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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Begins: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

The former couple’s defamation case is expected to last upwards of a month and a half

A Virginia jury of three women and four men will hear Johnny Depp’s long-awaited libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, when opening arguments begin in the trial Tuesday.

Depp and Heard’s high-profile legal battle finally made its way to court Monday three years after the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star sued his actress ex-wife for defamation over an op-ed she published in the Washington Post about her experiences with domestic violence.

Since filing for divorce in 2016, Depp and Heard’s relationship has been the subject of intense media and public scrutiny, as well as several rounds of legal battles. More than 100 witnesses could be called to the stand, and both Depp and Heard are scheduled to testify at the televised trial, held in Fairfax County, Virginia.

How did this all get started, and what is the history behind the Depp-Heard case? Read on for everything you need to know.

What’s the Status of the Trial?

The 11 jurors have been selected. Judge Penney Azcarate will preside over the trial at the Fairfax County District Court, with opening arguments beginning tomorrow.

Why Did Depp and Heard Divorce?

The former couple met in 2009 while filming “The Rum Diary” and wed in 2015. In May of 2016, the police were called to their home to investigate a domestic dispute, but nothing came of it. Shortly after, Heard filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. A Los Angeles court also granted her request for a restraining order in account of Depp’s allegedly “violent” behavior, which included screaming, grabbing, hitting and throwing a cell phone at Heard during a fight. He denied these accusations.

“During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me,” she wrote in a 2016 filing. “I live in fear that Johnny will return to (our house) unannounced to terrorise me, physically and emotionally.” Depp’s lawyers countered that Heard was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”

After they reached a reported $7 million settlement in August 2016, Heard dropped the restraining order. “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” they said in a joint statement. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”

Their divorce was finalized in early 2017.

Why Is Depp Suing Heard?

In December 2018, Heard authored an op-ed for the Washington Post titled, “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” The article, which does not mention Depp by name, details what happened to her two years prior, when she “became a public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Four days later, Disney fired him from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

Depp responded by filing a $50 million defamation lawsuit in March 2019, alleging that the article further damaged his career and reputation. The following year, after trying several times to get the case thrown out, Heard filed a $100 million countersuit.

How Is This Different From the London Trial?

In 2020, Depp sued The Sun for libel after the British tabloid called him a “wife beater” and published 14 claims of domestic violence that he had allegedly committed against Heard. The case ended in The Sun’s favor after a judge declared that the article was “substantially true,” finding that 12 of the 14 incidents had in fact taken place.

Heard was not a party in the lawsuit, but she did testify during the 16-day trial. Days after the verdict, Depp was dropped from the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise and replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.

Depp later attempted to appeal the ruling and was refused by a London judge in March 2021.

Who Will Be Testifying at the Depp-Heard Trial?

Along with Depp and Heard, the court will hear from as many as 100 witnesses. Among those who might testify are James Franco, who reportedly asked about bruises on Heard’s face after an alleged altercation with Depp; Paul Bettany, who exchanged texts with Depp about Heard; Elon Musk, Heard’s ex-boyfriend with whom she texted about Depp; and representatives from Disney, Warner Bros., LAPD and the ACLU. Potential exhibits include correspondences with Jack White, J.K. Rowling, “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa and director James Wan, original “Justice League” director Zack Snyder and CAA’s Bryan Lourd.

Why Is the Trial in Virginia?

Depp’s attorneys filed the case in Virginia because that is the location of the Washington Post’s printing presses and online servers. However, the Post is not a party in the lawsuit. Heard’s lawyers asked for the trial to be held in Los Angeles, where the couple used to share a home.

How Long Is the Trial Expected to Last?

The trial is expected to last at least a few weeks, with most analysts estimating that it will take closer to a month and a half.

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