Depp Heard Trial: Defenders fear coolant impact on prosecutors

The call came on Thursday, just a day after the verdict of Johnny Depp-Amber Heard, at a free legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Athens, Georgia. The woman wanted to continue her claims of abuse, but was worried.

The call came on Thursday, just a day after the verdict of Johnny Depp-Amber Heard, at a free legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Athens, Georgia. The woman wanted to continue her claims of abuse, but was worried.

“I was afraid she would be seen as a liar, like Amber Heard,” said clinic director Christine Scartz, the first person to call. “People don’t want to give out the most intimate details of their personal lives and then call them liars.”

Scartz is one of the defenders and legal experts who fear that this case – unique because of its celebrity composition, dirty discoveries, mutual allegations of abuse and incessant misogyny on social media – will have a dire effect on women speaking out. claims of abuse. A jury of five men and two women mostly sided with Depp in the defamation case, ordering Hurd to pay him $ 10 million against the $ 2 million he must give her.

Although jurors considered civil defamation lawsuits rather than criminal charges, the verdict largely confirmed Depp’s allegations that Hurd lied about abusing her. During the testimony, Hurd detailed dozens of assaults, and Depp categorically denied ever abusing her. In 2020, a British libel judge found that Depp had attacked Hurd a dozen times.

For Scartz, who runs a clinic at the University of Georgia Law School, the concern is the suspicion that women are lying. She fears that offenders may once again be encouraged to expose their accusers as liars in retaliation for coming forward.

Not all experts fear cooling or, as some have suggested, threats to the #MeToo movement. Debra Katz, a Washington-based employment lawyer and perhaps the country’s best-known #MeToo lawyer, said Depp’s case was one of a kind, “in itself – who these people were, the dysfunction of their marriage and the madness that happened between them. And it really was caused by celebrities. “

However, Katz, who represented prosecutors Brett Cavanaugh, Andrew Cuomo and others, sees the case as a failure because it “unfortunately affects the misogyny that already exists, and it’s scary that Amber Heard was subjected to such a murder of the character,” to discredit the work she was given ”.

During the trial, TikTok and Twitter users insulted Hurd in memes and videos, some of which used court materials. Social media content, viewed billions of times, called her a liar, an abuser and a “fake” cry. #AmberIsALiar and other hashtags have become popular search terms.

TikTok garnered nearly 20 billion views of the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp, compared to about 78 million for #JusticeForAmberHeard. That’s more than 250 messages in support of Depp, each supporting Hurd.

Clearly, Katz said, “there is still misogyny in the world, a deep misogyny, and it is still penetrating our justice system.” However, according to her, it should not be assumed that in other cases women will not perform.

And she said a more important indicator of the strength of the #MeToo movement is the court ruling, which was made on Thursday, the day after Depp’s verdict: the loss of Harvey Weinstein’s appeal against his New York rape conviction and 23 years in prison. In this case, she said, the jury “reviewed every sexist argument that Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers made about these women. It’s a much more weighty jury verdict and a court victory than anything that this thing with Depp Hurd suggests. “

The metoo.International organization, founded by Tarana Burke, who coined the phrase a few decades ago in her work with sexual assault survivors, has rejected efforts to link the Depp Heard process to the movement.

“The way #MeToo was co-opted and manipulated during the trial of Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard is a toxic disaster and one of the biggest libel slanders we’ve ever seen,” the group said in a statement earlier. sentence.

“What we experienced in the Depp Hurd trial was a public narration of intimate partner violence between two privileged white celebrities,” the statement said, condemning the “public humiliation and harassment” that had befallen Hurd.

Law professor Mary Anne Franks tried to avoid covering the trial, only to find herself under a flurry of “these really horrible, out-of-context, completely distorted types of doubles” every time she looked online. She cannot help but wonder if they were caught by jurors who were not sequestered and could have used their phones if they were not in court.

“It’s crazy to think they’re not affected by what’s happening on social media,” said Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who studies the intersection of civil rights and technology.

Social networks, Franks added, have exacerbated the power imbalance between the richer, beloved actor and his lesser-known ex-wife. And the trial took place at a critical cultural moment, she noted, as the progress made by women over the past 50 years is increasingly under threat and the #MeToo movement is facing a backlash.

“When men are brought to justice, this resentment, this anger, it may boil for a while, but at some point it will explode, and I think a lot of people have channeled those emotions through this case,” Franks said. .

While the jury deliberated, the streets near Fairfax Courtroom, Virginia, became a pro-depot carnival. The spectacle included a retired detective in a pirate hat to pay tribute to his character Jack Sparrow, and the arrival of an onboard truck with the Pirates of the Caribbean.

During a six-week trial, the national organization RAINN, which fights sexual violence, noted a staggering increase in calls to its hotline. It says that in May 2022, he helped 28% more people than in May 2021, which he attributes to news coverage. On the day of the verdict, he served 35% more people than the average on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Erin Robinson.

Washington attorney Joseph Commarata, who represented seven women in a successful defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby, and Paul Jones in a lawsuit against President Bill Clinton that included a defamation lawsuit, closely monitored the progress in the courtroom. He said he understands that victims of sexual violence are increasingly concerned that they may be sued if they speak out. But he believes the truth can still prevail.

The trial against Hurd v. Depp, he said, reflects only their relationship and does not mean that in all cases the accused now has the upper hand.

“This is the story of these two people,” he told the court. “A public story about their personal lives. «

“And a woman who feels offended should be able to … spend her day in court. Her case will be heard on the facts of this case, not in the case of Johnny Depp, not in any other case, but in her case. “

But Scartz at the Georgia Clinic worries that the accused may decide that she should “run, throw the dice and call her a liar. See what’s going on, you know? At this point, you lose nothing.

“Those of us who work at the forefront in all such matters … we will do our best to convince our clients to go ahead and seek the help they need. But let’s see. We may never be able to say for sure that it has affected, because you do not know who is not calling you. “

___ Dale reported from Philadelphia and Novek from New York. Follow them on Twitter at and

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