A piece in today’s Times:
Johnny Depp claimed today that a “calculated and manipulative lie” by his ex-wife about donating her divorce settlement to charity should allow him to appeal against a ruling that he is a “wife beater”.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star’s application to appeal his defeat in his libel battle against The Sun was streamed internationally on YouTube to more than 3,000 viewers. A group of supporters known as Deppheads gathered in the main hall of the Royal Courts of Justice in central London during the hearing.
Amber Heard, 34, had allegedly misled the trial by claiming to have donated the entire $7 million (£5 million) settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the appeal court was told.
Depp’s barrister, Andrew Caldecott QC, said that the hospital received only $100,000 and ACLU had received $450,000, including $100,000 paid by Depp’s business adviser.
“The evidence presented a wholly exceptional act of philanthropy, which would have deeply impressed any reasonable person. Her public statements expressly stated that the ACLU donation had victims of domestic violence specifically in mind,” the barrister said.
“The subliminal message of the charity claim was in any event clear: Ms Heard would not wish to keep any of [Depp’s] money, because he had subjected her to serious violence. The evidence presented, and was obviously intended to present, her in the strongest terms as both virtuous and a victim.”
He said that, although the settlement had been paid to Heard in instalments, that did not explain why she had failed to donate the money she had pledged.
The “strenuous opposition” by Heard, star of the Aquaman superhero film, to disclose evidence about the donations to a separate $50 million libel action brought by Depp in the US “speaks for itself”, he added.
“Ms Heard did not correct her evidence about having donated her entire divorce settlement to charity despite the fact that she must have known that the subpoenas had been issued in the US proceedings and despite, around the same time, making other corrections to her evidence in these proceedings,” he said.
Depp, 57, “had his suspicions” about Heard’s “remarkable claim” of having made the donations but had no evidence to support them at the time of the trial, the court was told.
He had unsuccessfully sued The Sun last year for libel for an article describing him as a “wife beater” and questioning why JK Rowling was allowing him to appear in her Fantastic Beasts films.
Caldecott said The Sun relies on the fact that a letter from the children’s hospital had been sent to Depp’s business adviser a week into the libel trial, which refers to Heard’s failure to make payments.
He said the letter had not been received by the adviser so it was not put to Heard during cross-examination.
Mr Justice Nicol, the trial judge, ruled in November last year that he accepted “Ms Heard’s evidence that she had given that sum away to charity”.
Depp is also hoping to introduce new evidence from a friend of Heard’s sister, Whitney Henriquez, into his appeal in London.
Henriquez told the trial that she feared Depp was about to push her younger sister down a stairwell after hitting her “hard and repeatedly” during a row after she discovered he was having an affair in March 2015. Mr Justice Nicol said he accepted that Depp assaulted Heard on that occasion.
Henriquez’s friend Jennifer Howell has said in a statement to the US court that Whitney had told her she had tried to stop Heard hitting Depp during a violent confrontation at the Los Angeles apartment.
Howell said in the statement: “She told me she was worried that Amber ‘was going to kill Johnny’. She told me she had endured that kind of abuse her entire life, first from her father, and then from Amber, who she said was extremely violent.”
Depp’s lawyers also want a retrial on the basis that the original judgment “is plainly wrong”.
Caldecott said: “The trial judge failed to examine the evidence and the arguments with the care that the parties were entitled to expect and which a proper resolution of the issues demanded …
“The trial judge’s findings of fact on issues of central importance amounted to bare assertions rather than reasoned decisions following upon a careful weighing-up and reasoned analysis of the evidence given by both sides.
“As a result, there is no or no proper explanation for how the trial judge reached these serious findings in the face of conflicting accounts of events.”
Adam Wolanski QC, representing The Sun, told the court the trial judge had been “steeped in the case”, which involved several preliminary hearings before a three-and-a-half week trial involving more than 30 witnesses and 13 lever arch files of documents.
He said that 12 of the 14 assaults claimed by Heard had been found proved.
Wolanski said Depp is attempting to introduce new evidence to show that his former wife was a “gold-digger” and that explains why during their five-year relationship she “carefully constructed a ‘hoax’ to demonstrate that he had committed multiple acts of violence against her”.
He said the alleged “fresh” evidence could have been obtained with reasonable diligence for the trial.
The barrister said: “The evidence would have had no impact on Ms Heard’s credibility had it been before the trial judge, since it does not demonstrate that Ms Heard or any of [The Sun’s] witnesses lied . . .
“Even if the judge had concluded that Ms Heard ‘lied’ about the donations, this would have been a lie about an extremely peripheral matter, and not about any pleaded incident.”
Depp had known since 2016 that his former wife was going to make the donations in instalments and had raised questions before the start of the libel trial, the court was told.
Wolanski said Depp had Howlett’s claim before the end of the trial, that she was not present to witness any of the 14 pleaded incidents of violence and her evidence consists “merely of hearsay, including double hearsay”.
Following Depp’s defeat the Warner Bros studio required him to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the lucrative Harry Potter spin-off in which he portrayed the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
The hearing continues.
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