Johnny Depp’s #MeToo Game Theory

Johnny Depp
Photo: Chris Kleponis/Getty
Eriq Gardner
May 16, 2022

This week, Johnny Depp’s libel trial against Amber Heard resumed. She’s again on the witness stand, where his lawyers are cross-examining her and attempting to poke holes in her allegations of domestic abuse. This crucial cross is being observed closely by the 11 jurors (seven leads, four alternates), all but one of whom are men.

Depp has thus far been successful in broadening out the case into what seems like a referendum on their entire marriage. It’ll now be Heard’s task in the remaining trial days ahead to narrow the scope back to her Washington Post op-ed—the one he’s suing over, which doesn’t mention his name but does state that Heard “became a public figure representing domestic abuse,” supposedly causing him $50 million in reputational damage. That’s a tall order, as I’ve written previously, given that Depp’s done a fine job of destroying his reputation all on his own.

The parties are still fussing over the precise jury instructions to be delivered, although if they resemble the Virginia Model, jurors will be told that Depp has to prove she made a statement knowing it to be false, that it was about him, that it was seen by someone else, and that the statement harmed his reputation. In other words: These jurors are not required to decide who was the true abuser in this relationship. There’s a lot of nuance in the task at hand for these jurors.