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The Wildly Sensational Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Libel Trial Has Concluded — Here’s What Happens Next

It’s been quite a dramatic ride for The Rum Diary co-stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who divorced four years ago (after one year of marriage) but are embroiled by a lawsuit (filed by Depp) against British tabloid The Sun. The former Tim Burton muse is seeking “to clear his reputation” from potentially irreparable harm, so he desires “vindication” (not monetary damages) after an April 2018 article labeled him as a “wife-beater.” This led to three weeks of mud-slinging from both sides in a trial full of wild revelations that can, in all fairness, be summed up as a circus.

All along, Depp has denied abusing Amber before or during their marriage, and he has, in fact, claimed that she’s the abusive party. His stance has been marred by photos submitted by Heard in 2016 to secure a restraining order. At the time, one of Depp’s ex-managers, Joel Mandel, sided with Heard regarding an alleged violent incident from 2014. And during this trial, former Depp partners Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis stated that Depp was never abusive toward them. However, neither Heard nor Depp has ever filed criminal charges against each other, so instead, both sides presented all kinds of evidence, not only about physical abuse (and how Depp lost part of a finger) but about everything from Amber supposedly taking a “poo in the bed” to Depp allegedly dangling a dog out a car window. Yikes.

Neither ex-spouse comes out looking fantastic here, so, what’s next? Potentially, quite a lot, including verdict fallout and another lawsuit to come. And then there’s the pressing question of whether this trial might help (or hurt) Depp’s career longevity.

– What The Verdict Will Mean: The sensory overload of the trial ended with Depp’s lawyer calling Heard “a compulsive liar” and Heard telling the press, “I stand by my testimony and I now place my faith in British justice.” Now, it’s in the court’s hands.

The verdict isn’t expected to arrive until September, but the burden of proof in United Kingdom courts for libel may be on Depp’s side, since it’s notably lower than within the United States. English law holds that libel suit defendants — in this case, The Sun‘s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and executive editor Dan Wootton — are working against the presumption that the allegation in question (that Depp guilty of domestic abuse) is false. Therefore, the defendants must prove that the allegation is true in order to prevail (which is a reversal of the U.S. standard).

Media attorney Mark Stephens has pointed out to Billboard that, even though the odds are in favor of libel plaintiffs in the U.K., Depp may have done himself more harm than good, even if he walks away a legal victor. That is, his stance in filing the lawsuit is that The Sun‘s story damaged his career, yet this trial has invited a global audience into the allegations made against both sides of the case.

It’s a fine point. Even if Depp wins against The Sun, the world’s still seen photos of him passed out cold while covered in ice cream. That may not inspire too much studio or audience confidence in him. So whether Depp wins or loses, people will be aware that the standard of proof in winning a U.K. libel suit isn’t too high, so it’s not necessarily the reputation-clearer that he’d prefer. (And god only knows how much money he’s spending in legal fees here, apparently without seeking any monetary damages.)

Heard seemed to realize this inevitability when she told reporters that she’d (obviously) have preferred not to spend weeks (in a public forum) wading through the dirty laundry of her marriage. “It has been incredibly painful to relive the breakup of my relationship, to have my motives and my truth questioned,” she declared. “And the most traumatic and intimate details of my life with Johnny shared in court and broadcast to the entire world.”

– Another Lawsuit On The Way: Depp’s also planning to take his chances with a U.S.-based trial. In 2021, he’s heading to Virginia for more legal proceedings, this time against Heard over a Washington Post story about domestic violence. Heard wrote a 2018 op-ed for the paper on that subject, and in doing so, she accused institutions of protecting alleged domestic abusers; it seems that Depp was not pleased, and this time, he’s seeking damages. He’s asking the court to award him $50 million if he wins. Mark Stephens told WaPo that if Depp “loses in London, he’s almost certain to lose that American case. So this is in some ways a dress rehearsal for the second case.”

It’s worth nothing that Heard reportedly donated her $7 million divorce settlement (in 2016) to domestic violence charities after her and Depp’s “irreconcilable differences.” And it looks like their battle will continue, five years after the split.

And meanwhile, this is still happening:

– The Missing Half-Billion (At Least) Dollars: Strangely, that wild 2018 Rolling Stone profile is back with a vengeance and surfaced during the trial. In the piece, Depp admitted to making $650 million from movies and still somehow being in debt. In that piece, he bragged about his exorbitant expenditures with these quotes: (1) “It’s insulting to say that I spent $30,000 [per month] on wine. Because it was far more”; (2) “By the way, it was not $3 million to shoot Hunter [S. Thompson] into the f*cking sky [at his funeral]. It was $5 million.”

On the witness stand in London, Depp reiterated that he’d made $650 million since he climbed aboard the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as Jack Sparrow. And he admitted that he still ended up $100 million in debt but blamed his financial advisors for failing to pay his taxes for up to 17 years. He also talked about the $5 million he spent on Thompson’s funeral, but somehow, he still owns houses around the globe.

His lavish lifestyle remains notorious and undoubtedly weighs into him wanting to clear his reputation, although (for reasons stated above) this trial might not have the healing effect — no matter what the verdict — on Johnny Depp’s career as he’d hope.

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