W.He has won is not yet clear, only the many losers have already been determined. After more than three weeks, the process brought to an end in London by Johnny Depp against the publisher of the British tabloid “The Sun” came to an end on Tuesday. The Hollywood star saw himself slandered and sued the publisher and editor-in-chief Dan Wootton after he was described in an article in 2018 as “wife-beater”. There was also talk of “overwhelming evidence” that he mistreated his ex-wife Amber Heard during the 15 months they were married. The “Sun” now had to provide this evidence retrospectively. Unlike in the United States, for example, the burden of proof under English law rests with the publisher who made a potentially defamatory claim.
In the case of Depps, this led to an unpleasant and in parts bizarre spectacle. Amber Heard herself testified in favor of the newspaper, who tried to support the paper’s argument by revealing the unsightly episodes of the marriage in great detail: from dogs that Depp, according to Heard, kept out of the window of a moving car to bottles that he threw at her “like grenades”. The press law process expanded into a celebrity feud. Because not only the publisher of the “Sun”, but also Heard wanted to make it clear by all means that Depp was rightly called a “wife’s thug”. He in turn denied the allegations, drew the picture of the “husbands beater” Heard and irritated with stories about excrement in the marriage bed.
Both parties to the litigation presented their final arguments on Monday and Tuesday. Sasha Wass, the defense attorney for the “Sun”, called Depp in her plea a “hopeless addict” who was unable to “control his anger”. He and his lawyers used “old-fashioned methods of discrediting women.” Depp’s attorney, David Sherborne, called Heard a “compulsive liar” and countered that his client never denied his drug and drug addiction. But that is not the point: “We are all here because the newspaper and Wootton have decided to publish this extremely grave claim, a claim which, as Mr Depp says – and has always said – is completely untrue.”
The verdict is not expected for a few weeks. But for the public it seems pointless at the end of this display to look for a winner. On the one hand there is Heard, who in the course of the process was sometimes celebrated as the new figurehead of the #MeToo movement, on the other hand she was scolded as an unscrupulous liar who took advantage of the moment of movement. Depp, on the other hand, is seen by some as the beating husband, others as the real victim, because the issue of domestic violence against men is underestimated anyway. Whether a conviction of the “Sun” Depp or an acquittal will be of use to Heard can be highly doubted. What will remain from this process, above all, are the unsavory insights into the dysfunctional relationship of the couple, about which the readers of “Sun”, for example, were horrified and at the same time a little happy.
It doesn’t help Depp that his bodyguard and the couple’s stylist said in court that they had never experienced violence on the part of the actor. It doesn’t help either that the manager of his Bahamas island “Little Halls Pond Cay” said she saw “Amber rushed violently at Johnny, pulled his hair and otherwise physically attacked”. Nor do the written statements of his former partners, the French singer Vanessa Paradis and the actress Winona Ryder, help him, even if they both attested that he was loving and caring.
The fact remains: The winner of this process, no matter what the judgment may be soon, is the “Sun” alone, who has seldom been able to enjoy such intense publicity and such an exclusive treasure trove of celebrity filth. Heard had repeatedly questioned the credibility of her former husband in court by reporting on his alcohol and drug antics. She attached alleged evidence photos to the allegations. One shows Depp slumped on a sofa, an overturned mug with half-melted ice in his crotch. This is probably not punishable under English law. However, it does play a role in the public’s condemnation of Depp: On the same day that it was shown in court, the picture appeared on the “Sun” website.