Translated From: Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard: why the actor lost a…


Discovered on: 2022-06-03 22:00:00

In 2020, actor Johnny Depp lost a libel lawsuit in the UK against The Sun newspaper.

In that case, the lawsuit arose because the tabloid referred to Depp as a “wife beater.”

On Wednesday, however, Depp won a similar lawsuit in a US court against his ex-wife Amber Heard.

The case would concern a column that Heard published in The Washington Post in 2018 and that, according to the jury, was defamatory against Depp.

At the start of this latest trial, many legal experts were of the opinion that Depp had less chance of winning than in the UK, because the US has very strong protections for free speech.

The fact that the jury found Heard guilty of defamation for an article in which she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse means they did not believe her testimony.

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Mark Stephens, a lawyer specializing in international media, tells the BBC that it is “very rare” that a case that is essentially the same is judged with different results in the US and the UK.

According to Stephens, the main factor that influenced Depp’s victory in the US was the fact that his trial in that country was before a jury, while that in the UK was only before a judge.

“Amber Heard has lost handily in the court of public opinion and in front of the jury,” notes Stephens.

Deny, attack and exchange roles

At both the UK and US trials, Depp’s lawyers argued that Heard was lying.

To defend that position, they attacked her character and claimed that, in reality, she was the one who abused Depp.

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This is a common defense tactic in sexual assault and domestic violence trials.

It is known as “Darvo”, for the initials in English for “deny, attack, and exchange victim and offender”, according to Stephens.

With this strategy, what is sought is to put the burden on the victim and change the course of the conversation, that is, to go from wondering if the accused committed the abuse to discussing if the alleged victim is someone who should be believed what they say. He says.

“They deny that they did anything, they deny that they are the real perpetrators, they attack the credibility of the individual reporting the abuse, and then they reverse the roles of victim and aggressor,” says Stephens.

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According to the lawyer, at the UK trial the judge recognized that strategy and dismissed much of the evidence that did not directly address the question of whether or not Depp committed an assault.

“Lawyers and judges tend not to fall for it, but [el Darvo] it is very, very effective in front of juries”, says the expert.

The men are more likely to believe Darvo’s arguments, but the women on the jury are also susceptible.

“People have a paradigm in their mind of what an abuse victim might look like and how they might behave, and of course we all know that oftentimes that paradigm is false,” says Stephens.

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Hadley Freeman, a Guardian journalist who covered both cases, tells the BBC that another important difference was the fact that the US trial was televised, turning the court case into almost a sporting spectacle.

Every turn of the trial was seen by millions of people, many of whom took to social media to express their support for Depp.

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On TikTok, the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp (justice for Johnny Depp) got around 19 billion views.

The jury was ordered not to read about the case online, but they were allowed to keep their phones.

Freeman also believes that the viciousness the general public heaped on Heard was “a bit of a backlash to #MeToo.”

“That ‘believing women’ thing sounds pretty far out when it comes to Amber Heard,” says Freeman.

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