Amber Heard's Lawyers Interrupted in Johnny Depp Trial by Actual Amber Alert

The closing arguments in the Johnny Depp Amber Heard defamation trial were cut short by a sudden disruption Friday assumed to be an Amber Alert. Heard's attorney Ben Rottenborn was interrupted on May 27 when a strange sound erupted in the Virginia courtroom from several phones.

When the beeping began, Rottenborn paused, and the judge quickly responded, "I think we're getting an Amber Alert, some people forgot to turn off their phones."As the alarms reverberated again, Rottenborn continued. It seemed that all the parties had powered down after that. 

During their live stand-up, the Law & Crime Trial Network, which streams on YouTube, briefly discussed the incident. "Biggest question I think people have right now is, 'Why are we here? Why are we not outside the courthouse?' There are severe thunderstorms outside," said reporter and show host Jesse Weber. "In fact, there was an Amber Alert — kind of a weather alert, not an Amber Alert — that came on everybody's phone in the courtroom today. So we are doing the best that we can with what we have."

Both Depp and Heard's lawyers delivered closing arguments on Friday, concluding the six-week civil trial. The couple married in 2015 but ended in divorce in May 2016 after Heard accused Depp of abuse and filed for divorce and a restraining order against him. 

Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in December 2018, describing herself as a victim of domestic violence. Despite not naming Depp, he sued her for defamation in 2019. Heard then countersued in 2020 for $100 million. In April, the trial began in Fairfax, Virginia, the location of the Washington Post's online servers.

The jury was sent to deliberate shortly before 3 p.m. EST. After this evening, they can resume deliberations on Tuesday at 9 a.m. They will not take place over the weekend or on Monday, a holiday. As the jury deliberates over both lawsuits, they may find both Depp and Heard guilty, both not guilty, or just one of them guilty.

The jury must evaluate whether domestic abuse was evident and if the op-ed piece could be construed as libelous. According to Depp's lawyer, two passages in the article and an online headline defamed him, Daily Mail reported. Heard wrote that she became a public figure representing domestic abuse in 2016, and she felt "the full force of our culture's wrath." Depp's lawyers said this was an apparent reference to Depp, given that Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic abuse two years before she wrote the article.

"I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real-time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse," she stated in the second passage. The online headline reads, "Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture's wrath."She didn't mention his name. She didn't have to," said Depp's attorney Benjamin Chew. "Everyone knew exactly who and what Ms. Heard was talking about."

Lawyers for Heard said she can't be held responsible for the headline since she did not write it and that the article's two paragraphs aren't about the abuse accusations but about how the allegations changed her life. Depp can't win his case even if jurors believe he never abused Heard, Rottenborn explained, because Heard has a First Amendment right to engage in public discourse.