Johnny Depp has filed a motion to vacate part of Amber Heard’s closing argument, which asked the jury to consider the “message” a ruling against her would send to other victims of family violence.
Depp’s lawyers raised concerns about the “improper argument” in an application to the Fairfax County District Court on Tuesday as the jury deliberated for a second day in the ex-partner’s defamation case.
They asked a judge to remove the argument from the record, order the jury to ignore it and review the Special Verdict Form.
At his defense closing on May 27, Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, warned that ruling in Depp’s favor would make the jury “complicit” in his alleged mistreatment.
“In trying to convince you that Mr. Depp has met his burden of proof by showing that he never abused Amber even on one occasion, think about the message that Mr. Depp and his lawyers are sending to Amber, and by extension , to all victims of family abuse everywhere,” he asserted.
“If you didn’t take the photo, it didn’t happen. If you took photos, they are fake.”
“If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying. If you told your friends, you are part of the deception.”
“If you didn’t seek medical treatment, you weren’t hurt. If you sought medical attention, you are crazy.”
“If you did everything you could to help your spouse, the person you love, get rid of the crushing drug and alcohol use that turns them into an abusive, rage-filled monster, you’re a bummer.”
“And if you’ve finally decided that enough is enough, you’ve had enough fear and enough pain and you have to leave to save yourself, you’re a gold digger.”
He warned: “That is the message that Mr. Depp asks you to send.”
Rottenborn urged the jury not to be “accomplice” in this message and in the actor’s “global humiliation” campaign. Pirates against his ex-wife.
In their motion to strike that argument from the record, Depp’s lawyers said Rottenborn’s statements “improperly invite the jury to focus on a broader societal goal beyond the [caso]”, citing a 2021 ruling by the Fourth Circuit in Plymail vs. Miranda.
“Such an argument by Ms. Heard’s attorney improperly invites the jury to decide the case ‘based on passion and prejudice,’ and specific jury instruction is necessary to remedy this irregularity,” the filing states.
Depp is suing his ex-wife, Heard, for $50 million and alleges that she defamed him in an op-ed for Washington Post where she described herself as a victim of family abuse with the title: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change” [“Me pronuncié en contra de la violencia sexual y me enfrenté a la ira de nuestra cultura… eso tiene que cambiar”].
Heard countersued her ex-husband for $100 million, alleging that he launched a “smear campaign” against her.
Tuesday’s request also asked the court to amend a portion of the Special Verdict Form regarding Depp’s affirmative claims against Heard — that is, the allegations that jurors are considering in their case against her.
They are looking to change a question on the title of their op-ed from “Was the statement false” to “Was the statement about Mr. Depp false?”.