Depp Vs Heard: Allegations Vs Truth

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Guest post written by Bernadette Liparota, blog writer, Doogue + George Criminal Lawyers.

For weeks the highly publicised defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard captured the attention of people across the globe. It had all the hallmarks of Hollywood; rugged leading man, younger doe-eyed love interest, sexual chemistry, plot twists, violence, tarnished reputations, revenge and redemption.  

Did you watch the Depp vs Heard trial? I watched. Perfectly voyeuristic, the live-streamed trial offered something we don’t get to see in Australia. All of it. The whole shebang. Recorded and broadcast for everyone to watch, re-watch, screen-grab. We were able to digest it in full, in highlights, or even set to music, captioned, dissected and analysed by anyone who cared to. People got to know the stenographer by her first name. Judy – her name is Judy. It was all over social media. And for a while TikTok became #depptok if the algorithm was in your favour. 

If you’ve been living under a rock… nope, there’s no chance you have not heard anything about this case. It put the fame back into defamed. 

This case strikes a chord here. Yes, it’s a civil lawsuit. Yes, it’s the US. Yes, their justice system is run with more cameras, more live YouTube streaming and more spectacle. But at the heart of it, the fundamental principle of Depp vs Heard is the same as any trial we have ever run. 

And this trial has prepared, sautéed, seasoned and plated up that most unpalatable morsel of truth that many people have difficulty swallowing.  

Not every allegation is true. 

There is so much complexity in truth. Your truth, my truth, the truth. While it may be true that Johnny and Amber’s was a very toxic relationship, was what was alleged true? And while it may be true that, as we listened to very intimate details of a couple’s relationship, we heard both parties engaging in behaviours that were not ever meant for public transmission or dissection, was what was alleged true? 

The allegations against Johnny Deep in this long, protracted saga were significant. Criminal, in fact. Allegations of violence, sexual assaults, intimidation and threats are considered very serious. But, interestingly, no criminal charges were ever laid. No criminal trial ensued. No chance for prosecution to prove his guilt with unmistakeable evidence in court and see justice served. Instead, it was shots fired via the media. Apparently staged photo opportunities. A most public taking down of a very popular, very powerful man. And in this, the post Me Too era, where women have found their voices to speak up against sexual violence, misogyny, the imbalance of power where one woman’s voice can turn into a chorus? There was no chorus. There were just allegations. 

So what if, what if, what if the allegations aren’t true? What happens when someone accuses something that simply isn’t true? Whose truth is true? The truth of the person making the allegation? The weight of all victims who speak their truth? The truth of the person defending the allegation?  

None of that really matters when an allegation is made however, Johnny Depp said it in the first line of his post-verdict statement:

“Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. 

All in the blink of an eye.” 

See, it didn’t even matter if it wasn’t true. The taint of the allegations had stained his reputation. The media loved it. Without any regard for what was or wasn’t true, the mud stuck. So, Johnny pursued this lawsuit to clear his name. And in the lawsuit, a litany of character witnesses spoke out in his defence. The evidence did not stack up. What was claimed was not proven by any evidentiary fact. It was just an allegation. So, in proving he was defamed in Amber Heard’s op-ed piece, he proved that what she was alleging wasn’t true. And so, claimed victory of sorts. 

But what is true is, his name will never be clear from this. the Depp vs Heard will overshadow anything he has ever done before and anything he will do subsequently. The damage done is irreparable. And if not true, then no amount of court performances can bring justice. 

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