Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Amber Heard lawyer says ruling in favour of Johnny Depp would make jurors an ‘accomplice’ to his abuse

Heard’s attorneys Benjamin Rottenborn and Elaine Bredehoft delivered closing statements to the court in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday morning, where they warned that Depp winning the case would send a ‘message’ to survivors that if they don’t have photos ‘it didn’t happen’

Rachel Sharp
Fairfax, Virginia
Friday 27 May 2022 21:13 BST
Heard lawyer accuses Depp team of 'victim blaming at its most disgusting' in closing argument

Amber Heard’s attorney has told jurors that ruling in favour of Johnny Depp would make them an “accomplice” to his abuse and “campaign of global humiliation”, as the former couple’s multi-million-dollar defamation neared a dramatic close on Friday morning.

Attorney Benjamin Rottenborn delivered closing statements to the court in Fairfax, Virginia, where he warned that Mr Depp’s argument that he was not abusive to Ms Heard sends a “message” to survivors of domestic abuse everywhere.

“In trying to convince you that Mr Depp has carried his burden of proof in proving that he was never abusive to Amber on even one occasion, think about the message that Mr Depp and his attorneys are sending to Amber and by extension to every victim of domestic abuse everywhere,” he said.

“If you didn’t take the picture it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures they’re fake.

“If you didn’t tell your friends you’re lying. If you did tell your friends you’re part of the hoax.

“If you didn’t seek medical treatment you weren’t injured. If you did seek medical attention you’re crazy.

“If you did everything that you can to help your spouse, the person that you love, rid himself of the crushing drug and alcohol abuse that spins him into an abusive, rage-filled monster you’re a nag.

“And if you finally decided that enough is enough, you’ve had enough of the fear and enough of the pain and you have to leave to save yourself, you’re a golddigger.”

He warned: “That is the message that Mr Depp is asking you to send.”

Mr Rottenborn urged jurors not to be “an accomplice” to this message and to the Pirates actor’s “global humiliation” campaign against his former wife.

“In Mr Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr Depp. And if you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you. A smear campaign that lasts until this very day,” he said.

Mr Rottenborn slammed Mr Depp’s case saying it was focused on “victim blaming at its most disgusting”.

“She testified, you saw her testify, about the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Mr Depp,” he said.

“You saw her testify about that but [Depp and his lawyers] calling her a ‘liar’. You saw her on the stand testify with her own mouth exactly what she went through.

“For the first time in court, because people who have suffered that, they don’t want to broadcast that to the world.

“They want to penalise Ms Heard for not speaking about that earlier?”

He added: “That’s ridiculous and it’s insulting and it’s just victim blaming at its most disgusting.”

Mr Rottenborn went on to say that jurors do not even need to determine whether or not Mr Depp did or didn’t abuse Ms Heard to rule in her favour.

“You can decide this case without ever weighing into any of the allegations, the facts, the evidence that you’ve heard about the heinous abuse Ms Heard suffered at the hands of Mr Depp,” he said.

Instead, he said that her op-ed is protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in two separate photos from the courtroom on 27 May as their attorneys delivered closing arguments (AP)

“You can’t uphold the First Amendment and side with Johnny Depp,” he said.

However, he said that, if the jury does want to decide the verdict based on whether he did or did not abuse his ex-wife, then Ms Heard also “wins”.

“If that’s where you want to make your decision that’s where the road ends for Mr Depp,” he said.

He said that Mr Depp loses his case if he has not proven he never abused even “just one time”.

“If he fails to prove that he never abused her even one time then Amber wins,” he said.

As evidence of this alleged abuse, Mr Rottenborn read out text messages Mr Depp sent to his friend Paul Bettany where he said he wanted to “burn” Ms Heard.

Jurors were also shown footage – previously played at trial – of Mr Depp smashing cabinets in the kitchen of the couple’s home.

Mr Rottenborn told the court that the footage shows “the monster in the flesh”.

After playing the video clip, he called out Mr Depp’s reaction in the courtroom.

“Do you see Ms Heard laughing in that?” asked Mr Rottenborn after playing the footage.

“She is not laughing in that. Mr Depp in this courtroom right now is laughing and making snide comments as that video is played but it is not a laughing matter,” he said.

“Who does that? Who does that? Imagine being in Amber’s shoes,” he said, adding that Ms Heard knew “this monster will come out”.

Mr Depp was seen looking up as he was called out by the attorney.

“Imagine watching your husband, the person you love behaving violently that way. Like a wild animal. That is abuse,” he said.

Mr Rottenborn recapped several of the alleged incidents of domestic abuse heard at the trial.

One of the most explosive incidents at the centre of the trial took place in Australia in 2015.

Attorney Elaine Bredehoft speaks during closing arguments (REUTERS)

Mr Depp lost the tip of his finger which he claims was severed by Ms Heard hurling a vodka bottle at him.

Ms Heard claims that Mr Depp cut off his own finger and sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle that day.

In closing arguments, Mr Rottenborn said that Ms Heard arrived after her new husband had been on a “drug-fuelled bender” with Marilyn Manson and his assistants.

“There’s a reason you didn’t hear them testify,” he said.

The attorney reminded jurors that “we all know what happened in Australia... you remember her testimomy from Australia”.

Mr Rottenborn recounted parts of Ms Heard’s tearful testimony on the stand as she described the moment she claims Mr Depp assaulted her with a whisky bottle.

“I remember just not wanting to move... I didn’t know if the bottle inside me was broken,” he quoted Ms Heard saying.

Mr Rottenborn said that Ms Heard “doesn’t know how he lost his finger”.

He told jurors that “Amber could have chopped it off with an ax” and “it has nothing to do” with the trial as it doesn’t refute her allegations that she was abused.

“She didn’t but it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Mr Rottenborn said that Mr Depp has admitted on several occasions that he cut his own finger off, including in statements to a doctor and a nurse.

The court heard an audio clip of Mr Depp telling Ms Heard: “The day that I chopped my finger off.”

During her attorney’s statements about the 2015 incident, Ms Heard was seen looking emotional and putting her head in her hand.

Mr Rottenborn hit out at Mr Depp’s team’s argument that Ms Heard is staging an “abuse hoax” and that she did not have photo or video evidence from some of the alleged incidents of abuse.

“Ms Vasquez has the nerve to say ‘why didnt she videotape it?’ So as she’s being hit she’s supposed to grab a videotape with one hand while defending herself with the other hand?” he said.

He added: “If this was a hoax she’d have worse injuries than that.”

As well as several alleged incidents of physical abuse, Mr Rotternborn showed jurors destruction of their home saying that that alone was “abuse” and it is “disgusting”.

“The facts are absolutely overwhelming of abuse,” he said.

Amber Heard’s attorney Benjamin Rotterborn delivers closing arguments (EPA)

“One time – that is all you have to remember... a ruling against Amber here sends a message that no matter what you do as a an abuse victim you always have to do more... that you need to be perfect in order for people to believe you.

“Don’t send that message as that’s what he wants you to send.”

Mr Rottenborn also dismissed claims that Mr Depp’s career had been damaged by Ms Heard’s op-ed.

Instead, all damage to his career has been “self caused”, he said, pointing to testimony from Mr Depp’s former agent who said he was late to set and his reputation had worsened.

The attorney also pointed to testimony that Disney representatives did not commit to hiring Mr Depp in the sixth instalment of Pirates.

“He didn’t lose anything as a result of the op-ed,” he said.

Mr Depp is suing his ex-wife for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she penned for The Washington Post where she described herself as a “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor is not named in the article, which is titled “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.

However Mr Depp claims that it falsely implies that he is a domestic abuser – something that he strongly denies – and that it has left him struggling to land roles in Hollywood. He is suing for $50m.

Ms Heard is countersuing for $100m, accusing Mr Depp of orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment”.

The counterclaim revolves around comments made by one of Mr Depp’s attorneys Adam Waldman to the MailOnline where he called Ms Heard’s accusations “fake”, a “sexual violence hoax” and an “ambush”.

Attorney Elaine Bredehoft told the court that Mr Depp is going after Ms Heard “for nothing because he wants to hurt her through this again”.

She said that this is why Ms Heard is “fighting back” in her counterclaim.

“She has finally said enough. We’re asking you to finally hold this man responsible,” she said.

Ms Bredehoft said that Mr Depp went with his “attack dog” Mr Waldman to meet with the MailOnline in July 2020.

Pointing to his statements in the article, Ms Bredehoft said they are all false.

“You can find whatever Mr. Waldman has done, and you can find whatever Mr. Depp has done, and both of those are the same for purposes of evaluating the verdict form,” she said.

Ms Bredehoft said that Ms Heard has suffered from her “star being extinguished” by the defamatory statements instead of experiencing a career trajectory comparable to other actors.

Bigger than her career, however, she said the biggest damage has been to her life.

“It has destroyed her life. She can’t get away from this. It’s everywhere,” she said.

She pointed to the social media storm around the case saying people are “threatening to put her daughyer in a microwave for god’s sake”.

“No human being should be put through this,” she said.

Ms Bredehoft said that the team does not expect jurors to award $100m in damages but had asked for the amount to send a message to Mr Depp after he sued for $50m.

In the rebuttal, Mr Rottenborn told jurors: “Mr Depp’s malice is Mr Waldman’s malice.”

Follow live updates of the trial here

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in