By MATTHEW BARAKAT
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Amber Heard insisted that details of her marriage to fellow actor Johnny Depp be included in an opinion piece she wrote about domestic violence, even though her lawyers wanted those passages to be removed from the article, which is now the subject of a libel suit, according to evidence presented at the trial on Thursday.
Jurors in Depp’s libel suit against Heard heard testimony Thursday from Terence Dougherty, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU wrote the article under Heard’s name, reflecting her role as the ACLU’s ambassador on gender-based violence issues.
Dougherty testified to the push-and-pull that happened between the first draft and the editorial’s publication in the Washington Post in December 2018 — strategically timed by the ACLU and Heard to coincide with the release of “Aquaman.” , a film in which she played a leading role.
Depp filed a lawsuit in Fairfax County Circuit Court after the article was published, in which Heard states that “two years ago I became a public figure representing domestic violence and I felt the full force of our culture’s anger for women speaking out.” Depp’s attorneys say it’s a clear reference to the abuse allegations she made against Depp in 2016 which Depp says are false.
Dougherty testified that numerous ACLU attorneys reviewed the article at various stages and asked Heard’s attorneys to also review the article to ensure it did not violate a nondisclosure agreement she had with Depp as part of the couple’s divorce in 2016.
During those discussions, Heard returned an edited version approved by his attorneys that “specifically castrated much of the copy relating to his marriage,” according to an email from Jessica Weitz, an ACLU staffer who coordinated with Heard.
According to the email, however, Heard was looking for a way to restore a deleted passage in the article.
The various draft articles were not shown to the jury, so it is unclear how many personal details were in the first draft and how many Heard’s attorneys had edited out.
But the final version contains very little about Heard’s personal experiences. He doesn’t mention Depp at all. Along with the passage about “a public figure representing domestic violence,” in another passage she writes, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of violence.” .
Much of the article discusses legislative priorities for domestic violence prevention advocates. Other passages refer to parts of his personal life unrelated to Depp.
Dougherty testified that “the language that ended up in the final editorial was very different from the original language” in the draft, Dougherty said. “It did not directly refer to Ms. Heard’s relationship with Johnny Depp.”
While the lawsuit is supposed to be about whether Depp was defamed in the article, very little testimony in the first three weeks, until Thursday, has focused on the article itself or its content. . Heard’s attorneys predicted early in the trial that it would become a soap opera that would delve into the messy details of Depp and Heard’s personal lives.
Heard’s lawyers, however, said that even if the jury were to believe she was never abused by Depp, Heard should still prevail in the lawsuit because the article does not concern Depp, does not defame him. not and that Heard’s free speech rights allow her to weigh in on issues of public importance like domestic violence.
Much of Dougherty’s testimony also focused on whether Heard kept his promise to donate $3.5 million — half of his $7 million divorce settlement with Depp — to the ACLU. Dougherty testified that the ACLU so far awards her a contribution of $1.3 million and expects the money to come over a 10-year period, but that she has not made any contributions. since 2018.
Jurors also heard briefly from Depp’s business manager, Ed White. White said he stepped in in 2016 to resolve Depp’s financial difficulties, including unpaid taxes and a cash flow crisis. When he blamed Heard for an excessive wine bill that included several $500 bottles of Spanish Vega Sicilia wine, Heard’s attorneys responded with a barrage of questions about Depp’s overspending, including spending millions on firing the ashes of reporter Hunter S. Thompson from a cannon. .
Depp and Heard met while filming “The Rum Diary,” an adaptation of a Thompson novel. Depp testified earlier that he and Thompson were friends and that Depp had in fact found the lost “Rum Diary” manuscript while going through Thompson’s papers.