Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Closing remarks in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit ended with both sides urging jurors to think about other victims of domestic abuse.
Ms Heard’s legal team highlighted the message that a verdict in Mr Depp’s favour would send to others, while the actor’s representatives said her claims were “an act of profound cruelty to true survivors”.
The actor is suing his former partner over a 2018 article she wrote in the Washington Post, which was titled: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
The article does not mention Mr Depp by name, yet his lawyers say it falsely implies he physically and sexually abused the Aquaman actress while they were together.
Following six weeks of evidence, which has seen testimony from both Mr Depp and Ms Heard as well as individuals including British supermodel Kate Moss, jurors are now due to retire to consider their verdict.
Benjamin Rottenborn, representing Ms Heard, said that a verdict in Mr Depp’s favour would demonstrate to abuse victims that they would “always need to do more”.
“The facts are absolutely overwhelming, of abuse,” he told the jury.
“Mr Depp simply cannot prove to you that he never once abused Amber, and if you don’t know, you have to return a verdict for Ms Heard.
“A ruling against Amber here sends the message that no matter what you do as an abuse victim you always need to do more.
“No matter what you document you always have to document more, no matter who you tell you always have to tell more people.
“No matter how honest you are about your own imperfections and shortcomings in a relationship you need to be perfect in order for people to believe you.
“Don’t send that message – that’s what (Mr Depp) wants you to do.”
Mr Rottenborn added that the Pirates Of The Caribbean actor was “running head-long into the first amendment” of the US Constitution and urged members of the jury to “stand up” for freedom of speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to tell Mr Depp that this was ‘last chance’,” he said.
“Tell him to move on with his life. Tell him to let Amber move on for hers.
He added: “This trial is about so much more than Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. It’s about freedom of speech. Stand up for it, protect it, and reject Mr Depp’s claims against Amber.”
In her closing remarks, Mr Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez said the “mountain” of evidence that Mr Depp assaulted his former partner was “simply not there”.
Ms Vasquez began by reminding jurors that Ms Heard had filed a restraining order against her former partner on May 27 2016.
“In doing so ruined his life by falsely telling the world that she was a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Mr Depp,” she said.
“On May 27 2022, exactly six years later, we ask you to give Mr Depp his life back. What is at stake in this trial is a man’s life.”
“There is an abuser in this courtroom but it is not Mr Depp. There is a victim of domestic abuse in this courtroom, but it is not Ms Heard.”
She added: “It is disturbing to think Ms Heard would make up the horrific tales of abuse that she testified to in this courtroom.
“What Ms Heard testified to in this courtroom is a story of far too many women, but the overwhelming evidence and weight of that evidence is that it is not her story.
“It is not Ms Heard’s story.
“It was an act of profound cruelty not just to Mr Depp, but to true survivors of domestic abuse for Ms Heard to hold herself out as a public figure representing domestic abuse.
“It was false, it was defamatory and it caused irreparable harm.”
Mr Depp is claiming 50 million dollars (£40 million) in damages in the lawsuit and says that the allegations caused him to lose several high-profile film roles, including in the Fantastic Beasts and Pirates Of The Caribbean franchises.
Ms Heard is counter-suing Mr Depp over comments previously made by his lawyer Adam Waldman, who allegedly referred to her abuse claims as a “hoax”.
The case is being brought in Virginia rather than in California, where the actors live, because The Washington Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County.
At one point in Friday’s proceedings alarms were heard inside the courtroom, which Judge Penney Azcarate dismissed as an “amber alert” but were later reported to be a storm warning.
During the course of the trial at Fairfax County District Court, legions of fans have gathered outside in an attempt to enter the courtroom and observe proceedings.