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Arguments in Johnny Depp’s libel trial wrap up with accusations and counter-accusations

Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London on Tuesday for the final arguments in his libel lawsuit against the Sun.
(Frank Augstein / Associated Press)

Johnny Depp’s libel case against a British tabloid that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard was wrapping up Tuesday, with Depp’s lawyer branding Heard “a compulsive liar” and the newspaper’s attorney insisting instead that there was no doubt Depp “regularly and systematically abused his wife.”

Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of the Sun, and the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, at the High Court in London over an April 2018 article that called the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star a “wife-beater.”

In closing arguments at the often lurid three-week trial, Depp’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said the actor strongly denied “this reputation-destroying, career-ending” allegation. “He has never hit a woman in his entire life — period, full stop, nada,” Sherborne said.

Judge Andrew Nicol is expected to hand down a ruling in several weeks.

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Neither Depp nor Heard is on trial, though it has been easy to forget that during a case that dissected their toxic celebrity love affair.

Depp is the claimant in the civil case, NGN and Wootton are the defendants and Heard is their main witness. To defeat Depp’s libel claim, the newspaper must persuade the judge that, on the balance of probabilities, its story was accurate.

NGN’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, said in her summing-up that there was no doubt Depp “regularly and systematically abused his wife” and so the “wife-beater” label was justified.

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But Sherborne said the Sun’s article — which urged Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling to have Depp fired from the movie version of her book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — gave the false impression that Depp had been “tried, convicted and sentenced” for domestic violence, and compared him to former film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been jailed for sex offenses.

“Acting as both judge and jury, the defendants plainly and squarely state that Mr. Depp is guilty [of a] series of serious and violent criminal offenses,” he said.

Both sides agree that the relationship between Depp and Heard, which began after they met on the set of 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary,” soured long before they divorced in 2017. Texts, emails and recordings attest to the increasingly bitter relations between Depp, now 57, and the 34-year-old model and actress.

A judge ended Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage on Friday, ending months of bickering between the pair over the final terms of their breakup.

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But they disagree completely over who started and escalated their fights.

Depp denies Heard’s claim of 14 separate incidents in which he allegedly hit, slapped and shoved her, pulled her hair and threw bottles at her “like grenades.” The judge was shown photos of Heard with black eyes, red marks on her face and an injured scalp — alleged evidence of Depp’s violence.

Depp said the photos were part of a “dossier” of fake evidence and claimed that Heard hit him, even severing the tip of his finger with a thrown vodka bottle. Under cross-examination, Depp admitted head-butting Heard during a tussle but said it was by accident as he tried to stop her punching him.

Heard acknowledged having a short temper and said she punched Depp once in March 2015. But she said it was to prevent him hitting her sister.

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Amber Heard has begun giving testimony at Britain’s High Court against ex-husband Johnny Depp, whom she has accused of abusing her.

The trial has provided an up-close and often unflattering look at Hollywood stardom, revealing details of Depp’s life of wealth, luxury, emotional turmoil and substance abuse. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at law firm Howard Kennedy, said the sensational case “has all of the hallmarks of the Roman arena.”

“People will remember this case not for the results, but for the evidence — the rather nasty, gory evidence — that was involved,” he said.

The settings for the disintegrating relationship were as glamorous as the allegations were sordid. The alleged assaults took place on Depp’s private island in the Bahamas, in a Los Angeles penthouse, on a luxury train and aboard a private jet.

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Whichever spouse was to blame, the relationship left a trail of destruction. Damage to a rented house in Australia where the couple had an altercation was estimated at more than $100,000. The couple’s downtown L.A. penthouse was trashed during another argument.

The low point of the relationship, according to Depp, came when excrement was found in a bed at the penthouse. Heard blamed one of the couple’s two Yorkshire terriers, but Depp suspected Heard or one of her friends was to blame.


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