The verdict of the Depp-Heard trial is not surprising. What I saw in the courtroom made me sick



It took the jury in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial less than three days to reach a verdict. They started on a Friday afternoon, broke up over Memorial Day weekend, and returned on Tuesday, May 31. By early afternoon the next day, they had made up their minds and discovered that Heard had defamed her ex-husband in a 2018 op-ed written for The Washington Post.

In other words, Depp won the lawsuit in the US that he lost in the UK after suing The sunpublishing house under a headline calling him a woman drummer.

I reported on this trial over the course of seven weeks. It invaded my professional life and many of my personal conversations. It was a difficult, often grim task.

Through it all, the cruelty of those who mocked Heard never ceased to amaze me. From the start, she — the defendant in this case — never seemed to benefit from the presumption of innocence reserved for those who usually stand in a courtroom. Each of his gestures, each of his facial expressions was scrutinized. Everything she did – from the way she smiled, cried or wiped her nose – was immediately interpreted in the least hospitable light.

I could never get used to the online discourse around the case – the memes, the YouTube supercuts, the flippant tweets, the former boy band member openly mocking her on social media. All of this challenged, for me, the limits of acceptable human behavior.

On several occasions, I saw Heard struggling through sobs to deliver his testimony. And then I watched thousands of self-proclaimed Internet sleuths laugh at her, come up with derisive new hashtags, and analyze her every gesture and facial expression with a level of concentration that I can only describe as disturbing. It made me sick through and through. It’s always like that.

Depp did not travel to Virginia on Wednesday to hear the verdict in person in the Fairfax courtroom. He was in the UK, where he did a few gigs. Heard was in the courtroom as the verdict was read: She and Depp each alleged they had been libeled by the other party on three statements. The jury found in favor of Depp on all three of Heard’s statements and in favor of Heard in only one of the three statements she raised in her countersuit. Each side received damages, Depp significantly more than Heard.

“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I am heartbroken that the mountain of evidence is still not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said in a statement afterwards. “…I believe Johnny’s lawyers succeeded in getting the jury to ignore the key issue of freedom of speech and to ignore the evidence so conclusive that we won in the UK.”

We’re not done talking about Depp v Heard. Not by far.

Elizabeth J. Harless