A judge on Tuesday let Johnny Depp move forward with his libel suit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, after the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star rested his case.
Heard’s lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that Depp had failed to make his case as a matter of law and that no reasonable jury could find in his favor.
But the judge, Penney Azcarate, said the standard for dismissing a case at this point in the trial is exceedingly high, and that the case should be allowed to move forward if Depp has provided even a “scintilla” of evidence backing up his claims.
The trial will move forward Tuesday afternoon with Heard’s team beginning to present its witnesses after more than three weeks of testimony from Depp’s witnesses, including four days on the stand from Depp himself.
Heard is expected to eventually take the stand.
The divorced movie stars’ trial began April 11 in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., and is broadcasting live.
Johnny Depp, Amber Heard libel trial:Everything from court, including Depp on the stand
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million, alleging she defamed him in an opinion column she published in The Washington Post in December 2018. In the column, she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse.
While Heard didn’t name Depp, his defense claims there were enough details pointing to him as the subject, and as a result, he lost future business earnings.
Johnny Depp’s attorney claims Heard is ‘the abuser’
In addressing Heard’s motion to dismiss, Depp’s attorney Chew argued that the jury has a wealth of evidence to conclude that Heard falsely accused Depp of abuse. In fact, he said, the evidence shows that “Ms. Heard physically abused him. She’s the abuser.”
Heard’s lawyer, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, said the evidence is clear over the last three weeks of testimony that Heard’s allegations of abuse are truthful.
“We haven’t gotten to put on our case yet,” he said. “This is all evidence that has come in while plaintiff controls the playing field.”
The judge on Tuesday did say she’s reserving judgment on whether the article’s headline in online editions should be part of the libel lawsuit because she said the evidence is unclear at this point whether Heard wrote the headline or is responsible for it. The online headline reads, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
More:Officer responding to Johnny Depp, Amber Heard fight says he saw no injuries on actress
Final witnesses for Johnny Depp testify
Among the final witnesses for Depp on Tuesday morning was Erin Falati, a private nurse for Heard. She testified on a recorded deposition that she received photos of Heard with red marks on her face the night of May 21, 2016. That’s the night of a final fight between Depp and Heard that precipitated Heard’s divorce filing a few days later and her May 27 appearance at a Los Angeles courthouse, with red marks on her face, seeking a restraining order.
Depp has said Heard faked the bruises, and presented testimony from police officers who didn’t see marks on Heard’s face when authorities were called the night of the fight. But the photos texted to Falati, which were seen by the jury, could contradict the officers’ perception.
Amber Heard’s lawyer says article did not damage Johnny Depp’s reputation
In opening statements on April 12, Rottenborn argued that Heard was exercising her First Amendment rights as an advocate when she wrote the article, which focused largely on the broad topic of domestic violence.
The attorney said the 2018 article did nothing to damage Depp’s reputation. He noted that the abuse accusations had been public for two years already, and he said Depp’s spiraling career was the result of his drinking and drug-using, which made him an unreliable commodity to Hollywood studios.
“This man’s poor choices have brought him to this point,” he said. “Stop blaming other people for your own self-created problems.”
‘I am an insane person’:Lawyers question Johnny Depp’s texts about drugs, threats to Amber Heard
Johnny Depp testifies he never hit Amber Heard
In prior testimony from Depp and his team, Depp discussed the impact he felt from Heard’s op-ed. “When the allegations were rapidly circling the globe, telling people that I was a drunken, cocaine-fueled, menace who beat women, suddenly in my 50’s, it’s over. You know, you’re done,” Depp said. “That is to say, I lost, because that is not a thing that anyone is gonna just put on your back for a short period of time. I will live with that for the rest of my life.”
Depp also testified that he never physically abused Heard amid the couple’s constant quarrels, but his ex-wife resorted to violence. “Ms. Heard in her frustration and rage would strike out,” he said.
Depp wrapped up his testimony on April 25 with details about his missing fingertip, which he alleged was a result of Heard throwing a vodka bottle at his hand during an argument.
The jury has also heard from a forensic psychologist hired by Depp’s team to speak on Heard’s mental state and from police officers who responded to the scene of the couple’s penthouse after a 2016 fight in which Heard claims Depp hit her, but Depp denies.
Amber Heard’s abuse op-ed:Johnny Depp’s agent testifies that her op-ed was ‘catastrophic’ to actor’s career
Amber Heard article in question finally takes center stage
Much of the trial so far has been a look into the fraught relationship between Depp and Heard, and not the actual article at the center of Depp’s lawsuit. But on April 28, the article took center stage.
Terence Dougherty, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told jurors that there was a push and pull between Heard and her lawyers, and the ACLU, which drafted the 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece under Heard’s name, reflecting her role as an ACLU ambassador on gender violence issues.
The ACLU was concerned about potential violations of a non-disclosure agreement stemming from Depp and Heard’s 2016 divorce, and urged Heard’s lawyers to review the original piece.
During those discussions, Heard sent back an edited version approved by her lawyers that “specifically neutered much of the copy regarding her marriage,” according to an email from Jessica Weitz, an ACLU employee who coordinated with Heard.
The final article never mentioned Depp by name. Instead, Heard was identified as “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” and in another passage, she wrote, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
Trial in a digital age:Amber Heard has yet to take the stand. But on social media, Johnny Depp has already won.
Contributing: Naledi Ushe and Maria Puente, USA TODAY, The Associated Press