Key moments from the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard verdict

Credit…Pool photo by Jim Watson

Lawyers for Ms. Heard sought to impress on the jury that while the libel trial centered on grim details of alleged domestic abuse, Mr. Depp’s trial was ultimately about what was called “a piece of paper “.

Her case revolved around Ms Heard’s 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, titled: “I spoke out against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath.” This must change. The article, which did not mention Mr. Depp’s name, was signed by Ms. Heard, but there were many more people involved in the article.

Early drafts of the editorial were prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union’s communications department and refined through email exchanges with Ms. Heard’s lawyers, said ACLU general counsel Terence Dougherty. Shortly before the editorial was published, Ms. Heard was named an ACLU Ambassador with a focus on women’s rights and gender-based violence.

During video deposition shown to the jury during the trial, a lawyer for Mr. Depp read emails from the ACLU explaining how the op-ed came about. An email from a communications worker there suggested Ms Heard write an article about how victims of gender-based violence “have been made less safe under Trump and how people can take action”, and said noted that Ms. Heard could weave into her personal story.

Another ACLU employee sent an early draft of the editorial to Ms. Heard, and during the editing process with her attorneys, the mention of her marriage and the successful application for a temporary restraining order were removed, Mr. Dougherty said. In the end, Ms Heard called herself in the op-ed a ‘public figure representing domestic violence’ – a phrase central to Mr Depp’s trial.

In an email from one ACLU employee to another, which a lawyer for Mr. Depp read during questioning of Mr. Dougherty, the employee noted that lawyers for Ms. Heard had withdrawn “some of the things that made him really powerful”.

“I think Amber’s contributions to the part of the op-ed that talks about personal experiences are part of what informed the public that this was a strong op-ed,” Mr Dougherty said. .

Mr Dougherty said the editorial was timed to coincide with the release of the film ‘Aquaman’, in which Ms Heard had a starring role. Ms Heard said the moment was not to promote ‘Aquaman’ but to use the film to promote the issues discussed in the article, including advocating for a stronger violence against women law and against the Trump administration’s policies regarding the adjudication of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The ACLU’s founding principles were free speech and civil liberties, but in recent years it has become more involved in progressive causes, fueling internal tensions over whether it has strayed from its goal. initial on First Amendment issues.

Ms Heard’s lawyers argued that Ms Heard had the right to discuss her experiences with domestic abuse and that it was undisputed that in 2016 she became a “public figure representing domestic violence” when she obtained a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp after reporting his assaults to a court.

Lawyers for Mr Depp claimed the article made clear allusions to Ms Heard’s previous accusations – which Mr Depp denied – and that they were central to the relevance of the article. The three parts of the editorial that were at issue in the defamation case included the headline, in which Ms. Heard and the ACLU said they were not involved; the phrase that she was a “public figure representing domestic violence”; and a later passage on how institutions protect men accused of abuse.

“The ACLU and Ms. Heard conspired to make it very clear that these three statements related to Mr. Depp, because otherwise no one had an interest in the article,” a lawyer for Mr. Depp said. , Benjamin Chew, in court.

The ACLU was not named as a defendant in the case.

After Ms Heard received a $7million payment as part of her divorce settlement from Mr Depp, she pledged half the money to the ACLU. Mr. Depp’s lawyers sought to undermine Ms. Heard’s credibility by showing that she had paid a fraction of the $3.5. million she promised the ACLU Mr. Dougherty testified that Ms. Heard stopped payments because she was in financial difficulty, which Ms. Heard said was the result of Mr. Depp’s lawsuit against her .