Johnny Depp Amber Heard

Opening arguments begin today after the jury selection was done on 11 April 2022 in the blockbuster defamation case about allegations of spousal abuse between Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard. Image: Daniel Leal / AFP

Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard: Opening arguments set to begin

The opening arguments for the high-profile defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard will begin today.

Johnny Depp Amber Heard

Opening arguments begin today after the jury selection was done on 11 April 2022 in the blockbuster defamation case about allegations of spousal abuse between Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard. Image: Daniel Leal / AFP

Opening arguments are to begin on Tuesday in the blockbuster defamation case about allegations of spousal abuse between Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard.

A jury was picked on Monday to hear the suit brought by the 58-year-old Depp against the 35-year-old Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

ALSO READ: Blockbuster case: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard head back to court

FANS OUTSIDE COURT FOR JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD CASE

Depp, who was married to Heard from 2015 to 2017, filed the defamation complaint against his former wife in the United States after losing a high-profile libel case in London in November 2020.

About a dozen Depp fans holding small black pirate flags – a nod to his starring role in the Pirates franchise – gathered outside the Fairfax County courthouse as jury selection began.

One held a sign reading “Justice for Johnny.”

Depp, wearing a grey three-piece suit and sporting shoulder-length hair and sunglasses, arrived in court via a back door.

Heard arrived for the opening day of the trial in a black pinstripes pants suit.

Jury selection was not televised but the judge hearing the case has said there will be a live broadcast starting with opening arguments on Tuesday.

STAR-STUDDED WITNESS LIST FOR JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD CASE

Both Depp and Heard are expected to testify along with actors James Franco and Paul Bettany, and billionaire Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk.

The case centres on a column written by Heard and printed in The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she describes herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” who was pilloried online after her assault claims.

The column was entitled: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”

The actress never named Depp, who she met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary, but he sued her for defamation for implying he was an abuser, seeking $50 million (R728 million) in damages.

“The op-ed’s clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false. Mr Depp never abused Ms Heard,” the complaint says.

Depp accuses Heard of seeking to “generate positive publicity for herself” ahead of the release of the film Aquaman, in which she had a starring role.

Heard countersued, asking for $100 million (R1.4 billion), saying she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.

“The frivolous lawsuit Mr Depp has filed against Ms Heard continues that abuse and harassment,” her counterclaim says.

JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD TO TESTIFY IN PERSON

Depp filed his case in Virginia since the Post is printed there but he is not taking action against the newspaper itself.

Virginia also has defamation laws considered to be more favourable to plaintiffs than those in California, where the two actors live.

The trial presided over by Judge Penney Azcarate, is expected to last several weeks.

Depp and Heard are expected to testify in person, while some witnesses may be heard via video link.

More details about the private lives of the two actors are expected to emerge.

DETAILS OF JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD’S RELATIONSHIP WILL BE LAID BARE AGAIN

Starting in 2016, Heard sought a restraining order against Depp amid abuse allegations. Their divorce was finalized in 2017.

Depp lost the London case, which he brought against The Sun for branding him a “wife beater.” His attempt to appeal was rejected in March last year.

That trial laid bare details of the couple’s volatile relationship, including Depp’s battle with drugs and alcohol.

Heard testified that she loved the sober Depp – but that he became a “monster” after days-long binges on powerful prescription and other drugs.

JOHNNY DEPP’S CAREER HAS SUFFERED SINCE LONDON CASE

Depp’s career has suffered in the wake of that case.

He left his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Depp also has said he was asked to step down from the Fantastic Beasts series based on the book by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

He has been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.

In a quirk of timing, the next movie in that series opens in US theatres on 15 April.

© Agence France-Presse/Amel Semmache