The last thing I wanted to do was write about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard circus. Really. For months I’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid the social media cults, the TikTok clips and my mother — who was so enthralled by the case that she canceled numerous plans so that she could watch the live trial, and was temporarily banned from Facebook for commenting that she would give Heard a slap if she ever came across her, which is probably unlikely.

But after the latest development in the story, which happened after the judge...

The last thing I wanted to do was write about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard circus. Really. For months I’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid the social media cults, the TikTok clips and my mother — who was so enthralled by the case that she canceled numerous plans so that she could watch the live trial, and was temporarily banned from Facebook for commenting that she would give Heard a slap if she ever came across her, which is probably unlikely.

But after the latest development in the story, which happened after the judge ruled that Heard was in fact defamatory towards Depp, awarding him $15 million in damages, I couldn’t stay quiet any more. And neither could a number of celebrities. It seems that Hollywood is wondering if it rallied around the wrong guy.

The irony is that it was Depp’s fans who crowdfunded the fees needed to get more than 6,000 pages of court documents unsealed. Their aim, of course, was to further smear Heard, by getting their paws on files of allegations that lawyers for Depp and Heard managed to keep out of the trial itself. Alas, life rarely happens the way we want it to, and instead of getting dirt on Heard, the Team Johnny cult may have revealed the true colors of Depp instead, or at least of his legal team.

The pre-trial documents appear to be the embodiment of dirty tactics. Heard’s team say in their documents that they were forced to argue that evidence of a number of “irrelevant personal matters” should be excluded from the defamation trial, including nude pictures of Heard, which Depp’s team stated could be relevant in order to show a “lack of physical injuries” and information surrounding her brief stint as an exotic dancer years before she met Depp. The aim, according to Heard’s team, was to “frivolously and maliciously suggest or imply that Ms. Heard was at one time an escort.”

Heard’s lawyers also argued that metadata from photos and audio submitted by Depp’s team as evidence “reveals the items were ‘modified’ days before their production in this case.” They said that Depp “produced multiple partial audio recordings that begin and end in the middle of a sentence,” adding that metadata “indicates the recordings were created in September 2015 and then modified in June 2016, and again one day before their production, but Depp only produced the modified version. This raises significant concerns of manipulation, alteration and deletion.” Heard’s team say in the documents that they were denied full audio of the conversations multiple times. Depp’s team claimed that if the recordings contained only partial conversations, then “either only part of the conversations were ever recorded, or Ms. Heard, or someone on her behalf altered them.”

Then there’s Ellen Barkin, Depp’s ex-girlfriend who claimed in a deposition that he supplied her with a Quaalude — a sedative and hypnotic drug — before they had sex for the first time. Barkin also accused Depp of throwing a wine bottle at her, while reportedly saying: “There was always an air of violence around him. He’s a yeller, he is verbally abusive. And those things you can see.” Depp denied these claims during his libel trial against the Sun in 2020, stating: “I do not have an anger management problem” and adding that Barkin was “very, very angry” with him for not wanting a serious relationship with her.

And this was just the evidence that was left out, after it was ruled as irrelevant to the case. Anyone that followed proceedings closely enough can see that however bad Heard’s behavior was, Depp’s matched it. One wrote nasty messages on a wall in their own blood, and one defecated on a bed and blamed it on an innocent dog. You can’t possibly believe that one is of a higher moral stance than the other. But of course, that didn’t fit the narrative that social media wanted us to believe. It seems that the prospect of the villain being female excited the general public, and Heard was labeled as guilty before the case even started.

Celebrity defamation cases seem to bring out the worst behavior in society. For months we’ve watched commentators on social media weaponize and thrive on people’s misery, forgetting that at the heart of this case was alleged domestic violence, and instead of sympathy for what one might have gone through, a potential victim has been continuously mocked.

The Depp cult will undoubtedly dig their heels in, but it seems that the latest development is enough for Hollywood A-listers to realize that their support may have been premature. Numerous stars have unliked Depp’s Instagram post detailing how “humbled” he felt after winning the trial. Well-known names including Bella Hadid, Sophie Turner, Joey King, Halle Bailey and Amanda Knox have symbolically withdrawn support — showing, for better or worse, that the Depp vs Heard case isn’t over yet.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.