Legal Experts Weigh in on if the Johnny Depp Defamation Verdict Is a ‘Setback’ for Women

After a verdict mostly in favor of Johnny Depp came down from the jury in his defamation trial, Amber Heard and her attorney called it a “setback” for women. Some observers agree with that statement, but at least one prominent expert feels the outcome was more of a step forward in more than one way. Read on to find out what some legal analysts had to say.

Amber Heard argued the Johnny Depp verdict is a 'setback' for women
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp | Steve Helber/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

First, Heard and her attorney Elaine Bredehoft called the verdict a “setback” for women. And many headlines and opinions agreed in the wake of the trial’s close.

Some legal experts noted other significant regressions not related to the defamation trial. For instance, a leaked draft of an opinion from the United States Supreme Court suggested they would overturn the landmark decision made in Roe v. Wade.

“All of these attacks on women’s autonomy are connected,” Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who studies sexual violence, told NBC News. “This is a hard moment. There is no way around it. It does feel like women are losing rights that previously felt pretty well-established.”

She added, “Historically, survivors have always been concerned about naming their abusers publicly, but those concerns are intensified after this verdict ….”

Of course, Depp’s attorneys disagreed with Heard and Bredehoft yet again. They said the verdict in this trial should encourage all victims of domestic violence to come forward, despite gender.

Emily D. Baker — a former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and popular legal commentator — shared her thoughts on The Emily Show. She aimed explicitly at suggestions that the outcome was a regression for women in the courtroom, as found on Twitter.

“What I saw in this courtroom from watching all of this trial is that Amber Heard’s team was given … an inordinate amount of grace,” she shared. “They did things that other judges would have just absolutely ripped into them for.”

More specifically, Baker thought the judge deserved applause for a list of benevolent traits and impartial decisions. “This judge was patient, was graceful, listened to them, put things over to discuss later,” she went on. She pointed out how Judge Penney Azcarate even helped Bredehoft regain footing with a suggestion from the bench.

“So I don’t see how women were not treated well in this courtroom,” she concluded. “And I think it’s offensive to the judge, who ran a very fair trial, to say that this female judge and teams of female attorneys set back women in the courtroom.”

Baker pointed to “Cross Boss” Camille Vasquez as an excellent example for women in law to follow.

Could the Johnny Depp verdict set victims forward?

Baker argued that the verdict is arguably a step forward for victims when considering Heard’s own words and a few of the facts of the case. In one audio recording, she told the Pirates of the Caribbean actor, “Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them, ‘I, Johnny Depp, I’m a victim, too, of domestic violence, and it was a fair fight,’ and see if people believe or side with you.” 

When asked to explain that statement, Heard claimed she simply dismissed a preposterous insinuation. She didn’t believe Depp would come forward after all he put her through, she said.

But not everyone bought that story. According to Baker, she’s seen abusers use some of those words against victims as a tactic to intimidate them. “So I don’t think it’s a setback to show that someone who was told that they would not be believed can stand up and be believed,” she concluded.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

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