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Depp jurors hear closings, begin deliberations

FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA (AP) – After a six-week trial in which Johnny Depp and Amber Heard tore into each other over the nasty details of their short marriage, both sides told a jury the exact same thing on Friday – they want their lives back.

Heard “ruined his life by falsely telling the world she was a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Depp”, Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez told the jury in closing arguments in his libel trial against his ex-wife.

Heard’s lawyers, meanwhile, said Depp ruined Heard’s life by launching a smear campaign against her when she divorced him and publicly accused him of assault in 2016.

“In Depp’s world, you don’t leave Depp,” said Heard’s lawyer J Benjamin Rottenborn. “If you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you.”

Depp is hoping the trial will help restore his reputation, though it has turned into a spectacle, with broadcast cameras in the courtroom capturing every twist to an increasingly rapt audience as fans weighed in on social media and lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats.

“This case for Depp has never been about money,” said Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew. “It is about Depp’s reputation and freeing him from the prison in which he has lived for the last six years.”

Depp is suing Heard for USD50 million in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in the courtroom for closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia. PHOTO: AP

Heard filed a USD100 million counterclaim after his lawyer called her allegations a hoax.

The seven-person civil jury began its deliberations at 3pm on Friday and finished for the day about two hours later. They resume on Tuesday.

Depp said he never struck Heard and that she concocted the abuse allegations. He has said he was the one physically attacked by Heard.

During the trial, Heard testified about more than a dozen episodes of assault that she said Depp inflicted on her.

Vasquez, in her closing, noted that Heard had to revise her testimony about the first time she said she was struck.

Heard said Depp hit her after she inadvertently laughed at one of his tattoos. Heard initially said it happened in 2013 – after a year of courtship and romance – but later corrected herself to say it happened in 2012, early in their relationship.

Jurors have seen photos of Heard with marks and bruises, but some photos show only mild redness, and others show more severe bruising.

Vasquez accused Heard of doctoring the photos and said evidence that Heard has embellished some of her injuries is proof that all her claims of abuse are unfounded.

“You either believe all of it, or none of it,” she said. “Either she is a victim of ugly, horrible abuse, or she is a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything.”

In Heard’s closing, Rottenborn said the nitpicking over Heard’s evidence of abuse ignores the overwhelming evidence on her behalf and sends a dangerous message to domestic-violence victims.

“If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen,” Rottenborn said. “If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, they’re lying. If you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax.”

And he rejected Vasquez’s suggestion that if the jury thinks Heard might be embellishing on a single act of abuse that they have to disregard everything she said.

He said Depp’s libel claim must fail if Heard suffered even a single incident of abuse.

“They’re trying to trick you into thinking Amber has to be perfect to win,” Rottenborn said.

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