Amber Heard lawyers accuse Johnny Depp of ‘victim blaming at its most disgusting’ in closing argument

‘People who have suffered [domestic abuse], they don’t want to broadcast that to the world,’ Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn said during closing arguments

Maanya Sachdeva
Friday 27 May 2022 18:51 BST
Heard lawyer accuses Depp team of 'victim blaming at its most disgusting' in closing argument
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Amber Heard’s lawyer Benjamin J Rottenborn accused Johnny Depp of “victim blaming at its most disgusting” during his closing argument at the couple’s defamation trial.

Taking the jury through the individual sentences in Ms Heard’s 2018 The Washington Post op-ed at the heart of Mr Depp’s $50m lawsuit against her – and why they weren’t defamatory in nature – Mr Rottenborn on Friday reminded the jury of Ms Heard’s testimony earlier in the trial.

“The undisputed evidence is that Ms Heard didn’t write the headline, she didn’t approve the headline, she had nothing to do with it, she was not given notice of the headline,” he told the jury on Friday (27 May).

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.

“She testified, you saw her testify, about the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Mr Depp,” Mr Rottenborn continued, adding, “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?” Mr Rottenborn condemned Mr Depp and his legal team, adding, “That’s ridiculous and it’s insulting and it’s just victim blaming at its most disgusting.”

Mr Rottenborn then pointed out that the only reference to sexual assault in the op-ed was “sexual assault that [Ms Heard] said she’d experienced by the time she was of college age, before Mr Depp.”

“There is a reference to sexual violence in that article, but it’s not by Mr Depp. And Mr Depp can’t hold her liable for headlines she didn’t write, it contained something that was not about him,” he explained to the jurors.

Earlier in his closing, Mr Rottenborn warned jurors that Mr Depp’s claim 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 domsetic 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 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 Mr Depp’s abuse and his “global humiliation” campaign.

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”.

Mr Depp pleaded with jurors to “give him his life back” after he claimed it was “ruined” by Ms Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse, as closing arguments got under way Friday in the former couple’s high-profile defamation trial.

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