Johnny Depp is asserting himself in the court of public opinion – and that might be even more important than winning his bombshell defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, experts say.
Now that the 58-year-old ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star has publicly announced his side, legal and PR professionals told The Post that a jury verdict in his favor isn’t that important.
“When [Johnny Depp] stepped out of the stands, I believe he’s already won given his definition of winnings,” said Texas civil attorney Katherine Lizardo.
“Because he has already gained the favor of the court of public opinion… after telling his story.”
Depp testified for four days at the Fairfax, Va., trial during its second week — 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 violence.
Heard, 36, is suing for $100 million, claiming Depp defamed her when he said she lied about her abuse allegations.
“I think it doesn’t matter for Johnny Depp to win the legal side of the defamation lawsuit,” Lizardo told The Post. “Winning – it would just be icing on the cake for him as his main objective in filing the defamation lawsuit was to clear his name and appeal to the Court of Public Opinion.”
From the start of his testimony, Depp stressed that he filed the lawsuit to “clear my name” for himself and his children Lily-Rose, 22, and Jack, 20, and for those in the film industry who trusted him.
Experts say he achieved that with his time on the stand.
“Right now I think there is no dispute that the court of public opinion favors and listens to him and supports him now. Whether he wins or not, I don’t think it matters to him or even the court of public opinion,” Lizardo said.
California entertainment attorney Mitra Ahouraian added that the case isn’t really about winning a defamation lawsuit — it’s about clearing Depp’s name publicly, he said.
“In this case, it’s about using the courts as a platform to tell your side of the story, erasing the records and influencing the court of public opinion,” Ahouraian said.
“It’s more important than the actual lawsuit,” Ahouraian said. “Certainly it helps to win the trial because it would establish that something untrue was said about him and that’s a big deal.”
Clearing his name on the domestic violence allegations was so important to Depp that he was willing to air his other dirty laundry in the process — including his battle with alcohol and drugs.
However, Ahouraian noted that Depp’s legal team was careful to address Heard’s allegations against him head-on and to provide his perspective on what happened.
“He went into it and knew all of this was going to come out,” Ahouraian said. “‘Well, I do drugs, I’ve battled addiction since I was young, but I’m not a womanizer.’ And that’s all he’s trying to say.”
The trial has spawned endless comments on social media that are largely critical of Heard.
“His fans are basically running a smear campaign around Amber Heard without him even having to do anything. That’s how a six-week trial, televised every day, would happen,” Ahouraian said.
“People on the internet love to hate them. It’s like vitriol,” the California attorney added.
Juda Engelmayer, the president of public relations firm Herald PR, which represents disgraced filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, agreed that the fact that the trial was televised was a public loss for Heard and Depp as a natural entertainer was well suited.
“It’s awful because you see every mistake, every word mispronounced, every testimony that doesn’t necessarily match how she said something happened a few days ago, and then social media calls her and immediately smacks her for it .” said Engelmayer.
“She’s human. She is sitting in a high pressure role. [There is] much at stake for them. It won’t be flawless and she will make mistakes,” said Engelmayer. “Social media doesn’t care about the facts, they only care about what they see.”
Heard’s attorneys had tried to block the cameras in the courtroom but were unsuccessful.
On the other hand: “Because [Depp is] a natural star who’s always entertaining, he’s in front of the TV camera and he’s entertaining again,” Engelmayer said of the television process. “I think it’s probably a defense mechanism, but it’s also calculated. He’s trying to be funny, he’s trying to be funny.”
“It’s his way of convincing the audience, whether on stage, in front of the camera or in front of a jury.”
And while Depp comes out after the trial “a little bruised” and “not a family man anymore,” Engelmayer says, Depp has shown just how large his base of supporters and fans is, which could appeal to studios considering hiring him for new projects .
“He also showed that he has a huge fan base and can bring a large audience with him,” said Engelmayer. “And I think that’s going to impress the studios more than anything. And while they won’t make him the lovable hero in the next movie, they could make him the hatable villain or the lovable villain.”
Ahouraian was a bit more skeptical about Depp’s future marketability.
“The question now is, these fans rallying behind him, do they have more clout than a potential financier or investor still taking the risk?” Ahouraian said. “If it were me, I would want to do drug tests. I need him at his best and he gets a chance.”
Engelmayer also said he believes Heard can continue her career post-trial with studios that “want to be on the right side of social history” by giving her roles in smaller films. And she could also go on talk shows to talk about her experiences after two court cases.
“There’s still a group of women out there, a group of supporters and people who believe she’s righteous because she came out with her voice and her truth and strong enough to sit there and face the public abuse.” and enduring the humiliation over the process,” Engelmayer said.
Ahouraian says if jury finds Heard defamed Depp “her career would be over”.
Similarly, Lizardo said Heard’s “reputation has been severely damaged” and that Depp’s proposed rebuttal witnesses “could destroy her credibility altogether.”
Representatives for Depp and Heard declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner