“Nothing Less Than Everything”: The Depp Trial and The Litigation of Mutual Destruction

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The defamation trial of actor Johnny Depp against his former wife, Amber Heard, has all of the makings of a Hollywood hit except for the absence of a single redeeming character. The comedian Henny Youngman may have been right that “the secret to a happy marriage remains a secret,” but the Depp trial shows that it is clear how to have a miserable marriage. It includes things like mutually taping each other, throwing objects of varying sizes, and rivaling each other in the competition of conspicuous consumption.

The first two days of the trial included gripping and disturbing testimony despite Depp’s tortuously fragmented and rambling accounts. There were the hospital pictures and details of his severed finger tip, which he said was the result of Heard throwing a vodka bottle at him. Heard’s stony demeanor in court played well for Depp as he described someone who seemed to enjoy torturing him with every weakness. It did not help the defense that, at points, Heard looked like she wanted to through a bottle at Depp on the stand.

Conversely, Depp presented himself as a fragile figure tormented by a conniving and greedy spouse.  He used his abusive relationship with his mother to not only explain his own inability to be abusive but to paint Heard as a classic case of a man tragically marrying his mother.

Depp may have succeeded in one notable respect. He did not try to hide that fact that he was an utter train wreck of a human being; someone who burned through millions and past relationships. Yet, he may have connected on the notion that Heard picked through the rubble to take what she could. Being clueless (even comically clueless) is better than being abusive.

Depp detailed how Heard allegedly flew into fits of violence and abuse to the point that his children did not want to be around her. He alleged that she used nail polish to pretend that he broke her nose while repeatedly leaving him with cuts and bruises.  Heard is heard in one tape admitting that she hit Depp and there were photos offered to support his claims that she was physically abusive.

Depp did likely cause damage to Heard in his graphic accounts of uncontrolled rage, but now he will be subjected to cross examination. He started poorly in questioning by Heard’s counsel Ben Rottenborn, a name that Depp seemed to like to emphasize on the stand. Depp used a common approach to depositions in drawing out questions and giving hyper technical, nitpicking answers to counsel. That does not work well in front of a jury. It makes you look less like a clueless wreck and more like a snarky sophisticate.  You look less like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and more like Marlene Dietrich in Witness for the Prosecution.

The defense continues to hammer Depp on the fact that he was not actually mentioned in the Washington Post column where Heard claimed that she was an abused spouse. It is a curious tact since that is not necessary for defamation. She was clearly referring to Depp as shown by the tsunami of criticism that followed.

What is likely to be more damaging for Depp is the self-inflicted damage to his career. Depp’s drinking and bizarre behavior made him notorious in the media. Disney (which owns the Pirates of the Caribbean series) had already decided that he would not continue in his most famous role before Heard’s column ever ran. Moreover, she previously accused him of abuse years earlier in seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO).

Yet, Depp did make a convincing case that his career was effectively ended when Heard first claimed abuse. There is no appellate process in the court of public opinion. Moreover, by making the allegation in a court filing, Heard could not be sued for defamation due to immunity rules. She would have to repeat such claims outside of court to lay the foundation for a lawsuit. That did not come until years later with the Washington Post column. By that time, Depp’s career was as sunk as Davy Jone’s locker.

The fact is that it would have been better if this trial were held two years ago when Heard first made the allegations. He is right that, when he was asked on the stand what the allegation cost him and he responded, “nothing less than everything.”

In the end, both Depp and Heard seem more intent on mutually assured destruction than actual verdicts in their favor. The one thing that is already established is perhaps the best single line from the movie So I Married an Axe Murderer: “We both said, ‘I do!’ and we haven’t agreed on a single thing since.”

56 thoughts on ““Nothing Less Than Everything”: The Depp Trial and The Litigation of Mutual Destruction”

  1. I could care less. The fact that this was obsessively covered should be no surprise, but I was still appalled. Putin is slaughtering all in Ukraine and this is top of the news???Fox covering it live???

  2. Isn’t it interesting that Professor Turley criticizes Trump and yet Fox News still has him on air. As for Depp, he is living proof that wealth or high intelligence are not proof of wisdom. He had lines on the mirror and lines on in his mustache, he thought he’d never pay the price. The lines on the mirror and the lines on his mustache took away his life. Take heed ye of few years. Take heed ye of youth. You only need to look before your eyes to stumble on the truth. Life in the dumb lane gotta make you lose your mind.

  3. For once I agree with Turley: in domestic relations matters, it’s often best not to air dirty linen for lots of reasons, especially when there are children involved. The main reason is that it’s usually a net loss for everyone involved. Bitterness can last a long time and affect other members of the family and friends, too. For instance, if a child is called to testify against a parent, then the parent goes on the stand to call his/her son/daugher a liar, that could derail the relationship permanently. Kids’ emotions can be manipulated, and frequently are by one parent or another who use the children as weapons. It’s also true that sometimes one of the partners is truly a despicable person, but even then, despicable person knows how to lie and manipulate others, leading to conflict and hard feelings. I haven’t followed the Johnny Depp matter much mostly because I don’t care but when it’s all said and done, they’ll both be bloodied.

  4. I like you Jonathan Turley, and your writings. You seem to be a well balanced and kind man. Johnny Dep has been subjected to physical and mental pain of a kind and to a degree you don’t know. I DO have an inkling: Orphaned at age 4 with a deceased Mom and dead-drunk father, I was sent, along with an older brother and sister, to a german based Catholic orphange in St. Louis, under the rule of German nuns, and subject 24/7 to cruelty, physical and mental. . Ran way by ages 9 & 10, Foster home 3 years, very strict. Ran away. Teenage boys home age 14, which was run by priest who molested chosen some of the boys. He never got me – I ran away for the summer prior to my last year of high school. I was placed in another teenage orphanage. I am successful, have three grown great children, retired well with more money tha I need, and wealth for my next to generations. I too put my children above ALL else. admire Dep for his resilience and internalization of decency and kindness. He, (and I) could have ended criminal nightmares. I cut him some slack. (I won;’t hold your good sense, character and general decency against you).

  5. Johnny Depp needs to be equally yoked to the right female. For bedroom rough sex.

    Check out these Ukraine & Russian female soldiers. So may to choose from. Who is prettier & smarter?

  6. You inspired me, Upstatefarmer, to make an actual account. Henceforth, this will be me, and i encourage you all to call me out or agree with me as you see fit. I am James, and this will be my handle. I am eternally grateful for Jonathan and this site, and I hope you find something of worth in what i contribute to the conversation.

  7. While I usually just like to go to movies and be entertained I have never been interested in Hollywood private lives, never followed the magazines of all the dark matter and decadence. It is periodically useful though to see something like this to remind us of what not to be. Frankly as I read this I thought about the saying of a “Plague on both Your Houses”. Obviously these 2 people hate each other and you will see this sometimes manifest in divorces of the common folks (all of those who live outside Hollywood, whether literally or in that mindset). The normal or common people can hate as much but they simply don’t have the assets to wage nuclear war in a courtroom but these can still be extremely destructive to families and leave carnage and long periods of recovery to endure, if ever. Use this to teach. A simple separation so much earlier might have prevented so much. As a physician, dealing with the wreckage of events like this can be daunting but physically and psychologically for the providers and the victims/perpetrators.
    I tend to agree with the Professor, “what is the point to all of this?” Are they going to crawl out from under the wreckage of this legal nuclear war and yell “We Won”. Truly what is the point?

  8. “He did not try to hide that fact that he was an utter train wreck of a human being; someone who burned through millions and past relationships. Yet, he may have connected on the notion that Heard picked through the rubble to take what she could. Being clueless (even comically clueless) is better than being abusive.

    Depp detailed how Heard allegedly flew into fits of violence and abuse to the point that his children did not want to be around her. He alleged that she used nail polish to pretend that he broke her nose while repeatedly leaving him with cuts and bruises. Heard is heard in one tape admitting that she hit Depp and there were photos offered to support his claims that she was physically abusive.”
    ******************************
    Depp describes a hellscape — of his own making — and epitomizes the false promise that too much fame, too much money and constant excess always deliver. Like so much of that Sodom, he’s a poster child for why we should give show people no credence in public affairs. There’s is a Liars Hades gilded in disappointment, furnished in human shame and we should avoid it and them as if our lives depend on it.

  9. I don’t like Johnny Depp…And didn’t like the pirate movie either.

    Instead, “Invaders from Mars” is more entertaining…Especially this scene where David’s school teacher gets eaten by an alien invader. No homework today.

  10. People seem to think that only men are abusive in a relationship. Women abuse both mentally and physically and men are usually too embarrassed to say anything until they devolve into alcoholics or drug addicts and almost become blithering idiots. They almost never report it or seek restraining orders. They make the same kind of excuses as women do in regard to the bruises etc. This trial may be good theater for many but what it may also do is bring woman on male abuse out of the shadows and let other men know that it can happen to even Jack Sparrow.
    On a side note, I don’t know who Disney will replace Johnny Depp with, maybe Anthony de la Torre who played a younger Jack Sparrow, but it will be very hard to see the character without the original who did such a good job of creating the nuances of the character.

  11. It sounds to me like Johnny Depp and Amber Heard deserve each other and I personally don’t give a d*mn what happens to either one of them in this case. What IS interesting is seeing how the assured mutual destruction case is unfolding in front of the jury. You can’t write this kind of nonsense.

      1. Child groomers often project like this and use the suffix “88” at the end of their usernames so they can recognize each other online- as do neonazis (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet so 88 = heil Hitler). Which are you?

  12. @Iowan,mono,hullb,James – you guys must learn to ignore Norman Bates & Co, stop giving them air. Their comments are meant to disrupt.

  13. To James, TiT, Hullbobby, Monument,
    I tried to read their comments, but they were redundant, and low class to attack the professor they way they do. I just skip over their comments.
    And I cannot keep track of any of the Anonymous, so I skip them too.
    I do find others who keep to the professors topics and intelligent discussion interesting.
    Thank you all, you know who you are.

    1. Upstate and Margot, you are both right. One way to make it easier to ignore some of the worst offenders is to NOT HAVE ANONYMOUS as your name. Let’s be able to segregate Anonymous the Stupid by making him the only “anonymous” on the site.

      Of course this doesn’t solve the “JEFF ISSUE”, but he is easy to ignore.

    2. I don’t recall ever besmirching the Professor, quite the contrary, I express my gratitude to him regularly, as recently as Easter Sunday. Feel free to go and see for yourself if you choose. I think you have me confused with someone else.

      1. Ah, James, I am not saying you or the others whom I addressed were attacking the professor, but those whom come here and do and all those who go by Anonymous and attack the professor. A number of the professor’s articles are on sites like The Hill and USA Today. Hardly right-wing news outlets. But all we hear is about, “FOX!”
        Sorry, I was not clear.

        1. That is even more confusing. I don’t believe that I have mentioned Fox in relation to any subject other than to mock the likes of Jeff, Anonymous, and others with their constant mantras, ‘Turkey. Fox. Turkey Fox.’. My sharing today, in fact, was mainly in exasperation over Jeff the troll. Have you ever even read anything I’ve shared? I’m feeling a little categorized here, though that’s ok, it isn’t life or death.

          I don’t have anything against Fox, and have never a single time implied otherwise. Not once. I honestly have no idea why anyone would group me in with the trolls. Regardless, if you and others are incensed by my thoughts about particular subjects then I won’t bother to share them. I think this is a great and intelligent little community, and I admire the Professor’s courage to offer it in these times. I have zero idea what could have given anyone the opposite impression, though I am certainly an un-perfect human as anyone else. I too, wish that the (likely paid) trolls did not hijack every single dang thread.

          I will continue to read nonetheless, and i happen to be someone with a great deal of experience, spanning decades at this point, with the ins and outs of Silicon Valley which are the posts I tend to comment on the most. It is important to me how this plays out in the actual courts of law, because I feel it is a critical issue that is largely ignored by most. This is, after all, the 21st century. Regardless, no hard feelings, and I hope you have a great day. And if you did look at the happy Easter post, I hope that it was a great occasion for you and yours, whatever your tradition.

          And incidentally, I do not have a WordPress account and no desire to make one, but I always use my name, and Darren can see by my email address (yes, he can see that as admin, and I say that for the trolls) that I am the same person every time.

          1. James,
            Ugh, I am being as clear as mud eh? My bust.
            You, TiT, Hullbobby, Monument, Margot, Karen+S and others post interesting and intelligent things, generally stick to the topic the professor posts. Occasional thread drift that sometimes leads to even more interesting discussion.
            It is “the likes of Jeff, Anonymous, and others,” to whom I am referencing as those are the ones I skip over, for as you state quite well, “with their constant mantras.”
            I am a moderator on a Word Press forum, so I appreciate the use of posting under the same name.
            I hope I have finally made myself clear and not made you feel categorized. My comment was only intended as a compliment to you and the others.

            To Darren, I can imagine the amount of volume you must have to deal with on this site. I hope the professor pays you well and you have not torn all your hair out. Yet.

            1. Then I completely and thoroughly misunderstood, and I apologize. I also moderate sites, though in a different capacity. We have something in common with this madness. If it helps, I will tone down the hyperbole and sarcasm and rather make points and share thoughts. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I very much think we are on the same side of these matters, and I appreciate the courtesy. I personally feel that our interaction is precisely the kind of thing that legitimizes the Professor’s position, which I happen to share with him and so many others here even if it is expressed through a different lens, and I am glad that it is public and between two more or less confirmed persons that are simply sharing and reasonably expecting respect for that act. That said, we are all entitled to our own opinions, regardless of how idiotic or tiresome we may find them with each other. Have a great day, and I mean it. At the end of the day, I honestly wish myself and someone like Jeff could go for a drink or a meal and just be humorous and kindred about it.

  14. I have followed this trial gavel to gavel on either Legal Bytes or Reiketa Law on Youtube (where there are lawyers and others commenting). One litigator commented as you did JT about the snarkiness in the cross. However, two other litigators said it was the end of a 7 1/2 hr day and you tend to get a little snarky. We will see how he holds up today.

  15. JT: “The defamation trial of actor Johnny Depp against his former wife, Amber Heard, has all of the makings of a Hollywood hit except for the absence of a single redeeming character.”

    Totally disagree. Depp looks like a kind, giving man. Heard is a monster.

  16. The appropriate response, is she were truly the one to start it, would have been to leave, or at the least, urge professional help. He sounds like he has a serious drinking problem, she sounds like she may suffer from serious mood or neurological disorders or both. Booze and drugs drop a match on that type of kindling, and hoo boy – the blaze. All I see here are two very confused people so laser focused on their hatred and negativity I thank my lucky stars I’m not inside their heads. Still think money and fame are some kind of panacea, ‘influencers’?

    1. Yeah these two have sued each other back and forth in Europe IIRC without solving anything. The main problem seems to be that neither can prove the allegations against the other because both of them are so drunk all of the time. The best thing for both of them would probably be to dry out and get some counseling. It’s a shame when he was younger Depp was a really compelling actor who made interesting choices on screen. Hate to see wasted talent. Presumably Amber Heard is/was talented as well but I’ve only seen her in one flick.

  17. Jon please stop giving Day Light to these narcissists never has the world given so much to such narcissists. Twitter, facebook, tiktok, Hollywood, Facebook….keep highlighting the worst humans on the planet….and then people COPY THEM!

    Censor them!

  18. It’s hard to believe that Turley has time on his hands to watch this sh*tshow and would even bother to do so! What’s worse, he supposes that his followers would be the least bit interested in a blow-by-blow recounting…

    1. Seious question Jeff.

      What qualifies you to judge? I’m not much interested, but I would never consider judging a a host that has different interests than I.

      1. I just expressed my opinion. There are far more important issues facing this country than the failed marriage of the Hollywood Liberal elite which Conservatives love to sneer at.

        1. Maybe it is a reminder of what hell could look like if people let their relationships slide. Considering the 50% divorce rate, maybe Americans need a kick in the pants about how to be better spouses and better to each other in general.

          1. Rose,

            You think fly-over country wants to take a lesson about the sanctity of marriage from Liberal coastal elites who they do not regard as real Americans?

      2. @Iowan,mono,hullb,James – you guys must learn to ignore Norman Bates & Co, stop giving them air. Their comments are meant to disrupt.

    2. Silberman just knows that he could write the Turley blog better than Turley.

      Look at the almost daily criticism by Silberman.

      Only problem is that this is Turley’s blog and most of us don’t think much of Silberman.

      1. Monument, it is worse than that, we are forced, by his 300 daily comments, to think about Jeff…and we don’t like him.

        Jeff and Anonymous The Stupid are trying to wreck the site by using a variation of the “heckler’s veto, to render the comments section too painful to scroll through. Please note that the moronic left did the same thing to The Hill’s comments section and it is now gone.

        1. That is exactly what they are doing and we shouldn’t be deterred or give them much attention. They are very likely paid. Cynical? Yes. But it’s a reality of the modern web. The bright side is they would not be here if they weren’t threatened by our conversations, so we are doing something right. 👍🏼

      2. Turley hasn’t written for or even read this blog in years. He’s just a (formerly) respected name to add legitimacy to the RNC talking points his surrogates post here

        1. “[Turley’s] just a (formerly) respected name . . .”

          Apparently, the word has gone out from its Leftist handlers: Turley’s a “threat to democracy.” Destroy him. By any means necessary.

          1. Oh don’t be silly Turley’s not a threat to democracy he’s just another paid mouthpiece and you have to evaluate the content posted here in that light. No one wants to destroy him cool it with the theatrics. And leftists don’t have “handlers” we get our talking points straight from the home office in Sioux City, Iowa.

      3. Unlike you, I praise Turley as a NeverTrumper, but we have our differences. I don’t fault Turley for criticizing the MSM; I fault him giving a pass to Fox, Newsmax and OAN.

    3. The irony here with Jefc is too thick for me and my fingers don’t want to wade through it. Someone else have a go.

    4. jeffsilberman wrote, “It’s hard to believe that Turley has time on his hands to watch this sh*tshow and would even bother to do so! What’s worse, he supposes that his followers would be the least bit interested in a blow-by-blow recounting…”

      That folks is what pure ad hominem looks like and it only took jeffsilberman 6 minutes from the time Turley posted the blog to read the post and come up with this personal attack of Turley and every one of his “followers”. This is exactly the kind of trolling nonsense that internet trolls spew.

      Ad Hominem: (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

      jeffsilberman should be banned.

      1. Witherspoon says:

        “JeffSilberman should be banned.”

        Copy my criticism and send it off to Turley. I’ll respect his decision if he thinks that my criticism was uncivil. Rather, it seems to me that I might have triggered you, Steve. Maybe you should consider ignoring me if you can’t handle my comments.

        1. Get it through your head. Turley doesn’t like you or your ideas. He wants nothing to do with you. To paraphrase Turley, one has to tolerate people like Jeff and let them speak their mind, even if it is an empty mind.

          1. Anonymous wrote, “To paraphrase Turley, one has to tolerate people like Jeff and let them speak their mind, even if it is an empty mind.”

            Very well stated.

            Forgive me for piling on to that but what you’re describing is along the lines of a hollow shell airhead.

            HOLLOW SHELL AIRHEAD
            Hollow Shell Airhead is a metaphor describing the empty vessel of a stupid person. That guy is a hollow shell airhead.

            Derived from the following definitions:
            Hollow: An empty space inside of something.

            Shell: In impersonal attitude or manner which conceals the presence or absence of something contained within.

            Airhead: A mindless or stupid person.
            https://resurrectedsite.wordpress.com/2019/11/12/hollow-shell-airhead/

            See I do share things that are related to the discussion but aren’t just from my blog.

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