This week, American actor Johnny Depp lost a libel suit he filed in London, suing the newspaper The Sun for calling him a "wife beater" in one of their articles, a reference to his relationship with ex-wife Amber Heard. The case was ugly, dragging both actors' private lives into the spotlight. It was complicated, too; each accused the other of abuse.
British libel law works differently from the American version. In the US, the burden of proof for libel is on the person claiming to have been libeled — that is, the plaintiff has to demonstrate that what was written is false (at least in cases involving matters of public concern). In the UK, the burden of proof is on the party accused of libel — that is, The Sun had to prove that the things published about Depp were true. A judge held that 12 of 14 of Heard's accusations of abuse met the threshold for truth in civil court. Depp's attorneys say they plan to appeal. (Depp is also suing Heard for defamation in a U.S. court after she published an op-ed in The Washington Post identifying herself as a survivor of sexual and physical violence.)
On the Internet, it seems that Johnny Depp has a lot of people by his side. Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms are being flooded with memes, supporting the actor. There are, however, those who disagree with them.
The actor issued this statement after losing the libel suit he filed in the UK
Image credits: johnnydepp
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met when he was a 45-year-old father of two living with his longtime partner, Vanessa Paradis, and she was 22. A few years later, Depp and Heard married and soon divorced. In 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp and also obtained a temporary restraining order. Her allegations that Depp was physically and verbally abusive while using drugs and alcohol were soon widely publicized. She alleged that at the time of filing for divorce, an incident had taken place during which Depp threw his phone at her, leaving her with a bruised face. However, a police spokesman told People that an investigation into the domestic incident radio call found that no crime had taken place.
Depp denied the accusations against him and through his representatives said Heard was "attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse."
Heard testified under oath at a deposition, but she withdrew her request for a domestic violence restraining order and a settlement was reached. According to People, Heard received $7 million from the divorce but donated it to charity. She also canceled her spousal support request of $50,000 a month.
"Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain," Depp and Heard said in a then-released joint statement. "There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm." Their divorce was finalized a year after Heard filed.
The Hollywood Reporter said that a non-disparagement clause was inserted into the settlement that prevented either party from saying anything negative about the high-profile relationship and break-up.
In December 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post saying she was abused but Depp was not mentioned by name.
In 2019, Depp sued Heard for $50 million for defamation over the article. The suit said that Heard "is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator," and denied that Depp ever abused her. Instead, the suit said that Heard's allegations were part of an "elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity" for the actress.
"The op-ed depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her," Depp's lawyers said.
In a court filing that attempted to dismiss Depp's defamation suit, Heard recalled multiple instances of alleged abuse that she said occurred during their marriage and referred to him as "the Monster."
In 2020, phone recordings obtained by the Daily Mail were released where Heard admitted to "hitting" Depp.
Heard is heard saying: "I'm sorry that I didn't ... hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you, it was not punching you. Babe, you're not punched.
"I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you're fine, I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you."
"I left last night. Honestly, I swear to you because I just couldn't take the idea of more physicality, more physical abuse on each other," Depp said in the recording. "Because had we continued it, it would have gotten f---ing bad. And baby, I told you this once. I'm scared to death we are a f---ing crime scene right now."
Heard responded: "I can't promise you I won't get physical again. God, I f---ing sometimes get so mad I lose it."
Sharon Osbourne has weighed in on Johnny Depp's high-profile "wife beater" trial, saying on CBS' "The Talk" that Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard were "as bad as each other" and that she could understand the pair's relationship because she once had a similar dynamic with her husband, Ozzy. Many Internet commenters also share this opinion.