The genderisation of justice is the most unfortunate, though perhaps most inevitable outcome of the #MeToo and #BelieveAllWomen movements.
This week, those hashtag crusades suffered a major setback with a Virginia jury awarding actor Johnny Depp US$15 million in damages for defamation by his ex-wife, Amber Heard, who falsely accused him of sexual violence in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.
The trial, which began on April 12 and lasted six weeks, also saw Heard awarded US$2 million for a defamation claim regarding false statements made by Depp’s lawyer.
Reactions in the legacy press and on social media were, predictably, divided.
Unable to fully face up to a Depp victory, Twitter spun the story in its ‘What’s Happening’ bar as “Jury finds both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp were defamed after weeks-long trial”. Mainstream outlets were more honest, conceding that Depp prevailed, even as petulant protests filled their opinion columns.
While gender-obsessed commentators will paint the Johnny Depp trial as a win for men and a loss for women, it is in fact a win for justice and a loss for partiality.
All women making allegations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. But not all such women should be believed simply because they are women. This fact is as self-evidently true as the statement that not all white people should be believed when making criminal accusations against those of a minority race.
Justice can only be just as long as courts try defendants as individuals rather than as members of a collective.
Heard had hoped that her gender would bend the law in her favour. “I’m even more disappointed in what this verdict means for other women,” she wrote in a statement following the verdict.
Depp, on the other hand, was thankful that justice was gender-blind, writing in his post-trial statement, “I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation.”
Lady justice is blind for a reason. The principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty is what sets Western jurisprudence apart from the mob justice and corruption characteristic of other times in history and other societies still today.
Amber Heard’s case floundered not on account of her gender but the evidence weighed by the jury. Speaking to the New York Post, former California judge Halim Dhanidina — whose clients have included actors, directors and writers — said the jury found Heard to be “either inauthentic, overacting or not deserving of empathy.”
“A lot of Heard’s emotional cues on the witness stand didn’t line up with her testimony,” Dhanidina told the Post. “She would get very impassioned at weird times or make awkward attempts to connect with the jury by speaking to them directly.”
It also appears to have hurt Heard’s case that she failed to keep her story straight, and that her allegation about Depp throwing his ex-girlfriend Kate Moss down a set of stairs was refuted by Moss herself in the witness stand.
Then there were the leaked audio recordings in which Heard taunted Depp to go public about the mutual violence in their relationship and “see what the jury and judge thinks”. “Tell the world, Johnny, tell them, Johnny Depp, I Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence,” she jeered. “See how many people believe or side with you.”
Heard got her wish — and the world will remember it as the day she almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow.
What now for the woke outfits that de facto defamed Depp before the lawsuit was heard? In a classic case of cancel culture, Disney dumped Depp from their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in the rising tide of Heard’s accusations.
Worse, the ACLU ghost-wrote the Washington Post op-ed for Heard, after she promised to pay them US$7 million for their troubles. Both the ACLU and WaPo are doubtless bracing hard for legal action.
God willing, the entire saga serves as a cultural reset for blind justice and the presumption of innocence.