Johnny Depp’s libel case against the Sun’s parent company, News Group Newspapers (NGN), continued this week as his legal team tries to appeal his loss from last November, when a London judge declared the allegations of abuse from his ex-wife Amber Heard “substantially true” (Depp sued the group after The Sun described him as a “wife-beater” in a 2018 headline; NGN’s defense was that the phrase in the headline was true).
Per The Guardian, in written submissions to the court, Depp’s lawyer Andrew Caldecott wrote that when Heard claimed she would donate all $7 million in the 2016 settlement from the divorce to two organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, she lied, and that the lie “is a potentially subliminal message” to the judge in the case. He added that the claim “strengthened Heard’s credit in an exceptional way,” yet it was a “calculated and manipulative lie, designed to achieve a potent favourable impression from the outset.” (Depp denies all allegations of abuse.)
He told the court that, per documents that were released post-trial, she only donated “$100,000, not the $3.5m which we say the court was led to believe was the true position.” Likewise, the ACLU received $350,000 followed by $100,000 later. Caldecott cited the line from Justice Nicol’s judgment that read, “Her donation of the seven million US dollars to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger.”
“[O]bviously in the context of this case it implies revulsion at the way he has treated her physically,” Caldecott said. According to Page Six, sources “close to Depp” put it this way: “‘The judge thought she was this wonderful human being standing up for mankind,’ because of her supposed generosity, ‘but she was lying out of her ass.’”
Caldecott also argued that the judge did not give enough credit to recordings in which Heard allegedly admits to assaulting Depp.
The problem with the arguments is that the court was never meant to determine whether Heard was a “gold digger,” nor was it a question of if there was mutual abuse between them. It was over the words “wife-beater” in a headline from 2018, and in the British courts, where it is easier for a defendant to win a libel case than in the U.S., the burden is on the defense to prove their words were true. In this case, the judge deemed them credible.
NGN’s defense, which Sasha Wass and Adam Wolanski leads, countered Caldecott’s claims by maintaining Heard was still “a victim of serious domestic violence,” regardless of any alleged admission to assaulting Depp. “The position if the judge had found—because Mr Depp’s case was that ‘she hit me more than once’—she was feisty and had slapped Mr. Depp as she admitted on that tape, that does not disqualify her from being a victim of serious domestic violence,” Wass said.
They also argued that whether she was a “gold digger” was immaterial to the case; one can be a “gold digger” and get assaulted by one’s spouse at the same time. NGN’s lawyers said that, regardless, their words were true, and Heard never lied about the gift. The ACLU “understood” that Heard had “pledged to pay over 10 years,” they claimed, calling the “gold digger thesis” a “misogynistic trope.”
Finally, Wolanski added that Depp’s aim in the appeal is to “promote his position” in the U.S. where he is suing Heard directly over an opinion piece that she wrote and The Washington Post published in 2018 where she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence, though she did not name Depp. The trial in Virginia has not yet begun in earnest, but Heard has already countersued Depp.
The Royal Courts of Justice in London’s court of appeal judges said they would deliver their judgment in “due course.”
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