Johnny Depp and Amber Heard appeared in London’s High Court on Tuesday to begin a three-week libel trial: Depp has sued News Group Newspapers, publisher of popular U.K. tabloid The Sun, and its editor Dan Wootton for labeling him a “wife beater” in an article related to abuse allegations made by Heard about Depp, Deadline reports. In opening remarks, Depp’s lead counsel David Sherborne argued that Depp “is not and never has been a wife beater” and that Heard “invented these stories of serious violence” because “she was the abuser, not him.”
Heard acquired a restraining order against Depp in 2016, and in December 2018, wrote an op-ed published in the Washington Post, in which she described the aftermath of coming forward about sexual assault and domestic violence. She never named the assailant.
“It will come as no surprise to hear that this is not a case about money. It is about vindication. Mr Depp has made that clear at various hearings. That is why he has come here—to clear his reputation,” Sherborne said in his written remarks. “Indeed, he says that it was Ms Heard who was the one who started physical fights, who punched or hit him (and there was little he could really do to stop this)... And the contemporaneous evidence fully supports that, as the court will hear.”
Sherborne argued that Wootton’s description of Depp as a “wife beater” simply “repeated Ms. Heard’s allegations, referring to what he described as ‘overwhelming evidence’ in her favor, in an obvious attempt to confirm categorically in the readers’ minds, several million readers’ minds, that these appalling and serious allegations of criminality were true.” He also said The Sun “chose to make deliberate and highly topical references to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements” to shift public opinion.
Meanwhile, the News Group Newspapers lawyers maintain that the “wife beater” description is accurate and that they have a plethora of evidence: photographs, video, audio recordings, digital evidence, witness testimony, medical evidence, and texts straight from Johnny Depp’s phone. “His ‘wife-beating’ behaviour included throwing objects at her, slapping her across the face, kicking her, gripping her around the throat and threatening to kill her,” Sasha Wass QC, barrister for the publisher, wrote in her opening remarks. “When sober, Mr. Depp was capable of kindness, charm and generosity. The side of character which he described as ‘the monster’ was jealous, controlling, violent and savage. It is these characteristics which qualify him for the term ‘wife-beater’.”
According to The Guardian, Depp was soft-spoken in court, and said he would frequently retreat if there was any danger of confrontation in their relationship. “Whenever these situations would escalate, I would try and go to my own corner. I wanted to separate before things got out of hand.” He said he never engaged in “destructive behavior.” When Wass questioned if he has a “nasty, angry side,” Depp responded, “I’m not aware of that. There has been quite a lot of pain,” and lamented on the nature of fame. “You become a product. Your name no longer sounds the way it did. The sound of my own name even sounds foreign to me,” he said.
A spokesperson for Heard told the Guardian she was in attendance. “Amber was never asked for these proceedings to take place,” they said. “Amber obtained a domestic violence restraining order against Depp back in 2016 and has tried to moved on with her life.”
Jezebel will continue to follow the case as it develops.