On Monday, a jury was chosen to hear Johnny Depp’s long-awaited libel lawsuit against actress Amber Heard, whom he accuses of unfairly depicting him as a domestic abuser.
Depp sued Heard in 2018 for an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in which she refers to herself as a “public figure symbolizing domestic abuse.” Although the piece does not identify Depp by name, he claims it obviously alludes to charges made by Heard in other forums that he physically abused her. Depp vehemently disputes the allegations.
The case brought a touch of Hollywood to a courthouse that has a lengthy history of dealing with high-profile crimes, but none involving movie stars.
More than a dozen ladies gathered outside the courtroom an hour before the hearing, some brandishing banners that said “Justice for Johnny,” while others waved pirate flags in honor of Depp’s trademark role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
On Monday, the public courthouse in Fairfax was shuttered, with restricted closed-circuit access in an overflow courtroom. People began forming lines before 7 a.m. for the wristbands that granted entrance. Both Depp and Heard were in attendance, but court employees used special access points to bring them in and out, making it difficult for onlookers to see them.
Penney Azcarate, the judge presiding over the case, has established a variety of access restrictions in order to keep the courtroom in order. Most importantly, neither Depp nor Heard are allowed to pose for pictures or sign autographs inside or on the grounds of the courthouse.
Depp’s supporters have spoken out in defense of him, claiming that he has been wrongly accused. Depp enthusiast Raylyn Otey, from Bluefield, Virginia, travelled five hours to see the actor. She was upset that Depp did not personally greet fans, despite the fact that sheriff’s officers had strictly restricted fan access.
“I’m quite dissatisfied. With a bouquet in hand, she replied, “I came to offer him flowers to express some support.”
A court dismissed a second lawsuit filed by Depp against a British newspaper, ruling that Depp abused Heard on a dozen times and left her in fear for her life on several instances.
Heard has launched a countersuit against Depp, alleging that his attorneys defamed her at his request.
The matter was unsuccessfully shifted to California, where the actors live, by Heard’s attorneys. Because the Post’s online editions are published through servers in Fairfax County, a Fairfax court concluded that Depp was within his rights to pursue the action here. According to Depp’s attorneys, the action was brought in Virginia partly because the statutes are more favorable to their case.
By Monday afternoon, a jury of seven, including four alternates, had been chosen. In Virginia, civil trials usually have a smaller jury.
The first day of testimony is set for Tuesday morning. The study will run for at least a month. Actors James Franco and Paul Bettany, as well as tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, are among the many witnesses. Some witnesses will testify in person, while others will do so by video connection.