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Could Amber Heard win her Appeal against Johnny Depp?

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Photo: Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

It was clear that Amber Heard would appeal the verdict the moment Johnny Depp won his defamation case against her. There was the matter of money: The Fairfax County, Virginia, jury that heard their case awarded the Pirates of the Caribbean actor more than $10 million, which Heard reportedly just doesn’t have. And then there was the matter of setting a precedent. Heard’s decision to fight the verdict is also rooted in the principle of their legal dispute. Depp sued Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she had written about domestic abuse that, notably, didn’t once mention his name.

Depp convinced a jury that their acrimonious split several years prior to this op-ed — during which a photo of Heard’s bruised face appeared on the cover of People — made it clear she was referring to him. Throughout the six-week trial, which aired on CourtTV, TikTok, and various livestreams, Depp insisted that he was not abusive, which he claimed meant that her op-ed pointing to him was false and defamatory.

Depp claimed that he lost millions in movie earnings because of her allegations. Heard, who countersued Depp, contended that he abused her physically and emotionally throughout their tumultuous relationship and claimed that his denials harmed her reputation and career. In the end, Heard did win $2 million at the trial over a statement that Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, made to the press claiming that an alleged fight between her and Depp was a “hoax.” For Heard, an appeal reflects her insistence that her allegations of abuse are true. An appeal also provides an opportunity for Heard’s case to be argued more thoroughly on First Amendment grounds.

Indeed, the opportunity for Heard’s team to argue that she has a constitutional right to speak her mind about abuse was almost entirely lost in the made-for-tabloid mudslinging. Heard’s team announced on August 15, 2022, that she had retained attorneys David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown, of Ballard Spahr, to helm her appeal. Axelrod and Brown were on the legal team that helped the New York Times best Sarah Palin in her 2017 defamation lawsuit against the paper. (One of Heard’s leading trial attorneys, Ben Rottenborn, remains on Heard’s legal team; Elaine Bredehoft, who also helmed Heard’s defense, is leaving.)

As Deadline accurately points out, “The makeup of the new defense team makes it apparent that Heard’s appeal will focus on the First Amendment aspect of her legal fracas with Depp.” Vulture spoke with several veteran attorneys about the next phase of Heard’s case — and whether she has any chance of a successful appeal.

Why is Heard bringing up the First Amendment now?

Let’s back up a minute. It’s not that the First Amendment never came up at trial. In fact, Rottenborn said during opening statements: “Of those words that Amber wrote, are those protected by the First Amendment? And the answer is very clearly yes.” However, as anyone who watched even a minute of the trial knows, these were not particularly cerebral proceedings where rights and freedoms were weighed with incisive discourse about the Constitution and our Founding Fathers. Rather, we heard infinitesimally more about “cocaine Johnny” and Depp’s severed finger. (So much about the severed finger!)

“When it comes to protecting the fundamental right of freedom of speech, we look at the jury’s decision — to paraphrase a famous quote — not ‘as the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning,’” Heard’s representatives said of the changing legal team. “A different court warrants different representation, particularly as so much new evidence is now coming to light.” Neama Rahmani, president of the Los Angeles West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Vulture that it’s not surprising Heard is hiring First Amendment attorneys now “given the stage of her case.”

Arguing before an appellate court, which is Heard’s next stop, takes “a very different skill set,” Rahmani said, compared to arguing before a jury. Juries are made up of people in the community, while an appeals court is composed of judges who see the bulk of the arguments in written briefs instead of orally. “You have to be a really good writer. That’s not as important of a skill for a trial lawyer who’s presenting a case to a jury,” Rahmani added. When appeals lawyers do get their chance to make their oral arguments, it’s “very different arguing to a judge or a group of judges” compared to a jury.

Does this mean Heard’s case will actually be about the First Amendment and not just Depp?

Roy Gutterman, director of the Newhouse School’s Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University, said it’s possible. “The appeal is definitely an opportunity to reframe the case and bring it back to some of the First Amendment elements and some of the First Amendment issues that really did get washed [away] in this celebrity circus,” Gutterman said. “I watched probably more of that trial than I should have, and you know, it turned into a discussion about a dysfunctional marriage and allegations of domestic violence that really had nothing to do with the underlying defamation issue, really.” Heard’s new attorneys could help foster this shift in the narrative around the case. “They represented the Times in the Palin case, so they’re going to do a pretty good job of reframing the issue and bringing it back to these First Amendment elements that seem to have gotten drowned out in the chaos of that trial,” Gutterman said. Axelrod and Brown have said they are “confident” the appeals court will reverse the verdict and “reaffirm the fundamental principles of freedom of speech.”

Could Heard actually win her appeal?

Several attorneys told Vulture that they didn’t think Heard had a good chance of winning her appeal. Holly Davis, a partner at Kirker Davis, said that an apparent shift toward focusing on the First Amendment is happening only after Heard’s other efforts to fight the verdict failed. “It makes sense that she is using legal experts on First Amendment rights as her last resort. The problem with this, in my opinion, is the timing of it all,” Davis said in an email to Vulture. “Heard’s prosecution of the case over the six-week trial period focused exclusively on whether or not it was true that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Depp.” The appeals court is limited when it comes to deciding on issues that weren’t brought up extensively at trial; they can only look at what happened at the lower court proceedings to see whether there was a legal error. This is a huge burden, but it explains why Heard hired a new team to comb through the extensive trial with fresh eyes. They might “be able to pull a needle out of a haystack to find this harmful error,” Davis said. The timing isn’t great for Heard, though. First Amendment appeals attorneys weren’t around at trial objecting to Judge Penney Azcarate’s decisions, meaning there might not be that much they can meaningfully bring up now. Still, it’s worth a shot. “Hiring them after the fact to do the cleanup work is a risky move, and it may be the last move she has before conceding legal defeat,” Davis said.

Like Davis, Los Angeles–based attorney Mitra Ahourian didn’t think Heard’s prospects were good. “The general consensus within the legal community is that Amber Heard will not win an appeal. An appellate court is unlikely to overturn the ruling of the lower court, which only happens when there is a mistake of law or procedure that resulted in prejudice to the appealing party and would have affected the outcome of the case,” Ahourian said in an email to Vulture.

If Heard loses her appeal, does that harm First Amendment rights more broadly?

It’s complicated. The results of this trial and, now, appeal concern both the practical and legal realms. Accusers and victims can see what happened to Heard and worry that they will suffer the same legal penalties — not to mention social-media backlash — that she did.

“At issue in this legal battle is the ability of victims of intimate-partner abuse to speak freely about that abuse,” Hannah Meropol, an attorney at victims’-rights law firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, told Vulture in an email. “I hope that people will take this appeal as an opportunity for more meaningful and nuanced discussions around free speech and victim’s rights.”

Meropol continued by saying that “the social-media spectacle surrounding the Heard-Depp case and the actual outcome of the trial interacted to create a deterrent for victims who are contemplating seeking accountability for their abusers,” noting the risk of retraumatization of going back to court. Throughout the trial, Heard and Depp’s names trended consistently on social media; notably, Depp fans made TikTok and YouTube accounts just to garner clicks and join the pile-on against Heard. It got so bad that Heard’s attorneys had to comment on the debasing nicknames people were calling her online, and the vitriol on both sides even became the subject of a 30-minute documentary, Marriage on Trial, from NBC News. “Sadly,” she said, “it is doubtful that the appeal, regardless of its outcome, will significantly counter that chilling effect.”

The firm has “increasingly seen abusers use retaliatory lawsuits against victims who disclose their abuse as punishment and to gain PR advantage,” according to Meropol. When victims can, they have a strategy before publicly disclosing abuse, the attorney said, adding, “It’s important for victims to know the risks of speaking out, but it’s also important for them to know that, though an abuser may retaliate, it doesn’t mean they’ve ‘won,’ and there are legal avenues available for the victim to fight back.”

Because the Heard trial team failed to extensively go into the First Amendment issues, Davis said, “we will never know whether it could have impacted First Amendment rights for victims and accusers.” Although they could have explored free speech, Depp’s attorneys successfully framed proceedings as a defamation case — about the veracity of allegations — and a jury determined that Heard knew they were incorrect when she made them. “The success by Depp on the defamation legal standard swallowed up a successful First Amendment claim by Heard, in my opinion,” Davis said. She didn’t see this as a death knell for free speech, however. “This is good news for free-speech advocates, in my opinion, because this case is distinguishable from other squarely First Amendment cases.”

While Heard is using her resources to prepare for a case that experts find to be an uphill battle, Depp recently settled an assault lawsuit and is accused of stealing lyrics from a deceased folk poet. Oh, and he’s directing his first movie.

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When Johnny Depp was in love with ‘beautiful and brilliant ’ Amber Heard: “ I am a lucky man”

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Johnny Depp, who recently won a blockbuster defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard, once talked very fondly of her and called himself’ a lucky man’ to have her in his life.

The couple were married for two years. In 2016, Amber filed for divorce and secured a temporary restraining order against Johnny. However, the two were recently involved in a high-profile defamation trial.

During their six-weeks trial that ended on June 1, the couple accused each other of abusive behaviour in their marriage.

The Pirates of The Caribbean star, 59, emerged victorious in his $50m defamation case against Heard after three days of deliberations by a jury, which also handed Heard a partial win in her countersuit.

Following this, an old interview of Johnny has resurfaced over the internet as he says good words for Heard.

In 2015, during Amber’s film The Danish Girl’s premiere, Johnny told Eonline, “We connect on a lot of levels but the first things that really got me was she’s an aficionado of the blues. I would play a song, some old obscure blues song, and she knew what it was. She’s very very literate. She’s a voracious reader as I have been, so we connected on that as well and she’s kind of brilliant and beautiful. I am a lucky man.”

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Lily-Rose Depp net worth: What is the fortune of Johnny Depp’s daughter?

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Born on May 27, 1999, Lily-Rose Depp is a very normal little girl… except that her parents are international stars: Johnny Deppand Vanessa Paradis. Lily-Rose is followed by her little brother, Jack John Christopher, on April 9th 2002. Their parents are married since June 1998, and symbolize the glamour of the Hollywood couple.

The interpreter of Jack Sparrow in Pirate of the Caribbean and the singer of Joe the Taxi do everything to preserve their children of the flashes of the celebrity. They grow up far from the cameras, between France and the United States.

During her childhood, Lily-Rose Deppshows a certain affinity with music: according to her mother, it is she who would have sung the first notes of the song New Year (released on the album Love Songs in 2013): “My daughter, who was 6 years old at the time, began to hum something sublime. That melody has stuck, along with the first sentence of the text, just as she sang it at 6 years old.” Lily-Rose is therefore credited on the album! In 2012, her parents separated and their divorce was highly publicized.

If one could imagine a career in music, it is towards the cinema that the teenager turns. In the summer of 2014, at the age of 15, she made an appearance in the film Tusk by Kevin Smith. An extra that everyone defines as her first film role.

Dreams of the big screen become a reality in 2016 with the release in September of The Dancer by Stephanie Di Giusto, starring Gaspard Ulliel, Soko and Melanie Thierry, among others. The film is presented a few months earlier in the selection Un certain regard at the Cannes Film Festival. The general public discovered Lily-Rose Depp. The same year, we find the actress on the poster of Planetarium, by Rebecca Zlotowski, where she shares the poster with Natalie Portman.

In 2018, she plays in Les Fauves by Vincent Mariette with Laurent Lafitte and in L’Homme fidèle by Louis Garrel with Laetitia Casta. In 2019, Lily-Rose Deppplays Queen Catherine of Valois in The King by David Michôd, a historical fiction produced by Netflix. She rubs shoulders with the French-American actor Timothée Chalamet, with whom she has been in a relationship since 2018.

In February 2019, Lily-Rose Depp paid a poignant tribute to the artistic director of the house of Chanel, the German couturier Karl Lagerfeld, who had just passed away at the age of 85. “Karl, we love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are eternal,” wrote in particular the one who became a Chanel muse from the age of sixteen.

What Is Lily-Rose Depp’s Net Worth?

In her short but important career, Lily-Rose has accumulated a fortune of 2 million dollars. She has won several awards such as the Los Angeles Film Award, the Cesar Award, the Lumieres Award, the Romy Schneider Award and the CinEuphoria Award.

In the past, Lily-Rose has suffered from anorexia, and in 2016, she confided in “French Elle” about her followers on social networks who commented on her weight, stating, “It hurts me a lot and makes me depressed, because I spent a lot of energy fighting the disease.” She added, “I have been battling an eating disorder for a long time and I am very proud of the results I have achieved.”

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Quentin Tarantino Pushed Back on Studio Head’s Request to Cast Johnny Depp Over Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction

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Quentin Tarantino revealed that he had to push back against studio demands to have Johnny Depp as first choice for key Pulp Fiction role.

Pulp Fiction is one of those movies that seems to have the perfect cast in just the right roles. However, a recent viral post has suggested that the actors who made up the iconic ensemble could have been different, and one role, in particular, had director Quentin Tarantino at odds with the head of the studio. The list of potential actors who could have been in line to take on some of the roles in the action movie included Johnny Depp, who was second on Tarantino’s “wish list” for the Tim Roth role of Pumpkin. However, the director was adamant that Roth was who he wanted, even if that went against how the studio saw it.

While appearing on the 2 Bears, 1 Cavepodcast, Tarantino responded to the viral post, which showed the actors he potentially wanted to play key roles, including Vincent and Lance. While the compiled list shows Tarantino’s options and overall preference, the director explained that it was not simply a “wish list” of who he wanted in the movie. He said:

“On the internet there’s a thing floating around about my wish list of the cast of Pulp Fiction, it’s kind of floating around and it’s not. It’s not that, not really. I didn’t know exactly who I wanted to play this part or that part, so I wrote a giant list with a ton of names. I wanted to get them all pre-approved sure and I didn’t know if it’s gonna work out, if I would like vibe with the person or if they would even do a good job but I wanted to get them approved…It’s kind of all over the place but that was kind of the idea, I wanted to be able to explore it and go all over the place but then I’m also really very opinionated.

How Did Johnny Depp Not Get A Role In Pulp Fiction?

Samuel-L.-Jackson-Quentin-TarantinoMiramax Films

As part of Tarantino’s list of possible stars, Johnny Depp appeared as his third choice for Pumpkin and was also a possible inclusion for the role of Lance, which eventually went to Eric Stoltz. When Tarantino put forward his list, it seemed that the head of the studio wanted to know why they would be offering the role of Pumpkin to Roth over Depp. Tarantino also noted that they told him that they would not offer the role to Roth until three others had turned the role down. In response, the director asked them:

‘Do you think Johnny Depp playing the role of Pumpkin in this movie, which is the opening scene and the closing scene that’s it, do you think that will add that much to the box office?’”

As it turns out, they didn’t believe it would add anything in terms of box office success. Still, as Tarantino concluded, many studios at the time thought having a big-name star on board would help if the movie ended up being a critical failure. But, of course, we all know that even without Johnny Depp bookending the film, Pulp Fiction managed to do just fine.

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