Week-long break from Depp, Heard party has downsides for both parties
Legal experts say Johnny Depp’s lawyers received a gift when his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard was halted this week.
But some also noted that the break could give the Heards a boost, as jurors have several days to chew on his harrowing testimony.
Without immediate cross-examination to challenge his credibility, Heard’s story is left to “marinate in their minds, and maybe solidify that…that’s what really happened and that’s the truth,” a said Sandra Radna, a New York-based family law and divorce attorney. .
“Maybe whatever Johnny Depp’s team does next, it can’t change them,” Radna said of the jurors, “because now they’re sitting with this for a week.”
Expert trial consultant Jill Huntley Taylor, however, said the discrepancy will give Depp’s attorneys “plenty of time” to consider Heard’s testimony and “plan their cross-examination of her very carefully.”
“I think there’s a real strategic advantage” to that, Huntley Taylor told the Post.
The trial was halted on May 5, after Heard’s second day on the stand, when she described some of the extreme abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Depp.
His testimony will resume on May 16, when Judge Penney Azcarate returns from a pre-scheduled conference.
In the meantime, Depp’s attorneys can spend the week “finding things to ask that would discredit his testimony,” California entertainment attorney Mitra Ahouraian said.
“Johnny’s team will pivot based on what they heard in their testimony,” Ahouraian told the Post.
A source close to Depp told the Post that his attorneys “definitely see it as an advantage to have a week and a half to prepare for cross-examination and analyze Ms. Heard’s evidence in chief thus far.”
Still, star attorney Jeffrey Movit of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp said a legal team “usually wants to present its full case uninterrupted rather than have it cut up, divided up and stretched out over time.”
“While the jury has time to ruminate on Ms. Heard’s testimony, it may overlook parts of it,” Movit noted. “Furthermore, his testimony will be significantly separated in time from that of other witnesses in support of his case.”
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic violence.”
The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star was not named in the article, but he says it nonetheless ruined his reputation, hurt his career and cost him tens of millions of dollars in work.
Lawyers for Heard are not allowed to see the actress this week because she is still on the stand, which Huntley Taylor, the trial consultant, described as a “challenge for them and for her”.
The jury, which is not sequestered, is also likely to hear about the case during its week off given the attention it is getting, experts have warned.
The bottom line, Radna said, “you never know what’s going on in the minds of jurors.”
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner.