Legal Expert Says Fan Support of Johnny Depp on Social Media 'Means Nothing for the Case'

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US actor Johnny Depp testifies during his defamation trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 19, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse.
US actor Johnny Depp testifies during his defamation trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 19, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse.

JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Johnny Depp

A legal expert says the outpouring of online support for Johnny Depp amid the actor's ongoing defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard has no bearing on the trial's outcome.

On Wednesday's episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, entertainment litigator and defamation expert Daniel Gutenplan, a partner at Enenstein Pham & Glass, said posts on social media over the course of the trial have "been very pro" Depp — but it "frankly means nothing for the case."

"But it gives you an idea of how the public is signing on this," he says.

Gutenplan adds that he believes Depp's "reputation and his career has been irreparably tarnished because of this, these allegations, these incidents that have come to light."

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, though she never mentioned Depp by name in the article.

The actor originally filed the $50 million lawsuit in March 2019 (the exes married in February 2015 and split the following year).

"Anyone in this world would love to have $50 million, but I think the case is bigger than that. I think it's a case and a war on public opinion," Gutenplan says, noting how Depp was dropped from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

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Amber Heard and Johnny Depp
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp

JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP/Getty Amber Heard; Johnny Depp

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Gutenplan adds, "As much as he'd like to go get money in that pot of gold at the end of the lawsuit, I think he also has been taking this case all the way because he's trying to regain his image in the court of public opinion."

"What you're seeing day to day in the trial in terms of the dirty laundry that's being aired ... I think it doesn't necessarily bear on the defamation case so much, but it bears on the public's opinion of [Depp]," he says.

Gutenplan previously told PEOPLE last month that he believes Depp "has an uphill battle" in terms of the trial taking place in Fairfax, Virginia. (Proceedings have been paused for the past week, and are set to resume Monday at 9 a.m. ET.)

"Defamation is very hard to prove," he added. "First and foremost, truth is an absolute defense to any defamatory statement. So regardless of the alleged defamatory statement, if a defendant can establish that it is true, the defense is going to win."

Gutenplan pointed out that Heard's essay never name-dropped the Sweeney Todd actor and "doesn't detail any specific alleged events or any specific conduct. It is incredibly general in that regard."

He also said that winning a defamation case "has to be based on facts," adding, "It can't be based on opinion. And that's where a lot of defamation plaintiffs get in trouble."

Heard and Depp met while making the 2011 film The Rum Diary, and later wed in 2015. They broke up in May 2016, when Heard sought a domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the claims, and the former couple settled their divorce out of court in August 2016.

Back in November 2020, Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." The court upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true" and Heard testified to back up the claims. In March 2021, the Pirates of the Caribbean star's attempt to overturn the decision was overruled.

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