The multimillion-dollar trial of Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard has gotten underway this week in Fairfax, Virginia, as intimate details of the former couple’s volatile marriage is set to be made public once again—and the actor needs a “smoking gun” of evidence to clear his name, according to one lawyer.
The Edward Scissorhands actor’s $50 million defamation against his ex-wife concerns an op-ed she wrote about domestic violence in The Washington Post in 2018. While Depp was not named in the article, his attorneys argue that Heard’s implication is obvious.
Conversely, Aquaman star Heard is countersuing for $100 million for nuisance with her lawyers set to argue that her WaPo essay was a matter of public interest and she should therefore be protected from a defamation suit.
The burden is on Depp’s lawyers to prove that Heard’s allegations of domestic violence against her ex-husband are false. In the opening statements on Tuesday, Depp’s team called Heard a liar.
The actor has repeatedly denied ever having been violent to Heard. The two gave evidence during an earlier trial in 2020 where claims of brutal violence and intimate details of their tumultuous relationship were made public.
Depp famously lost a defamation case in the U.K. against the British tabloid The Sun, after a judge found that the allegations of domestic abuse against him were found to be “substantially true.” The paper had described as a “wife beater.”
For Depp to win this time around, he must prove that the allegations of domestic violence against Heard are untrue and also prove that Heard intentionally lied about being abused and used malicious statements in her claims.
David M. Schwartz, Esq., a trial attorney and founder of Gerstman Schwartz said that Depp needs a “smoking gun” to prove Heard is lying.
“Johnny Depp has a long haul in a defamation suit where Amber Heard exercised her First Amendment right to detail domestic violence against her implying Johnny Depp,” Schwartz told Newsweek.
“Johnny Depp will have the burden of showing the statements are false which will be a tough threshold in light of Amber’s testimony in the case.”
Schwartz added: “Being a public figure, he may also have to show that the statements were malicious which will be very tough to prove unless he has a smoking gun showing that she made up the violence against her.”
“The expense is inconsequential to Depp compared to the potential to regain his movie career,” said Lewis, founder of Jeff Lewis Law.
He went on to say: “This trial—and a positive verdict for Depp—can accelerate the recovery curve and get Depp back into the [acting] business.”
Notably, Depp was “asked to resign” from Fantastic Beasts 3, in which he was set to reprise his role as Gellert Grindelwald. He was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.