Entertainment

Depp faces ‘uphill battle’ in Heard case

US-based entertainment lawyer Mitra Ahouraian told the New York Post that Depp and his legal team faced an “uphill battle”, and would have to meet a higher legal bar to prove their case.The Pirates of the Caribbean star’s high-profile would make the case harder to win because there was an additional requirement to prove “actual malice” on the part of the defendant, he said.“Defamation cases are hard to win in general – and even more difficult when they involve celebrities,” Ahouraian – who is no involved with the Depp case – told the Post. “He has this additional burden which is not easy,” he said.Meantime, Depp, 58, is reportedly spending his week break from the trial in Europe. “Johnny is in Europe taking some time out to rest for a few days, hang out with old friends, playing music, and is taking long walks in the countryside,” a source told Page Six.Depp is suing Heard, 36, for $US50 million over a 2018 Washington Post opinion article in which she referred to herself as a “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”While Heard didn’t name Depp in the essay, his legal team argues it was still defamatory, because it was clearly referencing allegations of domestic abuse Heard made in 2016.The Aquaman actor filed a $100 million countersuit, with the case ongoing for four weeks so far, breaking for one week on May 5 after Heard took the stand. Halim Dhanidina, a former California judge and current criminal defence lawyer, told The Post there were two major challenges in these cases – that opinions can’t be considered defamatory, and that the statements being challenged must be proven false.“Defamation cases are generally difficult, largely because you have this tension between a person’s First Amendment rights to express themselves and the difference between a statement of opinion and a statement of fact,” Dhanidina said.“Statements of opinion generally speaking are not something for defamation suits because you can’t prove or disprove what someone’s opinion is or whether it’s accurate.”The experts agreed that where high-profile clients are involved, you need to go one-step further than proving the statements were false, by also proving “actual malice”.Actual malice means a false statement was made with the knowledge it was untrue or was made recklessly. “Neither of them, in my opinion, are going to be able to meet the standard to establish that they were defamed,” Ahouraian said.“It’s probably going to be a wash on either side.”If there was some truth to Heard’s statement, Depp will lose. “That’s not defamation,” she said.But according to Dhanidina, Depp’s good reputation may help his case.“Johnny Depp is largely a well-regarded person,” the former judge said. “When you think about what the average American knows about him it’s going to be very popular movies like the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise.”“You can go to Disneyland or Disneyworld and there he is. His image is all throughout that amusement park ride in a very wholesome environment,” Dhanidina said. “That gives him an advantage to a certain extent.“If the jurors go into this feeling like they already know him and like him and trust him, then he can’t help but enjoy somewhat of a natural advantage there,” Dhanidina added.New York lawyer Richard Altman, who reps Mariah Carey’s brother, Morgan Carey, in his defamation suit against his sister, told The Post Depp’s suit was “a thin case”.“I don’t understand how this case was never dismissed,” he said. “The [Heard op-ed] article doesn’t point to any specific facts so again it looks like an opinion,” Altman said.“A woman who says she was abused is writing about being abused. you can’t have a defamation suit based on opinion.”Altman said if you sue for defamation you’re putting your entire reputation on the line.“It becomes fair game for attack by the other side so if you have any skeletons in your closet or if you have any past indiscretions they are very likely to come up,” he said. Another complicating factor is having to prove how the alleged defamation led to monetary loss. “Part of the difficulty there is connecting those two dots – this false statement led to this economic loss,” Dhanidina said.Regardless of the outcome, sources close to Depp reported say he feels vindicated by being able “to tell his side of the story.”

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