Legal Expert Says Johnny Depp, Amber Heard 'Trying to Control the Narrative' with Scathing Statements

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard both released mid-trial statements attacking each other's legal tactics on Thursday as the defamation case proceeds

Halfway through, Johnny Depp's televised defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard appears to be "spiraling" into a public relations battle, one legal expert says.

"There's been a lot of dirty laundry aired in public. Clearly Johnny feels like he has very little left to lose and he has no problem publishing to the world at large, frankly, his innermost secrets — and those of Ms. Heard," Daniel Gutenplan, an entertainment litigator, defamation expert and partner at Enenstein Pham & Glass, tells PEOPLE.

Following the continuation of Heard's emotional testimony on Thursday, a spokesperson for Depp, 58, issued a statement, casting doubt on her credibility and vowing to "highlight the many fallacies" during cross-examination later this month.

"As Mr. Depp's counsel correctly predicted in their opening statements last month, Ms. Heard did indeed deliver 'the performance of her life' in her direct examination," the statement read. "While Ms. Heard's stories have continued to grow new and convenient details, Mr. Depp's recollections have remained exactly the same throughout the six painful years since her first allegations were made. His truth — the truth — is the same no matter the environment in which it is has been presented. The upcoming cross examination from Mr. Depp's team will be most telling, and will certainly highlight the many fallacies Ms. Heard has now attempted to pass off as fact throughout her convoluted testimony."

Shortly after, a spokesperson for Heard, 36, responded criticizing Depp's "panicked" legal team and their approach so far.

"As evidenced by the statement just released, Mr. Depp's defamation claim is falling apart so rapidly that his counsel are turning from prosecutor to persecutor," read the statement. "They boast that Mr. Depp's story has not changed. If so, since he lost the domestic violence restraining order and he resoundingly lost the libel case in the U.K., perhaps he should consider a new strategy rather than the recycled approach of attacking the victim, and refusing to take responsibility for his own conduct."

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp
Amber Heard; Johnny Depp. JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP/Getty

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"If Mr. Depp was truly innocent, why has he repeatedly apologized to Ms. Heard and promised to put the 'monster away for good'? One of Ms. Heard's disappointments is Mr. Depp's inability to distinguish fact from fiction — a malady which appears to have spread to his legal team," the statement continued. "That same team is so panicked they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent compelling evidence and photos from being introduced. Small wonder Mr. Depp does not have the fortitude or courage to even look at Ms. Heard at all throughout the proceedings — as he could not in the U.K. trial — and instead he doodles and snickers."

"Mr. Depp's behavior in this trial has been as pitiful as it was in their marriage. Apparently, they feel they must double-down on their demonstrably losing two-part strategy: distract the jury and demonize the victim."

About the competing mid-trial statements, Gutenplan says that "both camps are trying to control the narrative as best as they can."

Johnny Depp

"Everything that's happening here, in this case, is a bit unique and a bit unusual. ... Some of the things that are being reported and a lot of the things that Johnny has acknowledged are fairly wild things. So this is spiraling, so to speak. Not out of control, but it is spiraling," says Gutenplan.

There will be no court next week (proceedings resume Monday, May 16, at 9 a.m. ET), and the jury involved in the Fairfax County, Virginia, case has been instructed by Judge Penney Azcarate to not research anything pertaining to the trial online while on break.

Amber Heard

Gutenplan says sometimes judges prohibit either party from making public statements during a trial, "especially in celebrity cases like this." He adds Depp continues to have an "uphill battle" in proving that Heard defamed him in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed. In that article, she wrote about surviving domestic violence, though she didn't mention Depp by name.

"Johnny is the plaintiff, so he needs to prove that there was no abuse whatsoever. [Heard] certainly does not need to prove that every single incident and all of this happened. She just needs to establish, in theory, that she was abused," says Gutenplan.

The attorney adds, "Now, there, of course, is a question when you're dealing with a jury, if they believe she's misrepresenting a particular item or lying about a particular item, how far does that belief go? Meaning, if they lose trust in her, faith in her, in one respect, how far will that spread? Will they completely devalue her entire testimony? I can't tell you the answer to that. Only the jury can answer that."

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