Johnny Depp lawyers say social media didn't sway jury, verdict doesn't hurt #MeToo movement


Ben Chew (left) and Camille Vasquez have made joint talk show appearances following the conclusion of the trial. Photo: AFP

Ben Chew and Camille Vasquez, the lawyers who represented Johnny Depp in the recent defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, have made joint talk show appearances following the conclusion of the trial.

On Wednesday (June 8), the two joined ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's The Today Show to discuss the case, which ended last week with both Depp and Heard being awarded compensatory damages, albeit with Depp receiving significantly more.

On Good Morning America, the attorneys were asked by George Stephanopoulos about two points brought up several times by Heard's camp and victims' advocate groups. When asked if social media swayed the jury, Chew responded: "Social media played no role whatsoever. This was a decision made by the jury on the evidence presented by both sides, and as Camille said [earlier in the interview], it was overwhelmingly in Mr. Depp's favour."

Savannah Guthrie asked the duo a similar question on Today, and they said that even though social media and the 24/7 news cycle are unavoidable, they believe the jury was not swayed.

"No, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the jurors violated their oath" Chew said. "And again, that suggestion was disappointing to hear [from Heard's lawyer Elaine Bredehoft]."

"It is everywhere, but at the same time, they were admonished every single night," Vasquez said. "They had a tremendous amount of respect for the court and the process, and they were doing they best that they could."

Stephanopoulos also asked the pair about criticism that the verdict will have, as he paraphrased victims' advocate groups, "a chilling effect on domestic violence victims and it's a blow to the #MeToo movement".

"I think our response to that is we encourage any victim to come forward," Vasquez said. "Domestic violence doesn't have a gender." When pressed further, she continued, saying: "We do not [think is has any negative impact to the #MeToo movement]. We believe that the verdict speaks for itself, the facts are what they were, the jury made a unanimous decision based on those facts."

The trial began when Depp, the plaintiff in the case, sued Heard for three counts of defamation, claiming that an op-ed she published in the Washington Post in 2018 for damaging his reputation and stalling his career, though he was not mentioned by name in the piece. A year prior to the op-ed's publication, Heard and Depp divorced after two years of marriage. Heard has alleged that Depp abused her throughout the relationship.

In 2020, prior to the American trial, the High Court of London ruled against Depp in a separate defamation case spawned by Depp suing The Sun for writing about the abuse allegations. The UK court ruled that he assaulted Heard in 12 of 14 alleged incidents. In spite of the previous verdict, the jury in the US trial ruled in favour of all three counts of defamation brought by Depp and ruled in favour of only one count of defamation brought by Heard in her counterclaim.

The verdict has caused significant controversy in the days following the trial. Heard's attorney Bredehoft, during a talk show appearance of her own on Today, has publicly stated her client plans to appeal the verdict.

Prior to the Chew and Vasquez's appearances, a spokesperson for Heard sent a statement regarding their appearances to Variety.

"It is as unseemly as it is unprofessional that Johnny Depp's legal team has chosen to do a victory lap for setting back decades of how women can be treated in the courtroom," the statement reads. "What's next? A movie deal and merchandising?"

Since the trial reached its verdict, Heard has largely stayed out of the public eye, releasing only a single social media statement. Depp has been much more active, announcing a new collaborative album with Jeff Beck and joining TikTok, where he thanked his "loyal fans" for their support. – Reuters

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