Just two days after Deadline broke the news that the ex-Pirates of the Caribbean now actor would be called to the stand by the defense, the always-fluid situation has shifted dramatically again. Depp will not be called to testify for the defense, sources tell us.
“Calling Depp back to the stand would be as relevant to us as a bicycle to a fish,” a source close to Heard’s side says in a nod to that Irina Dunn saying popularized in the 1970s by Gloria Steinem. “Everything Depp has testified up to this point has been irrelevant to the heart of this case, and there’s no reason to believe it would be any different now.”
Already a high-wire move by the defense to consider bringing Depp back in front of the jury under oath, clearly Heard’s Elaine Bredehoft-led team decided Monday to cut their potential losses with little allotted time left in their presentation. Regardless of the motivation, the move certainly takes a “Made in Hollywood” climax out of the defense’s case.
Or is this the legal version of playing chicken?
There’s still actually a possibility that Depp may take the stand again as a rebuttal witness for his own case on May 25. Having said that, the return of the often glib actor is not written in stone. It all depends on how much time the plaintiff’s side has going into the last hours of the April 11 starting trial. However, if Depp does go on the stand for his side, the defense will have the opportunity to cross examine him again. With less than 5 hours of time for their case, that cross could prove a spear of destiny if handled sharply enough – a big if for any legal team.
Still, the abrupt U-turn by the defense today came as Depp’s team plans to bring high-profile witnesses including the actor’s 1990s girlfriend Kate Moss and Warner Bros exec Walter Hamada to the stand virtually during the next couple of days.
The defense is expected to wrap up today after expert witness and Hollywood agency consultant Kathryn Arnold takes the stand in the Fairfax County Courthouse to talk damages claims by both of the Rum Diary stars. In her analysis presented to the court before testifying, Arnold estimated that Depp’s 2019 defamation suit that led to this trial may have cost the $100 million countersuing actress close to $50 million based on estimated earnings.
Judge Penney Azcarate has set closing arguments for May 27, ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, and the jury then will go behind closed doors to determine its much-anticipated verdict in the case that has transfixed America.
UPDATE, 9:21 AM PT – EXCLUSIVE: Heading into its final days, Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation trial against Amber Heard is about to get both a Hollywood heavyweight and a supermodel cameo of sorts.
Warner Bros’ Walter Hamada will take the stand virtually Tuesday as a rebuttal witness for the fired Fantastic Beasts star, we’ve learned. The Warner Bros. Pictures exec’s testimony comes from a March 15 video deposition and will be shown in the Virginia courtroom where the bitter legal battle between the former Rum Diary co-stars is taking place.
Meanwhile, Depp’s 1990s girlfriend, British supermodel Kate Moss, also is expected to testify on May 25 via video link from the UK.
A mention of Moss by Heard while the latter was on the stand this month opened the door for Depp’s Ben Chew-led legal team to bring the talent agency founder into the case. As Heard spoke of hearing that Depp once pushed Moss down some stairs back when the duo were involved during the Clinton era, the former Pirates of the Caribbean actor and Chew fist-bumped in court in inappropriate glee, as if a well laid-trap had been sprung. A longtime proponent of the “don’t complain, don’t explain” theory of modern PR through her own brushes with scandal over the decades, Moss has been a supporter of her ex since Depp’s legal dust-ups with Heard spilled in to the public domain.
No stranger to controversy himself due to some hard-hitting allegations from Justice League star Ray Fisher over the years, Hamada is expected to tell the jury and Judge Penney Azcarate on Tuesday that Heard suffered no negative reaction from WB in her Aquaman franchise role as a result of the ongoing explicit and soiled-laundry-filled legal action from Depp.
Earlier in the trial and in court filings before its early-April kickoff, Heard and her defense team said that the actress had to “fight” even to stay in the yet-unreleased sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. While still taking home her $2 million paycheck, Heard also testified that she found her Mera role noticeably cut down in the script she received for the James Wan-directed DC superhero flick.
Having sued Heard in March 2019 because of a late-2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote on being the survivor of domestic abuse, Depp lost a 2020 UK libel suit against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid for calling him a “wife beater.“ Soon after that loss, WB cut the tainted actor loose from its latest J.K. Rowlings franchise.
Depp was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen in the April 15-released and underperforming Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The Pirates of the Caribbean actor has not worked in any tentpole movies since.
Heard’s legal team presented a pair of expert witnesses on Monday in an effort to bolster its case.
Before the jury broke for lunch, Dr. David Spiegel testified that Depp exhibited behaviors that “correlate” with risk factors for intimate-partner violence, including substance-abuse disorder. Spiegel said that the mixing of cocaine and MDMA, or Ecstacy, along with other medications like Adderall was “playing with fire.” He said there are examples of Depp being narcissistic, pointing to the fact that the actor brought this case to trial.
“To some degree, this whole trial” shows that Depp has endured a “narcissistic insult,” he said.
Depp’s attorney tried to discredit Spiegel, as they got into a long back-and-forth over the meaning of the Goldwater Rule, or ethical guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association that doctors should refrain from making a diagnosis without an examination of the patient. But Spiegel denied that he was offering an “armchair diagnosis,” saying he had done an extensive review of medical records.
There was a moment of levity when Depp’s attorney Wayne Dennison challenged Spiegel’s contention that the actor’s use of an earpiece during production was an indication of cognitive decline.
“You know whether Marlon Brando used an earpiece?” the attorney asked.
“Isn’t he dead?” Spiegel asked.
In the courtroom, Depp put his head in his hand.
“So the answer is no. He does not use one now,” Spiegel said.
“I used the past tense, sir,” Dennis said.
“Oh, sorry,” the witness replied. “Again, I will concede to you I know nothing about acting. I will concede to you 100%. … If that is the standard, I am wrong.”
PREVIOUSLY, 8:04 AM PT: The sixth week of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation trial began Monday with an expert witness, an orthopedic surgeon who cast doubt on the actor’s claim of how he severed his finger in March 2015, forcing a delay on the set of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Depp claimed that during an argument with Amber Heard in their rented home in Australia, he severed his finger when she threw a large vodka bottle at him.
But Dr. Richard Moore, an orthopedic surgeon who said he has performed thousands of hand surgeries in his career, said that Depp’s injury was “not consistent” with what the actor described. Depp had said that his hand had been on the edge of the bar, but Moore raised doubts. He noted that there was not a record of cuts to other parts of Depp’s hand. Moore also said that, if Depp’s hand was palm-down on the edge of the bar, it would have caused injury to the nail. But photos show an injury below the nail.
“If a bottle struck the nail, there certainly would have been an injury to the nail bed,” Moore said. Rather, he said, Depp’s finger was more consistent with it being crushed in a door or drawer.
Heard testified that Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle during the argument. Her legal team contends that Depp injured his finger on his own and has highlighted a text in which Depp stated that he cut the top of his finger off.
Depp’s severed finger required surgery and forced a delay to the filming of Pirates 5. The injury has been highlighted multiple times during the trial, as Depp has tried to show that he was the victim of his then-wife’s physical abuse. She has countersued Depp for $100 million.
As Moore expressed doubts about Depp’s account, the actor at times looked at the expert witness and even smiled a bit as he whispered to one of his attorneys. Depp rarely has looked up as Heard and her legal team’s witnesses have taken the stand.
Moore said he reviewed Depp’s texts, testimony and depositions, as well as medical records and photos, to question the actor’s account.
But Moore faced a contentious cross-examination from one of Depp’s attorneys, Camille Vasquez. She tried to discredit him by showing photos from the scene of the Depp-Heard argument, showing shattered glass on the floor next to the bar.
“Do you see body tissue around the bar?”
“Yes,” Moore said.
He acknowledged that he had not reviewed those photos. He also said that he was not aware of the testimony of another witness, Ben King, who managed the rented home and said that he had found part of the finger in the bar area.
Moore also admitted that he could not definitely say what caused the injury but said again that the cause described by Depp “was inconsistent with the injury pattern found on the images.”
Vasquez also made a point of highlighting how much Moore was being paid as an expert witness: $1,000 per hour and $5,000 per day for trial testimony.
Depp is expected to be called to that stand again later Monday.
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