What to Expect in Johnny Depp's Defamation Lawsuit Against Tabloid

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By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on January 07, 2019 3:00 PM

In an interesting plot twist, Johnny Depp's defamation suit against The Sun, a British tabloid, could lead to the dissemination of some pretty dicey, and confidential, information about the former marriage between Depp and Amber Heard. A 471 page deposition transcript previously unreleased is now out in the open, shedding a lot of new information on the now defunct marriage. And if both sides end up testifying, things may definitely heat up this winter across the pond.

Depp Sues the Sun for Defamation Over Wife-Beating Comment

Due to a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) signed between Depp and Heard, many details of their rocky marriage have remained under lock and key. But these details are now starting to see the light of day, thanks to a defamation suit that Depp brought against the British tabloid over an April 2018 story headlined "How can J.K. Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?" The article references an alleged altercation between Heard and Depp on May 21, 2016, and said Heard "recounted a detailed history of domestic abuse incidents, some of which had led to her fearing for her life."

U.K. Legal Process Turns the Tables

If Depp would have brought this suit in the U.S., the burden of proof would have been on him to prove the defamation in the article wasn't true. However, in the U.K., things are much different. The courts presume that the defamatory words are indeed false, and the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove that they are true. Therefore, The Sun will be throwing everything at Depp in hopes of proving their headline and article was true, basically that he was a wife-beater, which is where the divorce documents come in.

Defamation Suit Could Pierce NDA That Hushes Conflicting Dishy Details

Heard and Depp have detailed the abuse in their relationship very differently. Depp claims Heard is the abuser and he is the victim. Conversely, Heard claims that Depp is the abuser and she is the victim. There is ample testimony bolstering both sides, but most have it has remained sealed due to the NDA. Both sides have also done their darnedest to try to get their side of the story out without violating the NDA - Depp in a few interviews, and most recently, Heard in a December 2018 OpEd piece in the Washington Post. Heard's account of the events leading up to the split, along with those of other witnesses, will be scrutinized as The Sun defends its story.

Heard claims that she has been asked to testify by The Sun in the upcoming legal proceedings, scheduled to commence next month, but that Depp's attorney's are claiming that she can't, since her testimony would probably violate the NDA, and that is why the divorce papers have been released. But Depp's attorneys have said that they will allow Heard to testimony if The Sun calls her. True to form, both sides have totally conflicting comments over whether or not Heard will be allowed to testify.

If you are contemplating divorce, consider pulling the trigger before the downward fall spirals out of control. Contact a local divorce attorney to understand your rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Domestic abuse is never a form of entertainment, even when alleged by entertainers.

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