Jury selection began on Monday in a long-anticipated libel lawsuit that actor Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, whom he accuses of falsely portraying him as a domestic abuser.
Depp sued Heard over an op-ed piece she wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 in which Heard refers to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article doesn't mention Depp by name, but he says it clearly refers to allegations Heard made in other forums that she suffered physical abuse at his hands. Depp denies the accusations.
The courtroom in the city of Fairfax was closed to the public Monday, with limited closed-circuit access in an overflow courtroom. People lined up before 7am for the wristbands granting access.
The judge overseeing the trial, Penney Azcarate, has imposed a series of access rules to try to maintain decorum in the courthouse. Most significantly, neither Depp nor Heard are permitted to pose for photos or sign autographs in the courthouse or on the courthouse grounds.
More than a dozen women, some waving signs saying “Justice for Johnny,” joined other fans who waved pirate flags in recognition of Depp's signature role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, waited outside the courthouse an hour before the hearing.
Depp's fans have been vocal in their support, saying he has been falsely accused. Raylyn Otie, a Depp fan from Bluefield, Virginia, drove five hours to see the movie star. She was disappointed when Depp did not greet fans personally, as sheriff's deputies carefully limited fan access.
“I'm so disappointed. I came to give him flowers to show some support,” she said, bouquet in hand.
In a separate lawsuit Depp filed against a British newspaper, a judge dismissed the case, finding that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in fear for her life on multiple occasions.
Heard has filed a countersuit against Depp that accuses his lawyers of defaming her at his direction.
Heard's lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have the case moved to California, where the actors reside.
A Fairfax judge ruled that Depp was within his rights to bring the case here because the Washington Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County.
Depp's lawyers have said they brought the case in Virginia in part because the laws here are more favorable to their case.
The trial is expected to last more than a month.