In his continuing $100 million (£76 million) defamation case with his ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp has suffered a setback.
Depp, who plays Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, sued Heard for libel after The Washington Post published an opinion piece in which she discussed her experience of domestic violence in 2018.
The story, which does not mention Depp by name, according to Depp’s lawyers, wrongly implies that the Aquaman star was physically and sexually assaulted by Depp during their marriage.
A judge ruled on Thursday (March 24) that Heard can argue to a jury that her piece is shielded from libel lawsuits since it deals with a public issue.
Depp’s lawyers had asked the court in Fairfax County for a decision that Heard could not argue in her defence that she was speaking about subjects of public importance and thus would be immune from legal action.
The statute that authorises this defence, known as an anti-Slapp (strategic lawsuit against public participation) provision, according to Depp’s lawyer, was not intended to be employed in private disputes.
Because the judge ruled against Depp, Heard will be able to employ the public interest defence in her case.
Heard has filed a defamation suit against Depp, based on allegations made by Depp’s lawyer against her.
The trial will begin in Fairfax on April 11th, and both Depp and Heard will testify.
Depp lost a similar lawsuit against The Sun in the UK in 2020 for an article claiming he was a “wife beater.”
Depp abused Heard and put her in dread of her life on multiple occasions, according to the judge.