Jury deliberations in Johnny Depp, Amber Heard case to resume on Tuesday

Johnny Depp leaves Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse on May 27 following his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - American jurors deliberating the duelling defamation claims from actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard adjourned on Friday (May 27) without delivering verdicts, leaving the resolution in the widely watched six-week trial to next week.

Depp, 58, sued ex-wife Heard in Virginia for US$50 million (S$69 million) and argued that the Aquaman (2018) actress defamed him when she called herself "a public figure representing domestic abuse" in an opinion piece she wrote.

Heard, 36, counter-sued for US$100 million, saying the Pirates Of The Caribbean (2003 to 2017) star smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a "hoax".

The seven-person jury deliberated for more than two hours on Friday. They will resume discussions on Tuesday after the United States Memorial Day holiday.

Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.

"Mr Depp experienced persistent verbal, physical and emotional abuse by Ms Heard," attorney Camille Vasquez said in closing arguments on Friday.

She said Heard's allegations of abuse by Depp, including a sexual assault with a liquor bottle, were "wild, over-the-top and implausible" and had ruined his reputation in Hollywood and among fans.

"We ask you to give Mr Depp his life back by telling the world Mr Depp is not the abuser Ms Heard says he is," Ms Vasquez said.

Heard's lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn, in his closing argument, reminded jurors of explicit text messages from Depp to friends or associates.

In one, Depp called Heard a "filthy whore" and said he wanted her dead and "would f*** her burnt corpse".

"This is a window into the heart and mind of America's favourite pirate," Mr Rottenborn said. "This is the real Johnny Depp."

At the centre of the legal case is the December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in The Washington Post, in which she made the statement about domestic abuse.

The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.

Heard's attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the US Constitution's First Amendment.

"Your key question to answer is 'does the First Amendment give Ms Heard the right to write the words she wrote?" Mr Rottenborn told the jury.

"You cannot simultaneously uphold the First Amendment and find in favour of Johnny Depp."

Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised about two years later.

Over six weeks of proceedings, jurors have listened to recordings of the former couple's fights and seen graphic photos of Depp's bloody finger.

Depp said Heard threw a vodka bottle that cut off the top of his finger during an argument in 2015.

Heard denied injuring Depp's finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle.

The testimony was livestreamed widely on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple's troubled relationship.

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Once among Hollywood's biggest stars, Depp said Heard's allegations cost him "everything."

A new Pirates Of The Caribbean movie was put on hold, and Depp was replaced in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise (2016 to present), a Harry Potter spin-off.

Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid that labelled him a "wife beater."

A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.

Depp's lawyers filed the US case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant.

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