Each new detail to emerge from the ongoing defamation trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp is more unsettling than the last. Among the most confounding parts of the case is the slew of fans outside the courtroom, screaming and holding signs of support — almost exclusively for Depp — as they hope for the chance to be among the trial’s spectators. Without the context of a courthouse, you’d have no idea the people gleefully waving and cheering were outside a trial centered on claims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Both Depp and Heard have accused each other of varying degrees of abuse, with both parties denying the other’s claims. Now, Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation based on a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she identified herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Though the op-ed didn’t mention her ex-husband by name, a judge denied Heard’s request to dismiss the suit, after which she countersued for $100 million. (In 2020, Depp lost a previous defamation suit he brought against the U.K. Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.”)
After a break in the trial last week, Heard returned to the stand on Monday, and the scene outside the courtroom has become increasingly chaotic. According to TMZ, fans started lining up at 10 p.m. on Sunday for a 9 a.m. Monday trail. Courthouse officials have since posted a sign stating that “the line for the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case spectators are not permitted to loiter or camp out on the judicial complex before 1 a.m.”
Fans are going to extreme lengths for the chance to be among the roughly 100 people allowed to enter the courthouse as a trial spectator. (TMZ reports that an additional 100 to 150 wristbands are given for entry into the overflow room.) People spoke to one Depp fan who said she took her “whole year’s vacation” time from work and spent an estimated $30,000 on travel expenses in order to attend the trial. One fan says she put most of her belongings in storage and flew over from the U.K. when the trial began, while another said she spent about $2,200 on new outfits to wear during the trial. Last month, a Depp fan brought two alpacas to the Fairfax County Courthouse. She told the Washington Post she hoped that seeing the animals “might brighten his day.”
Between the frenzy of adoring fans outside the courthouse, the popcorn emojis in the trial livestream chats, and the mocking reenactment videos of Heard’s testimony on TikTok, it can be easy to lose sight of the brutal claims at the center of the case. During her testimony, Heard has alleged that Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle and threatened to kill her. Still, Depp fans seem more interested in treating this trial as entertainment rather than giving any credence to these claims.