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The slander case against actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, has all the prerequisites for a Hollywood hit, except for the absence of a single redemptive character.
Comedian Henny Youngman may have been right that “the secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.” But the Depp case shows that it is clear how to have a miserable marriage. It includes things like mutually losing each other, throwing objects of varying size and competing with each other in the competition for conspicuous consumption.
There was poignant and disturbing testimony despite Depp’s elaborately fragmented and elaborate accounts. There were the hospital photos and the details of his severed fingertip, which he said was the result of Heard throwing a vodka bottle at him.
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Heard’s stony behavior in court played well for Depp when he described someone who seemed to enjoy torturing him with any weakness.
Conversely, Depp presented himself as a fragile figure plagued by a coniferous and greedy spouse.
He used his violent relationship with his mother to not only explain his own inability to be violent, but to paint Heard as a classic case of him marrying his mother.
Depp may have been successful in one remarkable respect. He did not try to hide that he was a total train wreck of a human being; someone who burned through millions and past relationships.
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Still, he may have agreed with the notion that Heard picked through the rubble to take what she could. Being ignorant (even comically ignorant) is better than being violent.
Depp described how Heard allegedly flew into bouts of violence and abuse to the point that his children did not want to be around her. He claimed she used nail polish to pretend he was breaking her nose while repeatedly leaving him sores and bruises.
Heard is heard on a tape admitting she hit Depp, and pictures were offered to support his claims that she was physically violent.
Depp probably caused damage to Heard in the end, but now he will be subjected to cross-examination
. He started poorly by questioning Heard’s adviser Ben Rottenborn, a name that Depp seemed to like to highlight on the stand.
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Depp used a common approach to clarification as he drew questions and provided hypertechnical, zealous answers to advice.
It does not work well in front of a jury. It makes you look less like an ignorant wreck and more like a stuffy sophistication. You look less like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight” and more as Marlene Dietrich in “Witness for the Prosecution.”
The defense goes on to hammer Depp into saying he was not actually mentioned in the Washington Post column, where Heard claimed she was an abused spouse. It is a strange tactic as it is not necessary for defamation. She clearly referred to Depp, as shown by the tsunami of criticism that followed.
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What is likely to be more damaging to Depp is the self-inflicted damage to his career. Depp’s drinking and bizarre behavior made him infamous in the media.
Depp made a compelling case that his career was over when Heard first claimed abuse.
Disney (which owns “Pirates of the Caribbean” series) had already decided he would not continue in his most famous role until Heard’s column ever ran. In addition, she has previously accused him of abuse years earlier in seeking a temporary detention (TRO).
Still, Depp put forward a compelling case that his career actually ended when Heard first alleged abuse.
There is no appeals process in the public opinion court. Furthermore, by making the claim in a lawsuit, Heard could not be sued for defamation due to immunity rules. She would have to repeat such allegations outside of court to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit. It only came years later with the Washington Post column. At the time, Depp’s career was as sunken as Davy Jones’ closet.
The fact is, it would have been better if this trial had been held two years ago, when Heard first made the allegations. He is right in that when he was asked on the stand what the claim cost him, and he replied, “nothing less than everything.”
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In the end, both Depp and Heard seem more inclined to mutually assured destruction than actual judgments in their favor.
The one thing already established is perhaps the best single line from the movie “So I Married an Ax Murderer:” “We both said, ‘I do!’ and we have not agreed on a single thing since. ”
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