The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial was in recess this week so that the judge could attend a previously-scheduled conference that was not related to the case.
The trial will resume on Monday and is expected to conclude on May 27.
It’s a testament to the high stakes and the tabloid-ready drama that this legal battle has remained a hot topic of discussion and debate on social media even during its week-long hiatus.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, alleging that she did irreparable damage to his career with a 2018 essay for the Washington Post in which she identified herself as a survivor of domestic abuse.
The irony, of course, is that the trial has attracted far more attention to the actors’ brief, disastrous marriage than Heard’s article ever could have on its own.
Heard and Depp have both taken the stand and accused one another of shocking acts of abuse.
Depp testified first and claimed that Heard punched him, stubbed out a lit cigarette on his face and severed part of his finger when she threw a liquor bottle at him during a fight.
Last week, Heard took the stand and alleged that Depp repeatedly assaulted her over the course of their marriage.
She claimed that the actor performed a forced “cavity search” after accusing her of stealing his cocaine, and in what’s likely the trial’s most shocking moment to date, she told the court that Depp sexually assaulted her with a glass bottle.
Never before has an A-list couple laid bare so much of their personal lives in a televised court case, and as the trial nears its conclusion, many observers are wondering how this stunning drama will come to an end.
The worst case scenario for Heard would be the seven-person jury finding in Depp’s favor and awarding him the full $50 million in damages that he’s requesting.
Attorneys for Depp say the figure reflects four years’ of estimated lost income for the formerly bankable star, including $22.5 million for a planned fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that was ultimately canceled.
If, however, the jury rules against Depp, then he would likely be forced to reimburse Heard for her legal fees, and her $100 million countersuit would stand a much greater chance of success.
“The jury is going to determine damages for both the claim and the counterclaim,” sources close to Heard’s legal team told The New York Post this week.
“If the jury finds Amber was liable for Mr. Depp, it would determine damages, if it found that Mr. Depp was liable for Amber’s counterclaims, it makes a determination of damages.”
“Jury decides damages and yes it is possible that no damages are awarded,” a spokesperson for Depp told the outlet.
Legal experts tell the Post that Depp is facing “an uphill battle,” as defamation suits are notoriously difficult to win, especially for people who have willingly lived their entire lives in the public eye.
In addition to disproving Heard’s claims, lawyers for Depp must prove that she made the allegations with malice, and with intent to do damage to his career.
“Any time a defamation lawsuit is successful, it has a chilling effect on speech,” former judge Halim Dhanidina told the Post this week.
Dhanidina noted, however, that the jury might be wary of the message that will be sent if they find in Heard’s favor.
“We don’t want to create a world where people feel like they can say whatever they want even if they know it’s not true,” he added.
“A verdict will have a chilling effect one way or the other regardless of what the verdict is.”
Both Heard and Depp appear to be steering clear of the media as they await the final chapter of this harrowing legal sage.
“Johnny is in Europe taking some time out to rest for a few days, hang out with old friends, playing music, and is taking long walks in the countryside,” a source close to the actor revealed this week.
We’ll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.