The defamation trial of Johnny Depp versus v. Amber Heard is in full swing again this week. We have seen some bombshell revelations already. Depp’s testimony concluded Monday after cross-examination by defense counsel and a redirect examination from his counsel that ended in an incredible admission by Depp.
We also heard testimony from several other witnesses, including some shocking testimony from a forensic psychological expert, Dr. Shannon Curry, who opined that Heard suffers from borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder as well as a fear of abandonment. According to Curry, Heard externalizes blame, tends to be self-righteous, judgmental and has anger issues. Curry also testified that, in her medical opinion, Heard does not suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and was grossly exaggerating PTSD symptoms.
This is a case in which Depp contends that his ex-wife penned an op-ed in The Washington Post referring to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”
Although the op-ed did not mention Depp by name, Depp’s lawyers contend that the piece clearly implicated that the actor was a domestic abuser.
Depp claims that this “defamation by implication” has caused significant harm to his personal and professional reputation. Depp is seeking $50 million in damages. Heard stands by the veracity of the Op Ed piece, contending that she was indeed a victim of sexual, physical and emotional assault and abuse during her relationship with Depp. Heard is countersuing Depp.
Here are my takeaways from the trial thus far this week:
1. We saw a lengthy cross-examination of Depp where he continued to deny assault and abuse allegations. Many witnesses do well on direct examination (testimony elicited by the witnesses’ own attorney).
It is on cross-examination (questioning by adverse counsel) where a witness can break down on the stand. However, Depp withstood a challenging cross-examination wherein Heard’s attorneys attempted to paint Depp as the bad guy – a violent drug user and abuser.
Heard’s attorneys introduced text messages and audio recordings that depicted aggressive interactions between the former couple, as well as photographs of Depp seemingly passed out after drinking and drug binges. Depp, however, maintained his composure and handled the questioning rather well.
2. It was clear that Heard’s attorneys came in with an aggressive strategy: attack Depp on the witness stand in an effort to land some blows and punch holes in Depp’s testimony.
The effort largely seems to have failed. Although there was some very tough questioning delivered in a very aggressive and accusatory manner, Heard’s attorneys did not accomplish their intended goal.
Depp never lost his composure under pressure and he maintained that he was never violent or abusive toward his former spouse.
3. The re-direct examination from Depp’s counsel was succinct and direct and elicited a bombshell revelation when Depp shockingly revealed that he was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Amber Heard.
Re-direct examination is the process by which the witnesses’ own attorney questions the witness again to clarify any issues and/or repair any damage that may have been done on cross-examination.
Depp’s attorney focused on portraying him as the victim in this relationship, not the aggressor. At the conclusion of Depp’s testimony, he dramatically testified that it was he who was the victim in this relationship, not Heard.
4. The re-direct examination of Depp was relatively brief for two reasons.
First, Depp has handled cross-examination thus far very well, emphatically and credibly denying the accusations of abuse and violence.
Cross-examination questioning of Depp has not been very effective. When a witness withstands cross-examination well, a seasoned trial attorney knows to leave well-enough alone and move on.
If little harm was done on cross-examination, there is little to correct or clarify.
Second, strategically, Depp’s attorney wanted to refocus the trial on Heard’s behavior and get away from the ugly accusations that were leveled against Depp on cross-examination. Here again, a smart trial attorney knows not to dwell too long on potentially harmful subject matter.
5. Another bombshell for the plaintiff was the testimony given by Dr. Shannon Curry, a clinical and forensic psychologist.
Curry testified she conducted a thorough review of Heard’s medical records and other related documents and interviewed Heard for a total of 12 hours. Curry concluded that Heard exhibits borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder and that the actor was “full of rage.”
Further, she rebutted Heard’s claims of PTSD, stating emphatically that the actor did not exhibit symptoms of PTSD. On cross-examination, the defense attempted to discredit the Curry’s opinions and diagnoses.
The questioning attempted to paint Curry as an “interested witness” – someone who is biased in favor of the plaintiff. In her responses to the questioning on cross-examination, Curry denied the accusation, offering that her testimony was grounded in science and facts and not persuaded by other factors.
Curry’s expert medical testimony was powerful for the plaintiff in that it supported the Depp’s position that Heard’s claims of violence are false and that in fact it was Heard who was the aggressor in this relationship.
This trial will continue for the next few weeks and I suspect there will be more bombshells from both sides before it ends.