The Depp v. Heard case will probably divide people for decades to come and I anticipate law professors will be spending the summer reading up on it as they will be discussing it in the Fall. It raises a lot of question on where we draw the line on journalistic integrity and what we can say about someone in the media even if we don’t name them.
Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Johnny Depp lost a case in the United Kingdom over the media labeling him a wife beater. But the UK and US have different laws about this. This is more in line with the infamous American Sniper autobiography about Chris Kyle and how he had published a story about a fight he had with someone only referred to as “Scruff Face.” This happened at a bar near a California SEAL base where Ventura was attending and a wake for another SEAL was being hosted by Kyle. Even though he’s not named in the book, Kyle later admitted it was Ventura to whom he was referring.
Ventura said this incident never happened but yet his comment in the book that the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq made him an outcast among other SEALs. Ventura spent five years from 2012 to 2017 battling this and even was criticized heavily pursuing the case after Kyle was murdered by another service member in 2013.
Amber Heard, who had been married to Depp just under two years from 2015 to 2017 and both claimed the other was abusive physically and verbally. When Heard published an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, she didn’t named Depp directly, but was obviously referring to him. So, he sued her for defamation because he claimed it costs him jobs in the Pirates of the Carribean and the Fantastic Beasts franchises. Heard countersued.
On Wednesday, June 1, after a six-week trial in Fairfax County, Virginia, the jury ruled in favor of both them. They ruled that Depp had been defamed in the libel suit. But the jury also ruled for Heard for defaming by a lawyer for Depp that she had created an hoax of allegations when she contacted the police. I’m pretty sure anyone would say it was a toxic relationship and they probably was some truth to what both was saying.
However, Heard came off as the least believable one. It also spotlights that women can and are the abusers in relationships. The details from the trial are so outlandish they make an episode of Jerry Springer look like Father Knows Best. Depp has had a history of violent behavior and his ex-girlfriend, Ellen Barkin, testified to this. However, others including Depp’s own sister, said he was raised in an abusive household where it was his mother who was the abuser.
I’m going to throw my support by Depp on this one. I’m not saying that absolves him of all his previous incidents. If he was on drugs and alcohol, that might explain them, but doesn’t excuse them. The issue was what did he do when he was with Heard. And that’s where I didn’t find her all to belieavable. Couples have spats and arguments.
But the qeustion is where did they cross the line? I’ve always believed that we lose our censors when we’re angry and will say the wrong thing. And the wrong thing is usually what we really mean? However, as long as your don’t go past the point of no return, there’s always ways you can make up and move on.
And sometimes, you need to just split up. There’s no point in staying together in a relationship that you know is only going to get worse. You have to earn the good days and don’t let the bad days ruin everything.
Depp and Heard did the right thing by splitting up. And if Depp was being abused, and I think he was, it’s nice that he was able to get out. Last week, I wrote a post about the murder-suicide of Phil and Brynn Hartman. It happens. Too many people are killed by their partners/spouses/lovers.
Heard has said she will appeal the verdict. But we don’t know how it will affect her career. There’s already a call to have her scenes reshot in the Aquaman sequel. She has said the filmmakers have reduced her scenes where she has less than 10 minutes of screentime. Time will tell. Same with Depp and his career. Hollywood loves a comeback story. Look at Nicolas Cage.
The bigger question is how will this affect victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Conservative pundits are jumping up and down praising it as the end of the MeToo Movement. Not so fast. One bump in the road shouldn’t be a permanent deterrent. Victims still need to come forward. The problem is they will point to Heard as the end-all-be-all example that all victims are lying. But it shouldn’t be that way. If you have 100 people claiming to be victims and one is exaggerating, you still have a 99 percent accountability.
And of course, Kyle Rittenhouse has come out of whatever rock he won’t stay under to say that he’s going to seek what his legal options are. He’s lucky he’s not the victim of a sexual assault in a Wisconsin prison. Rittenhouse is still young and learning. And he’s about to get a crash course in the realization that he’s still a murderer in the eyes of many people. He was charged with it.
Once you’re charged with a crime like that, you’re fair game to a degree. Richard Jewell was never charged in connection with the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing. So, when the media went after him, it was kind of a witch hunt, I’ll agree. The same can be said about John and Patsy Ramsey. They were never formally charged either, but the authorities screwed up on that one.
The courts found there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the trial against Rittenhouse. Just because a jury acquitted him doesn’t mean they were right. And anyone watching that trial knows the judge would’ve bounced Rittenhouse on his knee like a grandson. Rittenhouse really hasn’t been the most remorseful for his actions, never passing up the option for the spotlight. This can always come back to haunt him.
Just recently, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas housebill pertaining to social media bans. Surprisingly, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted in favor of blocking the bill. Maybe they know this could set a precedent. If you say something that can be slander or defamation on a social media platform, they do reserve the right to take it down and ban it. The longer it’s left up can cause more damage. And Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett know the door swings both ways.
The First Amendment isn’t always pretty. We’ve had to deal with the Ku Klux Klan, the Westboro Baptist Church and Neo Nazis. To a degree they’ve been able to say what they can without crossing a line with law enforcement. That doesn’t mean, they’re univerally protected if they offend someone. And some things are printed or broadcast in the media that don’t get any legal action because it’s not worth the effort.
Depp didn’t do this for money. He did it for his reputation. And yes, you do not have to like him or believe anything he said. You can believe Heard. But how would you feel if someone did this to you?
What do you think? Please comment.