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Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her Platinum Jubilee–70 years on the throne. After a lifetime of integrity and faithful service, the queen is naturally popular. Current surveys have Elizabeth at 81% favorable and 12% unfavorable. One wonders who the 12% are–IRA terrorists, maybe?
Of the royal family, Prince William and Duchess Catherine score next at 74/10. Prince Andrew is the least popular royal, with a 5% approval rating. I don’t think I have ever before seen a public person with an approval rating that low.
Up one notch from Prince Andrew are the Sussexes, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle. Poor Harry now scores an anemic 32/58 approval, while Meghan lags behind at a brutal 23/63.
In my opinion, Meghan’s unpopularity is deserved. It also strikes me that one can compare her standing with the public to that of Amber Heard, a principal in a trial that has been followed by orders of magnitude more people than, say, the Sussman prosecution.
For those who haven’t paid attention, Amber Heard is a modestly successful actress who at one time was married to Johnny Depp, a more prominent actor. Heard was part of the “me too” movement. Someone at Amnesty International (she promised a big donation to Amnesty, but didn’t deliver) ghost wrote an op-ed for Heard in the Washington Post in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” That was all it took.
Depp sued her for defamation, claiming that he did not, in fact beat Heard during their brief marriage. Several years ago he brought a similar lawsuit against the U.K.’s Sun newspaper, which called him a wife beater based on Heard’s allegations. That case was tried to a London judge who held that Heard’s claims were true. Depp got a second bite at the apple in a Virginia courtroom, I assume because British judgments do not get collateral estoppel effect in American courts.
Depp v. Heard has been followed breathlessly by many millions in the U.S. and around the world. To say that the testimony has been lurid is an understatement. The trial has lifted the lid on an almost unbelievably depraved Hollywood lifestyle.
Amber Heard is much like Meghan Markle. Like Markle, she came from a hardscrabble background, but was ambitious beyond what most consider reasonable. Like Markle, through grit and determination she parlayed her natural beauty into a pretty successful acting career. Like Markle, her ambition found its ultimate outlet in marrying up.
For whatever reason, it seems that this combination is not popular with the general public.
I have only watched portions of the Depp v. Heard trial, but from what I have seen I think that both litigants have considerable faults. That said, Depp is, in my view, much worse–a hopeless drunk and drug addict, and a crude, cruel man. In all, a terrible human being. From what I have seen, I think Heard’s characterization of herself as a victim of domestic abuse is probably correct, if sometimes overblown.
And yet the public can’t stand Heard. Every day at the courthouse, Depp is cheered by adoring fans, while Heard is booed. The courtroom is packed with Depp fans; he flirts with court personnel and is treated deferentially by the judge. On social media, Heard is relentlessly mocked, with 30-second videos purporting to destroy her case a staple on TikTok. I guess the “me too” moment must be over.
One remarkable feature of the trial is that Depp’s lawyers, who have had the better of Heard’s lawyers at every turn, called an expert witness (a woman who, for what it is worth, is even more beautiful than Amber) to testify to Heard’s personality defects–she supposedly suffers from “borderline personality disorder”–and call her a liar. How did this happen? There were hundreds of times in my career as a litigator when I would have liked to have a psychologist examine an adverse party and testify to his untrustworthiness, but this is not ordinarily possible.
I assume the explanation must be that Heard’s lawyers called a psychologist to testify to the emotional damage that Depp’s defamation of Heard has caused–she has asserted a counterclaim–thus opening the door for Depp to call his own psychologist by way of rebuttal. I am always reluctant to criticize other lawyers, who know a million times more about their cases than I do, but this seems like an appalling blunder.
The Depp v. Heard jury retired to deliberate at about the same time as the Sussman jury. The Depp case is being followed with vastly more interest, and the jury is taking more time to deliberate. Notwithstanding relentless spin on Depp’s behalf, my guess (having watched nowhere near half of the trial) is that the jury will not award much, if any, money to either party. The key element is perhaps the gender composition of the jury, which I believe has five men and two women. That at least should give Heard a fighting chance.