Five attorneys weigh in on who will win the Johnny Depp vs Heard trial. We also look at public opinion and provide our probability analysis.
FACT-CHECK GUARANTEE (References): [Official statistics: 2 sources] [Straight from the source: 6 sources]
23 May 2022 | By Richard Ahern – Who isn’t talking about the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard defamation trial? Just go on any social media site, and you will be bombarded with opinions.
A glance on social media suggests that the general public opinion on Depp v Heard favors Johnny Depp, with the hashtag #JusticeForJohnny consistently trending.
The public has cast their vote:
Indeed, a recent Twitter poll of around 17,000 users showed that 63.9% believed Depp and a minuscule 1.5% believed Heard — the other 34.5% voted “both sound awful.” Likewise, a Rasmussen report indicated that 40% favor Depp and 10% favor Heard, with 51% undecided.
Johnny Depp has won in the court of public opinion, and his career may be back on track.
On the whole, this is understandable; Johnny appears to have more evidence behind him. In sharp contrast, Amber’s evidence is comparatively weak.
Audio recordings of the couple certainly indicate Heard was the aggressor, with her even admitting to physically abusing Depp. Juxtaposing that with Heard’s photographic evidence of minor injuries, Johnny appears more believable.
But legally, it’s not that simple.
Depp appears more credible on the face of it, but that doesn’t mean he will win the case. The case isn’t about who abused who – it’s about if Amber Heard’s 2018 op-ed defamed Johnny Depp and cost him millions of dollars in movie roles.
To win, Depp must prove that the abuse allegations were false, that Amber believed they were false, and that they were made with malice. Additionally, Depp must show that those allegations affected his reputation so severely that he lost work in movies.
This is not easy because if the jury decides that Depp abused Heard just once out of the many alleged occasions, he loses because the op-ed was, in essence, true. By the same token, the jury may find that the op-ed didn’t cause substantial damage to Depp’s career (e.g., his name is not mentioned in it) and therefore not award him damages.
So, what do trained lawyers think?
At the start of the trial, Heard’s legal team argued that what she wrote in the op-ed was protected free speech under the first amendment.
Constitutional law attorney Floyd Abrams said that Heard’s argument that the first amendment protects her allegations is a barrier for Depp. He needs to prove that not only the accusations are false but “that she said it with what the law calls actual malice.”
Consequently, Depp has to show that when Amber accused him of abuse in the op-ed, she had “knowledge of falsity or serious doubts as to its truth,” Abrams said.
In a similar manner, Devin Stone, the lawyer behind the popular LegalEagle YouTube channel, explained how he believes it will be extremely difficult for Depp to win, considering he already lost his United Kingdom defamation trial against the Sun newspaper.
Stone said, “the odds of prevailing on a libel claim are much higher in England than in the US.” He explained that in the UK, the burden of proof lies on the defendant (Heard) to prove the allegations are true. In contrast, in the US, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff (Depp) to prove the accusations are false, making it harder to win in the US. He repeated that it’s particularly challenging in the US to prove the statements were made with “actual malice.”
“And even with these built-in advantages, Depp still lost twice in the UK,” Mr. Stone said, referring to the fact that Depp’s appeal in the UK also failed.
He said, “two British courts found Heard’s abuse allegations to be substantially true,” reaffirming his opinion Depp would lose in this trial.
In spite of that, he did acknowledge that new evidence in the form of audio recordings has come forward, which may help Depp.
Trial lawyer Bruce Rivers believes Heard’s first amendment argument is wrong…
Mr. Rivers emphatically stated, “that claim will fail one hundred percent.” He explained that the first amendment applies to the government limiting free speech and doesn’t include individuals publishing false and defamatory statements about someone that could cause them harm.
“If the jury concludes that what she’s saying is false, then it’s just a matter of damages from there,” Attorney Rivers said in his trial analysis.
Speaking of damages, Rivers said Depp certainly appears to have “provable economic damages.” However, concerning Heard’s countersuit claim for $100 million, he said, “I don’t see her claims going anywhere,” because it seems unlikely she could prove she was damaged financially to that extent.
This lawyer believes Amber Heard is a narcissist…
Attorney Rebecca Zung believed Depp was on the path to victory, particularly after the cross-examination of Amber Heard, which she called a “bloodbath,” and said that Heard was “crushed” by Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez. Zung, who also specializes in narcissism, noted that Heard was exposed as a “total narcissist.”
She praised how Vasquez “exposes” Amber by highlighting how the pictures of Heard’s injuries don’t reflect a beating by a man who always wore large metal rings on his hand.
Even so, speaking about Depp winning, Zung said, “I don’t know that he’s going to be able to prove damages enough.” She said it may be difficult to prove “that that op-ed piece actually led to him losing that Pirates of the Caribbean movie.”
Having said that, Zung was confident that Heard would “end up being exposed as the liar that she is.”
Here’s some juicy insight:
Lawyer Robert Morton was in the courtroom and saw the jury’s reaction to Amber. As we all saw during Amber’s testimony, she regularly looked over at the jury when speaking. Many have criticized that move as unnatural and an attempt to manipulate the jury.
How did the jury respond?
Morton said, “the jury was stone-faced, there was nothing. The jury gave nothing.” He said he believes the jury was not emotionally responding to Heard in a good way; in fact, their chairs were turned away from Amber, facing her lawyer instead.
“The jury was stone-faced, there was nothing. The jury gave nothing.”
Mr. Morton said that the juror closest to Heard looked “noticeably aggressive” towards her. His shoulders were facing away, his eyes looking at the attorneys, and his hand up to his face to block eye contact. Morton said that when a jury does that, it’s “an indication that they’re more focused on what the attorney is saying, and they’re less focused on what you’re saying because they don’t trust what you’re saying, period.”
So, based on appearances, the jury is struggling to believe Amber Heard.
Attorney Morton is also an expert woodworker and made a viral video debunking Amber Heard’s claim that Johnny broke the bed while on top of her and hitting her. He said that the solid wood the bed is made of would never break like that from a boot, and he showed that you would need a knife to break it. He noticed what appears to be a pen knife on the bed in the picture Heard provided to the court — Camille Vasquez pointed that out during cross-examination.
Will Johnny win the trial?
Based on what the legal experts say and how the case is going so far, here’s our analysis of how likely Johnny Depp will win the defamation trial:
Can johnny win? — Probability of a Depp victory:0%
60% — fairly likely
Here’s the bottom line:
It’s a close call, but a Depp victory is fairly likely, providing his legal team continues their dominance in the courtroom.
Most experts agree that Depp’s legal team are first-class attorneys and are overpowering Heard’s lawyers. Amber Heard is not appearing credible, her evidence is lacking, and her testimony was not received well by the jury. Certainly, the success of Heard’s $100 million counterclaim seems dismal.
Be that as it may, most legal experts acknowledge that a legal victory for Depp will be difficult under United States law. For Depp to prove that all the allegations were false, made with actual malice, and that the specific op-ed cost him millions of dollars is an uphill battle.
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