Johnny Depp libel case verdict due in London

London (AFP) –


Hollywood star Johnny Depp will learn on Monday if he has won his libel lawsuit against British newspaper The Sun for branding him a "wife-beater" in a case that laid bare his chaotic lifestyle.

Judge Andrew Nicol will deliver his long-awaited verdict at 1000 GMT, after three weeks of rancorous testimony at the High Court in London that included claims of drug abuse and domestic violence.

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor sued the tabloid's publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) and the author of the article over claims he was violent to ex-wife Amber Heard during their volatile two-year marriage.

The legal odds would appear to be stacked in Depp's favour in a case that has been dubbed "the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century".

England's ancient defamation law puts the burden of proof on the media and remains one of the strictest in the Western world.

Depp brought the proceedings, and laid bare his personal battles with drugs and alcohol, because The Sun's allegation had done a "disservice" to the #MeToo movement it was trying to support, his lawyer David Sherborne said.

His client was "cited in the same breath as disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein", he added. "That is why he has come here -- to clear his name."

Heard said she stood by her testimony and put her faith in British justice, even though she had not instigated proceedings.

Legal experts considered Depp had no choice but to sue, as in the current era, accusations of domestic violence would do more damage to his career than details of his substance abuse.

Judge Nicol's ruling will be delivered remotely and it is not known whether Depp or Heard will attend court again.

- Excruciating detail -

The 16 days of proceedings in July, which both parties attended, exposed the couple's troubled relationship in excruciatingly minute detail.

Depp, 57, released a graphic photo showing a severed fingertip that he claimed Heard caused by throwing a vodka bottle at him during a violent row.

Heard, a 34-year-old model and actress, claimed Depp injured his fingertip, which was later reattached, when he smashed a telephone into the wall during the argument.

Depp admitted writing a message to Heard on the wall and floor with flowing blood, and then dipping his finger into a can of paint to continue writing when the bleeding stopped.

Another episode involved faeces found in the couple's marital bed, which Depp said was left there as a sick joke by either Heard or one of her friends.

Depp admitted laughing about it when a friend texted him photos of the faeces with the inscription "Amber Turd".

But despite Heard blaming the incident on the couple's pet dog, Depp said he knew then that his marriage was effectively finished.

The judge also forced Depp to face days of withering cross-examination in which the star admitted to only hazily remembering some events because he was high on drugs.

"We are a crime scene waiting to happen," Depp wearily told Heard in one recorded exchange played in court.

Depp vehemently rejects accusations he hurt Heard while battling a drug addiction over a three-year span that ended with her 2016 decision to get a restraining order and file for divorce.

He and his legal team branded Heard a manipulative fantasist who made up the allegations for money and personal fame to destroy his life.

Heard, for her part, said she loved the sober Depp but he became a "monster" after days-long binges on powerful prescription and other drugs.

NGN relied on the defence of truth, arguing they had a valid basis for their 2018 story by detailing 14 alleged instances of Depp abusing Heard.