US judge refuses to toss Johnny Depp defamation suit
FAIRFAX, UNITED STATES (AFP) - The US judge hearing the defamation suit filed by Pirates Of The Caribbean star Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard rejected a defence request on Tuesday (May 3) to toss the case.
Lawyers for the 36-year-old Aquaman actress asked Judge Penney Azcarate to dismiss the suit after Depp's attorneys rested their case following three weeks of testimony in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
They claimed Depp had failed to prove he was defamed by a December 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post in which Heard described herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse."
"The court should grant the motion to strike because the undisputed evidence is that he did, in fact, abuse Amber," said Heard's lawyer Ben Rottenborn.
Depp's lawyer, Benjamin Chew, asked the judge to deny the motion, claiming it was Heard who is "the abuser in this courtroom."
Such a motion to dismiss is common in legal proceedings but is rarely granted.
The judge said enough evidence had been presented so far to allow the case to proceed, and she would leave it up to the seven-person jury to decide.
"If there is a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror could weigh, then the matter survives a motion to strike," she said.
Heard never named the 58-year-old Depp in the Post op-ed, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking US$50 million (S$70 million) in damages.
The Texas-born Heard countersued, asking for US$100 million and claiming she suffered "rampant physical violence and abuse" at his hands.
Depp has denied ever being physically abusive towards Heard and claimed at the blockbuster trial that she was the one who was frequently violent.
Heard's lawyers began calling their own witnesses after Depp's side rested their case.
Heard is expected to take the witness stand herself this week.
Depp filed the defamation complaint in the United States after losing a separate libel case in London in November 2020 that he brought against The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater."
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, and Heard met in 2009 on the set of the film The Rum Diary and were married in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised two years later.