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Voices: The Depp-Heard trial verdict isn’t surprising. What I saw in the courtroom sickened me

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It took the jury in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial less than three days to reach a verdict. They started on a Friday afternoon, broke on Memorial Day weekend, and returned on Tuesday May 31. By early afternoon the following day, they had made their determination and found that Heard defamed her ex-husband in a 2018 op-ed written for The Washington Post.

In other words, Depp won the trial in the US that he lost in the UK after suing The Sun’s publishing company over a headline calling him a wife-beater.

I reported on this trial over the course of seven weeks. It took over my professional life, and many of my personal conversations. It was a difficult, often grim assignment.

Through it all, the cruelty of those who mocked Heard never ceased to amaze me. From the onset, she — the defendant in this case — never seemed to benefit from the presumption of innocence reserved for those who ordinarily stand in a courtroom. Her every gesture, her every facial expression was scrutinized. Everything she did — from the ways she smiled or cried or wiped her nose — was immediately interpreted in the least hospitable light.

I could never get used to the online discourse around the case – the memes, the YouTube supercuts, the flippant tweets, the former boy band member overtly making fun of her on social media. It all defied, to me, the boundaries of acceptable human behavior.

On multiple occasions, I watched Heard fight through sobs to deliver her testimony. And then I watched as thousands of self-appointed internet detectives made fun of her, came up with new derisive hashtags, and analyzed her every gesture and facial expression with a level of focus I can only call worrying. It sickened me through and through. It still does.

Depp didn’t make it to Virginia on Wednesday to hear the verdict in person in the Fairfax courtroom. He was in the UK, where he’s been doing some concerts. Heard was in the courtroom as the verdict was read out: she and Depp each alleged they had been defamed by the other side on three statements. The jury found in favor of Depp on all three of Heard’s statements, and in favor of Heard in just one of the three statements she had brought up in her countersuit. Each side was awarded some damages, Depp significantly more than Heard.

“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said in a statement afterward. “... I believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of freedom of speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK.”

We are not done talking about Depp v Heard. Not by a long shot.

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