A pair of lawyers have given their take on the performance of Johnny Depp’s representative as after cross-examined Amber Heard last week during the $50 million defamation suit in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Camille Vasquez, representing the Pirates of the Caribbean star, had two days to pose questions to Heard on May 16 and 17, seeking to use that time to undermine her claims that Depp was violent and sexually abusive to her, as well as taking aim at her overall credibility.
Obviously, the trial is still ongoing, and we won’t know how successful Vasquez has been until the jury reaches a verdict, but The Independent managed to get the views of some fellow professionals on her performance last week.
One of the attorneys, Jesse Weber from the Law & Crime Network, which has been covering the case extensively, called Vasquez’s performance ‘impressive’ and said she delivered a ‘very tight cross’.
Another expert, entertainment lawyer Mitra Ahouraian, raised the point that Vasquez had the benefit of a week off from the courthouse before presenting her questions, which must have helped with her preparations.
Vasquez ‘came in strong after a week off, which is to be expected’, according to the Beverley Hills attorney.
She explained: “Normally you don't have much time to prepare – maybe a day, maybe an hour – before you jump into cross-examination,
“Camille Vasquez had the advantage of over a week to prepare questions in response to Amber Heard's direct testimony and pivot her game plan based on the answers Heard gave.
“She had excellent control over Amber as a witness, keeping her on track with Depp's narrative, controlling her answers to keep her from veering off into areas outside of the story Vasquez wanted her to tell.”
That extra week might have helped Heard too, though.
Ahouraian added: “Heard had a week to prepare for cross-examination, to review her testimony and prepare for the questions her team knew would be coming her way.
“This is not typical and certainly creates a more challenging witness on cross, but luckily for them Depp's team had the same amount of extra time to prepare,”
Of course, there are subtleties involved in this sort of trial.
No lawyer would want to be seen to be tactless when dealing with a case of alleged abuse.
That meant that there were obstacles to navigate for Depp’s lawyer.
Weber said: “Any time you cross examine an alleged victim of domestic abuse, particularly sexual violence, you have to be delicate, but firm,
“I believe Vasquez did that. In fact, at one point, she made it clear that she has to ask these tough questions because these are serious allegations.”
Furthermore, when trying to tarnish a witness’ credibility, it’s a fine line to tread between questioning and rude demeanour.
Weber added: “You never want to turn the jury off,
“The jury are human beings and as much as they are supposed to follow only the law and facts, they do take into account the behaviour of attorneys. If an attorney becomes overly combative or arrogant or rude, that can be a problem.
“Vasquez appeared to be respectful of Heard but simultaneously she sought to tarnish Heard's credibility."
“It can be a tricky dance for an attorney.
“She didn't necessarily get Heard to confess to anything. However, through Vasquez’s pointed questions, quick comebacks, smirks, it may have left the jury with the impression that Heard’s stories are not adding up.”
She added: “It can, however, cut both ways.
“A jury can get irritated with this line of questioning if they feel the real story is not coming out, or if they sense they are being manipulated.
“Camille Vasquez has to toe the line between being tough on Heard and likeable to the jury.”
The jury will have their say after the closing statements have been made on 27 May, after which we might finally have an end to the two celebrity ex-spouses’ long and acrimonious battle.
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