Now that the verdict is out, is it time to analyse how rampant media illiteracy is?
- The trial that began on April 11th delivered a verdict on June 1st
- The jury awarded 15 Million in damages to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, 2 Million
- The jury found both parties liable for defamation.
Virginia: The turbulent and public trial of Johnny Depp’s defamation case against Amber Heard gripped the media for months. The Jury found both parties liable however rewarded Johnny Depp with 7 times more compensation for damages than Heard. This ultimately declared Depp the legal winner of the case.
The trial lasted nearly 2 months, involving multiple high-profile witnesses who took the stand. The defamation case centred around a 2018 op-ed penned by the ACLU and Amber Heard where the latter alleged serious domestic and sexual violence.
Amber Heard left the courtroom after winning $2 million in damages. She later shared a long message over the loss in the case. Johnny Depp, noticeably absent from the Fairfax courtroom, penned a statement from London, England.
Did we misunderstand the case?:
Now that the media storm surrounding this highly charged case has passed, it’s time to as ourselves “is this really what it seems like?”. The public is unquestionably in support of Johnny Depp, a beloved icon of many who grew up in the 90s and 00s. Heard, on the other hand, is clearly at a loss at the end of this saga.
Is it really fair to term the toxicity between two wealthy and high profile individuals with serious addictions and mental illnesses as “one-sided”? The media’s treatment of both this trial and verdict shows gross media illiteracy.
The same couple locked horns in the UK in 2020 with Depp seeing a major loss. A London court ruled that 12 out of 14 alleged assault allegations made by Heard as true. A newspaper named The Sun ran the story prior to the suit which termed him a “wife-beater”.
Mark Stephens, an international media lawyer, said “Depp’s legal team in the United States ran a strategy known as DARVO — an acronym for denying, attacking and reverse victim and offender — in which Depp became the victim and Heard the abuser.”
The DARVO method is a media and legal tool that works exceptionally well with juries but not with judges. This is due to the fact that judges are more likely to be evidence-oriented while juries are emotionally driven.
The UK case which Depp lost happened to be decided by a judge while his successful U.S case, had a jury decide on the verdict.
The Washington Post op-ed:
The veteran actor sued his Ex-wife over an Op-ed in the Washington Post from 2018. The op-ed contained several nods to a recent abusive relationship but did not mention Depp’s name. Depp soon lost major acting gigs such as his signature role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of The Caribbean.
The piece, although consistent with Heard’s accounts of the relationship, is mostly written by staff writers at the Washington Post. Heard and ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) staff writers testified that a Wash-Po editor made the title choice as is customary media practice. The trial featured evidence to support claims that Heard only made modifications to the staff’s draft. A draft which ultimately took shape as the published final op-ed.
Depp’s lawyers argued that even if his ex-wife did not pen the article entirely, her name’s attachment to the piece is enough liability to sue for $50 million in damages.
Liability goes both ways:
Prior to this case, Amber Heard’s ex-partner Tasya Van Ree accused her of assault. An incident where Heard struck Van Ree with two police officers present as witnesses, landed her in jail and booked for domestic violence. Amber Heard denied the charges and claimed the police officers misconstrued the situation. .
A prior partner of Depp, Ellen Barkin also testified alleging physical violence from his side. She claimed that in 1998, Depp “tossed” a wine bottle and scratched her back during an argument.
Laurel Anderson, Depp and Heard’s 2015 therapist confirmed that the abuse was “mutual” in week 1 of the trial. She testified that Amber was more prone to violence than Johnny, but observed injuries consistent with both parties’ accounts.
“Both were victims of abuse in their homes … And then with Ms Heard, he was triggered, and they engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.” Said Dr Anderson during a deposition in late February.