On Tuesday, Johnny Depp’s libel trial against the publisher of The Sun newspaper starts in London. Here are seven things you need to know:
1. The Main Players
Judge Andrew Nicol will preside in the graystone Victorian gothic Royal Courts of Justice in London over the case brought by John Christopher Depp II against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, and journalist Dan Wootton.
2. The Claim
Depp is suing the defendants for libel concerning an article that ran originally on the website of The Sun newspaper on April 27, 2018, under the headline “Gone Potty: How can J.K. Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film?” The same article, with an amended headline, ran in print the following day. Depp denies that he was violent toward actor Amber Heard, whom he was married to between 2015 to 2017.
3. Star Witness
Last week, Depp’s lawyers tried to stop Heard from attending the court before she is called as a witness. Judge Nicol rejected the move, in order for Heard to provide information to the defendants. “There is a benefit to the defendants in her being able to do that near instantaneously in the course of Depp’s cross-examination and, in my view, it would be unfair to the defendants to deprive them of that advantage,” he said.
4. Other Witnesses
Witnesses speaking in support of Depp include Kate James, who worked as Heard’s personal assistant, and Depp’s former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder. Actress and TV host Amanda de Cadenet was due to give evidence for the defense, but recently changed her mind.
5. Alleged Drug Use
One of the pieces of evidence will be the so-called “Australia drugs texts,” sent between Depp and his assistant, Nathan Holmes, during a trip to Australia. The defendants’ attorney, Adam Wolanski, claims the messages, sent in late February and early March 2015, show that Depp was trying to get drugs. The texts allegedly contain references to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff.” This preceded what Wolanski alleges was “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults” against Heard. Depp denies taking any drugs, and the allegations of violence.
6. Alleged Texts to Paul Bettany
At a pre-trial hearing, a spreadsheet of 70,000 text messages from Depp were discussed. Among them were alleged messages from Depp to British actor Paul Bettany. In November 2013, Depp allegedly wrote: “Let’s burn Amber.” He also allegedly texted: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f— her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.”
7. Audio Recordings
Recordings of conversations between Depp and Heard were also discussed at a pre-trial hearing. Depp’s attorney David Sherborne alleges Heard “demonstrates in her own voice that she was not a victim of domestic abuse, but rather that she was the aggressor.” Heard says in the recordings that no one would believe Depp if he claimed to be a victim of domestic violence, Sherborne alleges.