FAIRFAX, Virginia: Jurors deliberating the duelling defamation claims from actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard adjourned without delivering verdicts, leaving the resolution in the widely watched six-week trial to next week.
Depp, the 58-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean star, sued ex-wife Heard in Virginia for $50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in an opinion piece she wrote.
Heard, 36, countersued for $100m, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax.”
The seven-person jury deliberated for more than two hours. They will resume discussions on Tuesday after the US Memorial Day holiday.
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
“Depp experienced persistent verbal, physical and emotional abuse by Heard,” attorney Camille Vasquez said in closing arguments.
She said Heard’s allegations of abuse by Depp, including a sexual assault with a liquor bottle, were ‘wild, over-the-top and implausible’ and had ruined his reputation in Hollywood and among fans.
“We ask you to give Depp his life back by telling the world Depp is not the abuser Heard says he is,” Vasquez said.
Heard lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn, in his closing argument, reminded jurors of explicit text messages from Depp to friends or associates.
“This is a window into the heart and mind of America’s favourite pirate,” Rottenborn said. “This is the real Johnny Depp.”
At the centre of the legal case is the December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in the Washington Post, in which she made the statement about domestic abuse. The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.
Heard’s attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
“Your key question to answer is ‘does the First Amendment give Heard the right to write the words she wrote?” Rottenborn said.