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ACLU shares blame in defaming Johnny Depp, lawyer argues

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A leading lawyer has argued that the American Civil Liberties Union has been blamed for defaming Johnny Depp after the group drafted an essay for Amber Heard that was central to its claims against her.

During the six-week defamation trial, Heard’s 2018 Washington Post opinion piece claim that domestic violence was, in fact, written by ACLU staffers.

On Wednesday, a jury in Virginia ruled that several passages of that essay were defamatory, although Depp was not named.

“The ACLU really deserves a front row seat in terms of debt. You know, they played a vital role,” attorney Jonathan Turley, a lawyer and professor at George Washington University Law School, argued in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“They helped draft a defamatory statement. They ignored Depp’s compensatory arguments or the possibility would be innocent, and they have elevated this person as the presumed spokesperson for all battered spouses,” he added.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued that the ACLU is partly to blame for Amber Heard’s defamation of Johnny Depp after she wrote her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence.

Actress Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County courthouse on Wednesday after the jury's verdict in the case meant she owed Depp a net $8.35 million in damages

Actress Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County courthouse on Wednesday after the jury’s verdict in the case meant she owed Depp a net $8.35 million in damages

The 2018 essay was key in the jury’s $10.35 million verdict, which justified Depp’s claim that Heard defamed him by accusing him of abuse during their short marriage.

The jury also found that Depp’s attorney defamed Heard by accusing her of cheating and awarding her $2 million.

At the time the essay was published, the ACLU described Heard as its “ambassador for women’s rights, with a focus on gender-based violence.”

Heard had promised to donate half of her $7 million divorce settlement to the ACLU after her split from Depp in 2016, but the trial revealed that she has only given a small portion of that amount so far.

In his comments, Turley questioned why the ACLU, which has traditionally focused on defending constitutional rights and freedoms, was even involved in Heard’s allegations of domestic violence against Depp.

“Many people have been critical of the ACLU and how it has changed for years. It used to be an organization focused on freedom of expression, due process and this mission to protect individual rights,” he said.

It’s getting more and more political. It has drifted, and in this case we found out that ACLU employees were helping to write this defamatory op-ed and many of us are saying, ‘What were you doing in this realm anyway? Why were you involved in it anyway?” he continued.

During the six-week defamation lawsuit, it emerged that Heard's 2018 Washington Post op-ed (above) claimed that domestic violence was actually written by staffers working for the ACLU

During the six-week defamation lawsuit, it emerged that Heard’s 2018 Washington Post op-ed (above) claimed that domestic violence was actually written by staffers working for the ACLU

Johnny Depp arrives Thursday in Sage Gateshead, UK, where he will take the stage with Jeff Beck on Thursday night

Johnny Depp arrives Thursday in Sage Gateshead, UK, where he will take the stage with Jeff Beck on Thursday night

“The ACLU selected her as their spokesperson for abuse, and they just seemed to accept her allegations and dismiss Depp’s claims that he was not an abuser,” Turley added.

An ACLU spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, #MeToo was trending after Wednesday’s ruling, with supporters and opponents of the movement debating the impact of the case.

To write for The timescolumnist Douglas Murray argued that the movement that started with the 2017 allegations against Harvey Weinstein “may now be coming to an end.”

Murray argued that the trial, which revealed a messy and dysfunctional relationship between Depp and Heard, served as “a reminder that while some cases of domestic violence are obvious, others certainly aren’t.”

“And blurring the line between the two is a serious social mistake,” he argued.

He claimed the overwhelming public support for Depp in the case could be due to an “overdue realization that life and relationships are more complex than the hashtags of five years ago.”

Journalist Michelle Celarier tweeted, “#metoo is officially over.”

Fox News presenter Martha MacCallum said Depp’s verdict “promotes the idea that you believe all women.”

Even MeToo supporters acknowledged that the verdict had profound implications, expressing fears it would discourage victims of sexual and domestic violence from speaking out.

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin acknowledged the blow the verdict dealt the case, tweeting, “This will have a chilling effect on abused women!”

“This clearly sets women back decades and affects the progress we’ve made with #metoo,” she wrote.

Likewise, columnist Moira Donegan wrote for: the guard that the verdict “will have a devastating effect on survivors, who are now being silenced in the knowledge that they cannot speak of their violent experiences at the hands of men without the threat of a devastating libel suit.”

“In that sense, speaking women just became a lot less free,” Donegan added.

Saved By The Bell actress Kiersten Warren had a different take, tweeting: “#MeToo was not put back. Women will not be muzzled or treated less than in the light of this verdict.’

“I think we’ve all heard her, we’ve all taken her seriously, but many of us, including the jury, ultimately didn’t believe her and didn’t find her credible. That’s it,” she added. ‘That’s all.’

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