rolled back. Yeah, it’s because you feminists pick the worst hills to die on all the time. Without fail, you pick the most unhinged and wholly unlikable women to circle the wagons around—and in almost every case there are questions regarding its credibility that could scale K2. If anything, you could trace the backlash back to the Kavanaugh hearings where a slew of women alleged sexual misconduct, but then couldn’t remember anything else. One of them, Julie Swetnick, straight up lied so that’s the key here. Women lie. Men lie. Humans lie. In the vast universe of social media and technology that keeps us connected, the temptation to make things up is quite high. Still, check out this op-ed by the Guardian about the case. It’s left-wing obviously. I know what I’m getting from them, but again, everyone who thinks Amber Heard is an angel—she is not the hill to die on:

A jury thought he deserved $15m. On Wednesday, the case’s verdict came in, finding that Heard defamed Depp, acting with “malice,” when she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Bizarrely, the same jury found that one of Depp’s lawyer’s defamed Heard when he accused her of staging a “hoax” scene of abuse to which police were called at the couple’s home. The verdict came after a trial that was televized – an extremely rare situation for a proceeding that concerns allegations of domestic violence – and which was subject to almost inescapable media coverage, nearly all of it in favor of one litigant, even as the jury was not sequestered. The strange, illogical, and unjust ruling has the effect of sanctioning Depp’s alleged abuse of Heard, and of punishing Heard for speaking about it. It will have a devastating effect on survivors, who will be silenced, now, with the knowledge that they cannot speak about their violent experiences at men’s hands without the threat of a ruinous libel suit. In that sense, women’s speech just became a lot less free.

Over the past six weeks, as the trial was live-streamed online, many of those who have tuned in to watch have treated Heard with the same contempt that Depp did in his texts. A broad consensus has emerged online that Heard must be lying about her abuse. She has been accused of faking the photos of her injuries from Depp’s alleged beatings, painting bruises on with makeup. She’s been accused of convincing the multiple witnesses who say Depp abused her to lie – repeatedly and under oath – for years. These conspiracy theories are unsupported by the facts of the case, but that has not stopped them from spreading. Online, the case has taken on a heady mythology, and belief in Depp’s righteousness persists independent of the evidence.

In the service of this myth, any cruelty can be justified. When Heard took the stand, she became emotional as she recounted how Depp allegedly hit her, manipulated and controlled her, surveilled her and sexually assaulted her. Afterwards, ordinary people, along with a few celebrities and even brands like Duolingo and Milani, took to social media to mock or undermine Heard. They took screenshots of her weeping face and made it a meme. Many performed mocking re-enactments of her testimony, lip-syncing along as she recounted the alleged abuse. The audio of her crying became a TikTok trend. This cruelty has now been joined in and compounded by the jury, who have gone beyond mocking her for telling her story, and now declared that she actually broke the law by doing so.

This is not the first time Depp has sued over the allegations. In 2020, a British court heard Depp’s lawsuit against the British tabloid the Sun, which Depp sued for defamation after an article referred to him as a “wife beater”. UK courts are much more amenable to defamation claims than American ones, but Depp still couldn’t prevail: the British judge found that the Sun’s characterization of Depp was “substantially true”. That same trial found that Depp physically abused Heard on at least 12 occasions. Yet the actor and his fans claim that it was Heard, not Depp, who was the abuser in their marriage.

The trial has turned into a public orgy of misogyny. While most of the vitriol is nominally directed at Heard, it is hard to shake the feeling that really, it is directed at all women – and in particular, at those of us who spoke out about gendered abuse and sexual violence during the height of the #MeToo movement. We are in a moment of virulent antifeminist backlash, and the modest gains that were made in that era are being retracted with a gleeful display of victim-blaming at a massive scale. One woman has been made into a symbol of a movement that many view with fear and hatred, and she’s being punished for that movement. In this way, Heard is still in an abusive relationship. But now, it’s not just with Depp, but with the whole country.

Since she published her Post piece, Heard’s life has been consumed by the rage and retaliation of Depp and his fans. Lost in the scandal and spectacle of the lawsuit has been this reality: it is Heard, not Depp, who has been put on trial, and she is on trial for saying things whose truth is evidenced by the very fact of the lawsuit itself. Depp’s frivolous and punitive suit, and the frenzy of misogynist contempt for Heard that has accompanied it, have done a great deal to vindicate Heard’s original point: that women are punished for coming forward. What happens to women who allege abuse? They get publicly pilloried, professionally blacklisted, socially ostracized, mocked endlessly on social media and sued. Wrath, indeed.

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The truth that Heard is being honest is the fact that there’s a trial brought on by an accompanying lawsuit and nothing else is quite an odd legal standard. It’s a rather long piece saying that she thinks the jury made up of liberals from NoVa is wrong. Well, that’s your opinion. An ‘orgy of misogyny’ though? Please. She looked bad. He looked bad. I’m more interested in whether the original headline to this piece was ‘orgy of misogyny’ or ‘female holocaust’ because the author claims the latter is fake news, though who knows? 

Justice was served. Heard screwed up. Depp won. Me Too lost. Not saying that the basis for the movement isn’t grounded in reality—it very much is. Just stop defending people who obviously don’t need it. Heard is a gun owner who admitted to sleeping with a .357 Magnum. She can handle internet trolls. 

Even if the ‘female holocaust’ headline is a photoshop, I could see the Guardian running it. It’s in keeping with their view—and I’m not knocking them for that.

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