Johnny Depp winning court of public opinion in Amber Heard trial

Johnny Depp winning court of public opinion in Amber Heard trial

Johnny Depp is coming out on top in the court of public opinion — and that could be even more important than whether he wins his bombshell defamation case against Amber Heard, experts say.

Now that the 58-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” star has told his side publicly, legal and PR professionals told The Post a jury ruling in his favor doesn’t matter as much.

“When [Johnny Depp] stepped off the stand, I think he already won based on his definition of winning,” said Texas civil attorney Katherine Lizardo.

“Because he already obtained the favor of the court of public opinion … once he told his story.”

Depp first testified for four days during the second week at the Fairfax, Virginia trial – and then again for more than three hours on Wednesday.

He is suing his ex-wife for $50 million alleging she defamed him in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse.

Heard, 36, then countersued for $100 million claiming Depp defamed her when he said she was lying about her abuse allegations.

“I think for Johnny Depp winning the legal side of the defamation claim does not matter to him,” Lizardo told The Post. “Winning – it would just be icing on the cake for him because his main goal for filing the defamation lawsuit was to clear his name and to appeal to the court of public opinion.”

Johnny Depp returns from a break
Johnny Depp returns from a break in the trial on May 26.
Actor Johnny Depp
Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million.
Michael Reynolds/REUTERS

From the beginning of his testimony, Depp emphasized that he brought the lawsuit to “clear my name,” for his sake and that of his children, Lily-Rose, 22, and Jack, 20, as well as for those in the movie business industry who trusted him.

Experts said he achieved this with his time on the stand.

“Right now I think it’s undisputed that the court of public opinion favors him and heard him and are now supporting him. Whether or not he wins – I don’t think it matters to him or even to the court of public opinion,” Lizardo said.

California entertainment lawyer Mitra Ahouraian added that the case isn’t really about winning a defamation claim — but about clearing Depp’s name in the public sphere, as he’s said.

“This case is about using the courts as a platform to tell his side of the story and clearing the record and swaying the court of public opinion,” Ahouraian said.

Amber Heard (right) embraces her attorney Elaine Bredehoft after she testified.
Amber Heard embraces her attorney Elaine Bredehoft after testifying.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Pro Amber supporter Daniel Lee, 26, shows his support at the courthouse on May 23.
Amber Heard supporter Daniel Lee, 26, waits at the courthouse on May 23.
Cliff Owen/CNP

“It’s more important than the actual lawsuit,” Ahouraian said. “Certainly winning the lawsuit helps because it would establish that something untrue was said about him and that’s a big deal.”

It was so important for Depp to clear his name on the domestic violence accusations that he was willing to air his other dirty laundry in the process – including his battle with alcohol and drugs.

However, Ahouraian noted, Depp’s legal team made sure to address Heard’s allegations against him head on giving his perspective on what happened.

“He went into this knowing that all of this was going to come out,” Ahouraian said. “‘Fine, I do drugs, I battled addiction since I was young but I am not a wife beater.’ And that’s all he’s trying to say.”

Actor Amber Heard testifies in the courtroom
Amber Heard is counter-suing Johnny Depp for $100 million.
Michael Reynolds/AP
Woman holds sign that reads "I believe her."
Caroline Putnam, 23, holds a sign in support of Amber Heard.
Elizabeth Rosner/NY Post

The trial has drawn endless commentary on social media that is largely heavily critical of Heard.

“His fans are basically doing a smear campaign around Amber Heard without him even having to do anything. That’s what a six-week trial, televised every day, that’s what they were counting on would happen,” Ahouraian said.

“People online love to hate her. It’s like vitriol,” the California lawyer added.

Juda Engelmayer, the president of public relations firm Herald PR who reps disgraced filmmaker Harvey Weinste, agreed that the fact that the trial was televised was a loss for Heard in the public and suited Depp well as a natural entertainer.

Depp waves as he leaves the Virginia courtroom on May 26.
Depp waves as he leaves the Virginia courtroom on May 26.

“It’s horrible because you see every flaw, every misspoken word, every piece of testimony that doesn’t necessarily jive with how she said something happened a couple days ago and then social media calls her out and beats her out for it right away,” Engelmayer said.

“She is human. She is sitting in a high pressure role. [There is] a lot at steak for her. It isn’t going to go flawlessly and she is going to make mistakes,” Engelmayer said. “Social media doesn’t care about the facts, they just care about what they see.”

Heard’s lawyers had tried to block the cameras in the courtroom, but was unsuccessful.

On the other hand, “Because [Depp is] a natural star who is always entertaining, he’s in front of the tv camera and he’s entertaining once again,” Engelmayer said of the televised trial. “I think it’s probably a defense mechanism but it’s also calculated too. He’s trying to be witty, he’s trying to be funny.”

“That’s his way of winning over audiences whether he’s on stage or in front of a camera or in front of a jury.”

Johnny Depp supporter raises sign with "Fear and Loathing in Amber Turd"
Some Johnny Depp supporters got creative with their signs to show support of the actor.

And while Depp may come out “a little tarnished” and is “not a family man anymore” after the trial, Engelmayer says that Depp has shown how vast his base of supporters and fans is, which could appeal to studios considering hiring him for new projects.

“He also did show that he has a huge fan base and he can bring a big crowd,” Engelmayer said. “And I think that is going to impress studios more than anything else. And while they aren’t going to make him the lovable hero in the next movie they could make him the hate-able villain or the lovable villain.”

Ahouraian was a little more skeptical about Depp’s marketability going forward.

“Now the question is, these fans who are rallying behind him, do they have more sway than a potential financier or investor who is still putting the risk up?” Ahouraian said. “If it were me, I would want to do drug checks. I need him on his best behavior and he gets one shot.”

Lower half of two bodies standing, one woman being interviewed as she holds painting of Johnny Depp
One Depp supporter holds what appears to be a hand-painted depiction of Depp.

Engelmayer also said that he believes Heard could still continue her career after the trial with studios who “want to be on the right side of social history” giving her roles in smaller films. And she could also go on talk shows to discuss her experience after going through two trials.

“There is a still a group of women out there, a group of supporters and people who believe that she is righteous for coming out with her voice and her truth and strong enough to sit there and take the public abuse and humiliation during the course of the trial,” Engelmayer said.

Ahouraian says if the jury finds that Heard defamed Depp, “her career would be done.”

Similarly, Lizardo said that Heard’s “reputation has been severely damaged” and Depp’s planned rebuttal witnesses “might just demolish her credibility altogether.”

Reps for Depp and Heard declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner

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