FAIRFAX, Va. — Jury selection began Monday in a long-anticipated libel lawsuit Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, whom he accuses of falsely portraying him as a domestic abuser.
Depp sued Heard over an op-ed piece she wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 in which Heard refers to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article doesn’t mention Depp by name, but he says it clearly refers to allegations Heard made in other forums that she suffered physical abuse at his hands. Depp denied the allegations.
Hollywood was brought to the attention of a courthouse which is known for its long track record of dealing with serious crimes.
More than a dozen women, some waving signs saying “Justice for Johnny,” joined other fans who waved pirate flags in recognition of Depp’s signature role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, waited outside the courthouse an hour before the hearing.
Monday was a closed day in Fairfax. However, there was limited access to the courtroom via closed circuit in an additional courtroom. The wristbands were granted to access the courtroom after 7 AM.
Penney Azcarate (the judge who is overseeing the trial) has established a set of access rules in an effort to preserve the appearance of decorum within the courthouse. Depp and Heard cannot sign autographs or take photos in the courthouse.
Depp’s fans have been vocal in their support, saying he has been falsely accused. Raylyn Otie from Bluefield in Virginia drove five hours just to see Depp. She was disappointed when Depp did not greet fans personally, as sheriff’s deputies carefully limited fan access.
“I’m so disappointed. I came to give him flowers to show some support,” she said, bouquet in hand.
A separate case Depp brought against the British newspaper was dismissed by a judge. He found that Depp had assaulted Heard 12 times and placed her in danger for her safety on numerous occasions.
Heard has brought a counter-suit against Depp in which he accuses Depp’s lawyers of defaming the woman at his request.
Heard’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have the case moved to California, where the actors reside. A Fairfax judge ruled that Depp was within his rights to bring the case here because the Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County. Depp’s lawyers have said they brought the case in Virginia in part because the laws here are more favorable to their case.
It is anticipated that the trial will last for more than one month.
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