MATTHEW BARACKAT – Associated Press
Fairfax, Virginia (AP) – A jury was selected Monday to hear a long-awaited libel lawsuit filed against Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, whom he accuses of falsely portraying him as a domestic rapist.
Depp sued Hurd for an article she wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 in which Hurd called himself a “public figure representing domestic violence.” The article does not mention Depp’s name, but he says it clearly refers to Hurd’s allegations made on other forums that she suffered from his physical violence. Depp denies the charges.
The lawsuit brought a bit of Hollywood to the courthouse, which has a long history of fighting high-profile crimes, only not involving movie stars.
More than a dozen women, some of them waving Justice signs, joined other fans waving pirate flags in recognition of Depp’s iconic role in Pirates of the Caribbean, waiting outside the courthouse an hour before the hearing.
The courtroom in Fairfax was closed to the public on Monday, with limited access to the courtroom, which is overcrowded. By 7 a.m., people lined up for bracelets giving access. Both Depp and Hurd were present, but court staff brought them in and out using special access points, which prevented fans from seeing them.
The judge overseeing the trial, Penny Azcarate, has introduced a number of access rules to try to maintain decency in the courthouse. Most importantly, neither Depp nor Hurd is allowed to pose for photographs or give autographs in the court building or on the court grounds.
Depp’s supporters spoke in support of them, saying he had been falsely accused. Railan Otti, a Depp fan from Bluefield, Virginia, drove five hours to see the movie star. She was disappointed when Depp did not greet fans in person as deputy sheriffs carefully restricted fan access.
“I am so disappointed. I came to give him flowers to support him, ”she said with a bouquet in her hand.
In a separate lawsuit Depp filed a lawsuit against the British newspaper, the judge dismissed the case, believing that Depp attacked Hurd dozens of times and repeatedly feared for his life.
Hurd has filed a counterclaim against Depp, accusing his lawyers of slandering her on his instructions.
Hurd’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to relocate the case to California, where the actors live. A Fairfax judge ruled that Depp had the right to bring the case here because online publications of the Post are published through servers located in Fairfax County. Depot’s attorneys said they had filed a lawsuit in Virginia partly because the laws here are more favorable to their cause.
A jury of seven people and four deputies was elected on Monday afternoon. Civil trials in Virginia are characterized by fewer jurors.
Entry statements are scheduled for Tuesday morning. The trial is expected to last more than a month. The long list of witnesses includes actors James Franco and Paul Bethany, as well as technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. It is expected that some witnesses will appear in person, others will testify by video link.
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