Monday, May 30, 2022

A Sound Lawyer’s Take On Final State Of Play, And A Satire Of Amber Heard’s Non-Answers

Posted by Peter Quennell

Added: This newly uploaded video above explains why Harvard lawyer Ms Lee has come down for Team Depp. Bruce Rivers’ commentary is down below now.

Overview

Up to the present, most main-media commentary remains deeply superficial.

Reporting has been skipping over numerous hard facts in favor of extensive waffles about #MeToo, social media, and who is waiting to enter the courtroom.

Main media did give some belated attention last week to Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez, who they have actually noticed is a woman.

On Facebook and YouTube threads it is rather obvious that half or more of the scathing comments also are from women. Many of them are DV survivors, explaining why they are quite sure Amber Heard is faking it.

This fact-influenced changing center of gravity in the huge audience is still not being noticed mainstream. 

Above and below: two lawyers’ commentaries. Further below: a sardonic take on Amber Heard’s cross-examination, with real reactions from her own team increasingly dumbfounded.

After the jury met briefly last Friday, a rumor was floated that they were “divided”. At a guess, this was Heard PR hard at work. There was little time to do other than take a straw vote. Such straw votes are notorious for differing from final outcomes.

 

 

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/30/22 at 06:53 PM in

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Good news. Largish mjorities of commenters on the NY Times and Washington Post websites are aligned with the majorities on YouTube and Facebook. It is the badly-researched shoot-from-the-hip opinion writers that (as with Jessica Bennett on Amanda Knox) are increasingly out-of-step here.

Jumping the gun, the NY Times’s normally reliable op-ed writer Michelle Goldberg declared this case to be the end of the anti-harrassment movement #MeToo several weeks ago.

Really? First see her column just below. Then see the next comment for a sample of the Times readers’ majority-negative reactions to this.

Amber Heard and the death of #MeToo

There are ambiguities in the sordid conflict between divorced actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, but some things are clear.

Depp texted a friend that he wanted to kill Ms. Heard and then have sex with “her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.” There is a video of Depp smashing kitchen cabinets while Ms. Heard tries to calm him, saying, at one point, “All I did was say ‘sorry’!” In an audio recording, she tells him to go put his “cigarettes out on someone else,” and he responded, “Shut up, fat ass.”

He admitted to head-butting her, though he said it was an accident. When Ms. Heard went to court to get a domestic violence restraining order against Mr. Depp, she had a bruise on her cheekbone from where she said he threw a phone at her.

In 2018, The Sun, a British newspaper, called Mr. Depp a “wife beater,” and he sued for libel. Proving libel is much easier in Britain than in the United States, because there the burden of proof rests with the defendant. Mr. Depp lost his case. A judge, evaluating 14 incidents of Mr. Depp’s alleged abuse of Ms. Heard, found that 12 of them had occurred and concluded that The Sun’s words were “substantially true.”

Now Mr. Depp is suing Ms. Heard in Virginia for $50 million, saying that she defamed him when she described herself, in a Washington Post opinion essay that didn’t mention Mr. Depp, as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His case seems absurd, since even if he were entirely innocent, the British verdict was well known, and Ms. Heard was referring to what she symbolized, not what she allegedly endured. (She is countersuing for $100 million.)

If Mr. Depp somehow prevails, one can expect similar lawsuits against other women who say they’ve survived abuse. Already, singer Marilyn Manson has filed a defamation suit against his ex-fiancée Evan Rachel Wood, one of several women who have accused him of sexual violence.

But Mr. Depp needn’t succeed in court to achieve his ends. In a 2016 email to his former agent, Christian Carino, Mr. Depp wrote that Ms. Heard was “begging for total global humiliation.” Now this televised trial has resulted in an explosion of hatred and derision directed at her. The volatile actress — who at times was violent toward Mr. Depp, and who never made good on a promise to donate her entire divorce settlement to charity — is very far from a perfect victim. That made her the perfect object of a #MeToo backlash.

Online, there is a level of industrial-scale bullying directed at Ms. Heard that puts all previous social media pile-ons to shame. Countless videos skewer Ms. Heard on TikTok; NSYNC member Lance Bass joined in the trend of mockingly reenacting her testimony. A makeup brand even took part in the anti-Heard melee, posting a TikTok video meant to contradict her lawyer’s description of how she covered up bruises. Meanwhile, every platform appears to be full of adoring pro-Depp memes. “Why Does It Seem Like the Entire Internet Is Team Johnny Depp?” said a Vice headline.

But it is not just the internet. “Believe all women, except Amber Heard,” Chris Rock joked recently. A “Saturday Night Live” sketch last weekend turned one of Mr. Depp’s wildest accusations against Ms. Heard into a skit, treating her as a figure of ridicule and him as a charming scamp.

This doesn’t mean that the case is entirely straightforward. Ms. Heard has admitted hitting Mr. Depp, and she has been recorded insulting and belittling him. The couple’s marital counselor testified that they engaged in “mutual abuse,” saying of Ms. Heard, “It was a point of pride to her, if she felt disrespected, to initiate a fight.”

Some domestic violence experts consider mutual abuse a myth, arguing that while both partners in a toxic relationship can behave terribly, one usually exercises power over the other. But even if you believe that Ms. Heard acted inexcusably, the idea that she was the primary aggressor — against a larger man with far more resources who was recorded cursing at her for daring to speak in an “authoritative” way — defies logic.

It is worth noting that in 2020, Bot Sentinel, a group that tracks online disinformation and harassment, was hired by Ms. Heard’s lawyers to analyze the social media campaign against her. “Everyone thinks that any activity against them is bots or whatever,” the group’s founder, Chris Bouzy, told me. But in this case, some of it was — Mr. Bouzy estimated that there were 340 “inauthentic” Twitter accounts devoted to defaming Ms. Heard and amplifying petitions calling for her to be fired from acting and modeling gigs. “A small number of accounts can drive conversations on Twitter,” he said.

Yet even if trolls and bots helped juice anti-Heard mania, there are obviously plenty of real people participating in it. Some of them are obsessive Mr. Depp fans; as Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in The Atlantic, there is a history of online communities fixating “on theories that the male objects of their fandom were being manipulated and tortured by less-famous, female romantic partners.”

There seems, however, to be a broader misogynist frenzy at work, one characteristic of the deeply reactionary moment we are living through. “She will hit the wall hard!!!” Mr. Depp wrote in the email to his agent. Looks like he knew his audience.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/31/22 at 11:50 AM | #

These are some of the many top-rated “readers’ picks” disagreeing with Michele Goldberg (roughly 2 in every 3 of 2000 disagree with her.)

While both parties clearly have issues and were abusive to one another, only one tried to paint herself as an entirely innocent victim of domestic abuse. After watching the trial, it is hard not to think of Amber as the primary aggressor of the toxicity in the relationship. Saying it “defies logic” to believe a larger man with more resources to be more of a victim than the aggressor likely one of the core reasons Amber felt so confident to publish many exaggerations and blurred storylines… because she assumed we wouldn’t believe otherwise. Women are largely the victims of domestic violence but they can absolutely be abusers themselves (not to mention all the toxic abusive mothers out there).

The problem with most journalistic treatment of this case thus far is the attempt to use political ends rather than facts to analyze the situation. It seems that any accusation by any woman today is treated as a symbol of MeToo and the court of the liberal public opinion skews towards convicting the man before any evidence is heard. An objective bystander would see the Depp-Heard relationship for what it is - an extremely toxic mix of two very volatile and troubled people who have done their best to abuse each other physically and emotionally. Trying to paint one party (Depp) is “more” in the wrong than the other is pointless. Heard is a powerful woman in her own right. Journalists should forget about portraying her as another mere victim of powerful men. There are plenty of other women who are more worthy of our sympathy.

You completely gloss over the possibility that Heard’s own actions, as presented in this very public trial, could have contributed to her current negative online and public perception.

Heard and Depp were involved in a toxic relationship where both parties were abusive to each other. Heard chose to write an op-ed that presented the mutually abusive relationship as one where a powerful man abused a helpless female victim.

The public is now finding out via recordings played in the trial that her alleged abuse was NOT as one-sided as she presented, hence the negative attention she is receiving.

Your argument frames the situation as a misogynistic outlash against feminism, and that misses the point imo.

The death of #MeToo was inevitable. When a movement makes it acceptable to end a person’s career on hearsay, before even so much as an investigation is done, it’s time to reexamine what was once a well-intentioned cause.

I take real issue with the assertion that it is implausible that Heard was the primary aggressor due to her physical stature.

My husband was physically and emotionally abused by his ex-partner, though he is significantly taller and heavier. Not all men will fight back, and it is very much possible for them to be overpowered.

It also fits right into the borderline personality disorder / abuser mindset to make a lot of noise about small retaliatory acts of aggression by their victims, when those small acts pale in comparison with their own constant abuse and violence.

Ms. Goldberg, who ordinarily I strongly agree with, has chosen the wrong poster child to try to make her point. Deep is certainly massively imperfect, but the most credible evidence presented thus far is that he was more sinned against than sinning in his marriage to Ms. Heard.

I am shocked to see that a lot of comments I’m reading are saying that both Depp and Heard “probably abused” each other and that there was violence on both sides and that Amber “ doesn’t deserve” all this negative online attacks. So far after watching most of the trial I have to say this- there has not been a single witness that said Depp was ever physically abusive to Heard. In all of the audio recordings Heard seems to be the main aggressor, at one point even admitting to hitting Depp.  From what I see there was no “mutual abuse”. It only came from Heard.  I am not a Depp fan but seeing all the hate on Heard on social media left me feeling like it was somewhat justified. Heard represents a flaw in the notion that we should believe all women albeit there is no evidence to suggest we should. People are outraged (I am for one) to see that Johnny Depp, a man who has to work infinitely harder to prove he is not the perpetrator but instead the victim. Yes, Men can be victims of violence too.

“If she’s telling the truth…” Yeah, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it.

By starting a paragraph with that phrase the writer shines a giant spotlight on the fundamental flaw in the logic of her piece as well as the “MeToo” movement: Always believe whatever one party in these inevitably disputed messes says solely based on gender identity and politics.

The world is never going to be perfect. Bad people are going to get away with terrible deeds far too often. But the model that existed before Me Too—“Innocent Until Proven Guilty” —is fundamental to fairness, indeed to the whole concept of justice.

I’ve been a federal appellate attorney and a civil rights attorney for over 20 years. My clients were overwhelmingly female among the cases involving accusations of domestic abuse.

Every appellate attorney writing a brief must start with a recitation of the facts, meaning all of the facts, even those unfavorable to your client. Fail to fairly recite facts, or worse pretend no contradicting evidence exists, and your clients claim/appeal will be summarily dismissed no matter how meritorious. You can use dependent clauses in your statement of facts to lay a foundation for your case, but you must fully list the evidence. It means writing something like: “Ms. Heard’s assertions that Mr. Depp assaulted her on numerous occasions are supported by forensic evidence…while Mr. Depp stated…”

You act as if Mr. Depp’s testimony, a host of supporting testimony, expert testimony, and physical evidence, does not exist because it is inconvenient. You act as Ms. Heard’s advocate yet seem to believe that no persuasion is required here as long as you pretend that no opposing evidence was ever presented.

Many of us in the legal field feared #MeToo was doomed from the start because it was a movement that began in Hollywood and was obsessed with Hollywood. It now ends because of Hollywood. Sadly, #MeToo has not helped any of my clients. They, like the mass of victimized women, have nothing to do with the rarefied world Amber Heard lives in, with her handlers, publicity teams, and spin doctors.

Apparently you haven’t been following the trial.  Ms. Heard did everything she could to keep a fight going, even when Mr. Depp kept trying to remove himself physically from the argument. Her own tapes expose her.

Listening to the recordings of Amber repeatedly complain about Depp leaving when arguments get heated makes it hard for me to believe she wasn’t the primary aggressor. She admits to hitting, starting physical fights, throwing pots, pans, vases. If she’s starting physical fights how is he the aggressor?

This op-Ed misses the point. In the UK case heard was not being sued, she was a witness - and as we have come to realize with this case - she has not been completely truthful. For example, the donations she testified to have donated to the charities, in the UK case, was a lie. She also claimed she had not released the story of her divorce to anybody but accidentally said TMZ got the info and frantically reacted to the slip up - it’s clear that Amber Heard has no problem lying on the stand and to ignore this, is bias in itself; this doesn’t mean she’s completely lying but it makes her hard to believe. I think the huge backlash with heard mostly has nothing to do with misogyny. Yes, there are many women who have truly been subject to abuse by men and have struggled to provide evidence that they were abused but in the same light there are women who have successfully taken advantage of the recent MeToo movement to falsely accuse men of abuse, knowing that they will most likely win, in the face of no evidence; both cases are really unfortunate but we can’t ignore the fact that both can occur - objectivity is important. The fact that you presented a case for Amber without highlighting Johnny’s case (that is where he fails to make his case or where he has succeeded) shows strong bias and maybe an agenda? Johnny is also without his sins, but if you’ve followed the trial, it’s difficult to make a confident claim that he was the aggressor.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/31/22 at 12:11 PM | #

Surprisingly, more on how the Michelle Goldbergs (and Jessica Bennets) have things 180 degrees wrong in their reflexive rants against men in this context.

We already knew that it is WOMEN who have a higher degree of dislike and distrust for Amanda Heard - that and a liking for Johnny Depp stand out in the YouTube comments.

Now those who have been looking say that it is more MEN than women giving Amber Heard support, and tending to be down on Johnny Depp.

This case sure is revealing that #MeToo could use some major rethinking.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/31/22 at 09:39 PM | #

More on #MeToo. Via her OpEd the fake victim Amber Heard was clearly vying to put herself AT THE HEAD of the #MeToo parade. She was an official ACLU rep and had something to do with the UN.

She has done many TV interviews and panels patting herself on the back; at least one was shown in court. Chances are in at least some instances she got paid.

Likewise Knox-grovellers like Steve Moore and Bruce Fischer - they became exceptionally strident to leapfrog to the head of the pro-Knox parade.

In Steve Moore’s case, to use his ranting to get all over TV. In Bruce Fischer’s case to use his ranting to drag nutcases onto his many websites and Ground Report.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/01/22 at 09:14 AM | #

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