Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial: Supporters fear chilling effect on accusers | English Film News

The call came Thursday, just a day after the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard verdict, at a free legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Athens, Georgia. The woman wanted to pursue her abuse allegations, but she was worried.

“The fear was that she would be seen as a liar like Amber Heard,” clinic director Christine Scartz said of the woman – the first person to directly mention the verdict. “People don’t want to give out the most intimate details of their personal life and then be called a liar.”

Scartz is among advocates and legal experts who fear the case — unique as it was for its celebrity roster, sordid revelations, mutual abuse allegations and relentless social media misogyny — will have an effect real deterrent to women who come forward with claims of abuse. The jury, made up of five men and two women, mostly sided with Depp in the dueling defamation case, ordering Heard to pay him $10 million of the $2 million he owes him give.

Although the jurors considered the civil libel claims and not the criminal abuse charges, the verdict largely upheld Depp’s allegations that Heard lied about abusing her. During her testimony, Heard detailed dozens of instances of assault and Depp adamantly denied ever abusing her. In 2020, a British judge in a civil defamation case found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions.

For Scartz, who runs the clinic at the University of Georgia Law School, the worry is about assumptions that some will make women lie. She worries that abusers will be newly emboldened to portray their accusers as liars in retaliation for their exposure.

Not all experts fear a chilling effect or, as some have phrased it, a threat to the #MeToo movement. Debra Katz, a Washington labor lawyer and perhaps the nation’s most prominent #MeToo lawyer, said the Depp case was one of a kind, “one thing in itself – who these people were, and the dysfunction of their marriage and the madness that took place between them. And it was really fame-driven.”

Still, Katz, who has represented accusers Brett Kavanaugh, Andrew Cuomo and others, sees the case as a setback because it “unfortunately appeals to the misogyny that already exists, and it’s terrible that Amber Heard went through the kind of character assassination, smear job that she went through.”

During the trial, TikTok and Twitter users vilified Heard in memes and videos, some using court footage. Social media content, viewed billions of times, has branded her a liar, an abuser and a “fake” screamer. #AmberIsALiar and other hashtags have become popular search terms.

TikTok has had nearly 20 billion views for the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag, compared to some 78 million for #JusticeForAmberHeard. That equates to more than 250 posts supporting Depp for every one supporting Heard.

What is clear, Katz said, is “there is still misogyny, deep misogyny in the world, and it still permeates our justice system.” However, she says, it should not be assumed that women will not come forward in other cases.

And she said a bigger indicator of the durability of the #MeToo movement is a court ruling on Thursday, a day after Depp’s verdict: Harvey Weinstein’s loss of his New York rape conviction appeal. and his sentence of 23 years in prison. In that case, she said, the jurors “saw through every sexist argument that Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers made about these women. It’s a much bigger jury verdict and court victory than everything this Depp-Heard case suggests.”

The organization metoo.International – started by Tarana Burke, who coined the phrase decades ago through her work with survivors of sexual violence – has rejected efforts to link the Depp-Heard trial and the movement.

“The manner in which #MeToo was co-opted and manipulated in the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial is a toxic disaster and one of the greatest vilifications of the movement we have ever seen,” the group said in a previously released statement. The verdict.

“What we experienced in the Depp-Heard trial was a public narrative of domestic violence between two privileged white celebrities,” he said, while decrying the “public humiliation and harassment” Heard suffered. .

Law professor Mary Anne Franks tried to avoid trial coverage, only to find herself blocked by ‘these kind of really terrible, out of context, completely distorted takes’ every time she peeked online . She can’t help but wonder if the jurors – who weren’t sequestered and could use their phones when not in court – caught them too.

“It’s crazy to think they won’t be influenced by what’s happening on social media,” said Franks, a University of Miami law professor who studies the intersection of civil rights and technology. .

Social media, Franks added, has amplified the power imbalance between the wealthier and beloved actor and his less famous ex-wife. And the lawsuit came at a critical cultural time, she noted, as the progress made by women over the past 50 years is increasingly under threat and the #MeToo movement faces backlash. .

“When men are held accountable, that resentment, that rage, it can simmer for a while, but it’s going to bubble up after at some point, and I think a lot of people have channeled those emotions through this case,” he said. said Franks. .

As the jury deliberated, the streets outside the courtroom in Fairfax, Va., became a pro-Depp carnival. The show included a retired detective donning a pirate hat to pay homage to his Jack Sparrow persona and the arrival of a flatbed truck carrying a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ship.

During the six-week trial, the national organization RAINN, which fights against sexual violence, saw a striking increase in calls to its hotline. He says he helped 28% more people in May 2022 than in May 2021, a spike he attributes to media coverage. On verdict day, it served 35% more people than the average Wednesday, spokeswoman Erinn Robinson said.

Washington attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represented seven women in a libel lawsuit against Bill Cosby, and Paula Jones in a lawsuit against President Bill Clinton that included a libel suit, have been following the lawsuit closely. He said he understands that victims of sexual assault increasingly fear prosecution if they come forward. But he believes the truth can still prevail.

The lawsuit between Heard and Depp, he said, only reflected their relationship and does not mean that in every case the defendant now has an advantage.

“It’s the story of these two people,” he said of the trial. “A public story about their private lives.”

“And a woman who feels aggrieved should be given the opportunity…to have her day in court. Her case will be judged on the facts of this case, not Johnny Depp’s case, not any other case, but on his case.”

But Scartz, at the Georgia clinic, fears the defendant may decide it’s worth “taking a chance, rolling the dice and calling her a liar. See what happens, you know? You don’t lose nothing at this point.

“Those of us who work on the front line in all these types of cases … we will do our best to convince our clients to go ahead and seek the relief they need. But we will see. we may never be able to say definitively that it had an effect, because you don’t know who isn’t calling you.”