The case of the decade – the defamation trial of Johnny Depp v Amber Heard, was one that was unhealthily televised and publicized across the globe. The consequence: a horde of an audience divided right at the center, a mass of opinion influencing debates and arguments online in an attempt to execute judgments on who should be held accountable, a matter of the jury and the courtroom drawn out in the public sphere.
And as such, any verdict would manage to hurt the public sentiments when the job of the judge, jury, as well as executioner, was being performed by the collective mass of people logging in every day to reduce a defamation trial into binaries – it was either mockery or nonchalant charm that became ruling factors of innocence or guilt.
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Amber Heard’s Lawyer Critiques Public Opinion’s Influence
Jennifer Robinson, the lawyer who represented Amber Heard in the London libel trial, and Dr. Keina Yoshida with who she co-authored the book titled, How Many More Women? rallied a scathing critique against the base humiliation that was levied against her client throughout the trial against Johnny Depp. What was then described as an almost animalistic and jarring description of humans reduced to “bellowing, yelling” boorish mass lined up outside the Royal Court – “grown men dressed as Johnny Depp – or at least as his screen characters Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands. They had taken up his cause as if it were their own.”
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While the slogans chanted “‘Men too’, ‘Gold-digger’, ‘Amber LIES’, ‘Amber the Abuser'”, Robinson paints a picture of what she understood lying underneath the screams and name-callings:
“In Johnny Depp, it was as if they saw the victim of a cancel culture supposedly obsessed with bringing white masculinity down… The actor had somehow become an everyman, unfairly accused and subject to the same ‘witch-hunt’ that had seen the demise of every guy who had made an off-colour office joke since MeToo. Every man who had been sacked for coming on to the junior women at work or making ‘now inappropriate’ comments. They saw their own ex-wives and custody battles, and the child support they had been forced to pay.
They saw all of this in Johnny Depp – to them he was an anti-Establishment hero, the kind he so convincingly played in movies.”
However, it wasn’t simply Every man who was taken up by Johnny Depp and all he represented. The whole world was quick to arm itself in more than just chants and slogans once the libel trial followed a straight path across the pond in a Virginia courthouse.
The Impact of Public Opinion on the Defamation Trial
For the entirety of the 2022 defamation trial which began in April and arrived upon a finality on June 1st, the public logged in and logged off like clockwork as proceedings went on within the Fairfax County courtroom, and once the day’s dealings were over with, proceeded to compile the bullet points, make memes and videos, juxtapose them with nonsensical music or haikus, and proliferate the products on the internet for consummation.
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The defamation trial became a playground for the public’s vision of a distorted reality – an arena placed in between the realms of what’s real and what’s fiction. The documentation of abuse, audio-visual tapes, evidence or the lack thereof – all of it served to entertain the mass’s insatiable curiosity and sadistic hunger to humiliate rather than be humane. In the end, the jury verdict was only a drop in the ocean of seething hatred that played out like the digital reincarnation of the Hunger Games and none were satisfied until blood was drawn (metaphorically, of course) in the battle that decided not the innocence or guilt but which side could rationalize the other into submission.
Source: Daily Mail