That is just one of an avalanche of social-media posts this week that lavished praise on the attorney enjoying a star turn as she cross-examined Amber Heard in the Virginia civil defamation trial pitting the actress against her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
After spending several days on the stand leveling disturbing allegations of sexual and physical violence against Depp, Heard faced a counter-attack by Vasquez on Monday and Tuesday. And the lawyer maintained the long tradition of defense attorneys throwing the kitchen sink at women who accuse men of abuse.
Among other things, Vasquez accused Heard of making up claims of sexual assault, editing a May 2016 photo of herself with a red mark on her face, being “jealous” of Depp, and verbally abusing her ex-husband on several occasions. The cross-examination was highlighted by several tense moments between Vasquez and Heard: angry quips from both women, objections from the actress’ legal team, and at least two lengthy sidebars between attorneys for both camps and the judge.
But even more remarkable than the courtroom drama: the cult of personality erected around Vasquez by Depp fans in a matter of hours.
“Does the courthouse have a coroner on site? Because they’re gonna need one when our queen Camille Vasquez is done with Amber Heard and her career [sic] praise will be the queen,” one viewer of the trial said on Twitter.
Another Depp fanatic took the time to photograph Vasquez’s face on what appeared to be a medieval female warrior, with a gavel and scales of justice behind her. Alongside the photo read the phrase: “Camille the Great.”
That Depp fans are a force to be reckoned with has been a hallmark of the trial, his devotees praising the actor and mocking every move by Heard and her legal team. But the women who defend famous men accused of sexual misconduct and abuse tend to be savaged on the internet.
Those men were not Johnny Depp.
“Johnny Depp is winning on social media—so his lawyer is doing the same,” Juda Engelmayer, a crisis communications expert who was the spokesperson for Harvey Weinstein during his New York sex-crimes trial, told The Daily Beast. “Historically, women who have defended men accused of sex crimes are met with online hate. But Camille Vasquez seems to have benefited from Johnny’s praise.”
Vasquez did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Heard declined to comment.
As far as Depp stans are concerned, the actor has already won his $50 million defamation suit against his ex-wife, in which he accuses Heard of “devastating” his career with a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. In the piece, which did not mention Depp’s name but came two years after she sought a restraining order against him, Heard identified herself as a domestic violence survivor. Heard countersued Depp for $100 million, claiming defamation after at least one of his ex-attorneys suggested her account of a pattern of abuse was a “hoax.”
— overthinking (@overthinking999) May 17, 2022
Depp has not been charged with any sex crimes, and in fact has said he himself is the real survivor of domestic violence by Heard.
News of the trial has 11.9 billion views (and counting) on TikTok under the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp, and Depp fans did not hold back in ripping Heard during her initial testimony on the stand. That dynamic spilled into the courtroom on Tuesday.
“There’s been an ongoing smear campaign, an orchestrated smear campaign,” Heard said to Vasquez.
“An ongoing negative publicity campaign? You have no evidence of that,” Vasquez shot back, to which Heard responded: “Just look me up, you’ll see.”
The meme-ification—Depp as hero, Heard as shrill liar—has extended to Vasquez, whose name has become a hashtag amassing 221.2 million views on TikTok. There, videos have praised her for “grilling” Heard throughout two days of cross examination by clipping snippets of the live-streamed trial.
“Camille Vasquez an angel sent from above to fight evil. Brilliant today, cant wait until tomorrow,” one Instagram commenter wrote on Monday.
Depp fans’ fascination with the Los Angeles-based lawyer preceded her cross-examination of Heard. But after Heard stepped down from the stand on Tuesday afternoon, Vasquez was seen laughing and hugging Depp and a fellow lawyer in a state that might best be characterized as gleeful.
Depp fans went into overdrive.
“That hug! Yall know Camille Vasquez really cares about johnny,” one Twitter user said after the incident.
Men accused of sexual assault or abuse have long tended to secure a female lawyer on their legal team to interact with alleged victims. But Engelmayer said he was struck by the relative absence of traditional calls to believe women that became standard practice with the #MeToo movement.
“At the end of the day, it has to do with the affability,” he said. “People always want to love Johnny Depp. He has been around for 35 years. If he is supporting someone, these people want to support him.”
Halim Dhanidina, a criminal defense attorney and former California judge, cautioned that the online fascination with Vasquez speaks to the theatrical nature of this trial—and not necessarily the intentions of the people deciding the case.
“It’s hard to know whether public reaction online is the same that individual jurors are having,” Dhanidina told The Daily Beast.
At least one defense attorney could not help but remark on the contrast with her own experience.
Donna Rotunno, who represented Weinstein in his 2020 sex-crimes trial in Manhattan, was harshly scrutinized for her decision to represent the disgraced movie mogul.
She acknowledged the crucial distinction: Depp is not facing criminal charges, much less the pattern of serial predation Weinstein was trying to disprove. Still, the Chicago-based lawyer called it “complete and utter hypocrisy” that Vasquez was being admired for her litigative skills, while she was condemned for being “too harsh.”
“People are so willing to jump on a bandwagon because people are not concerned about being canceled for doing it,” she told The Daily Beast.
And even if social-media stardom for Depp’s team may not ultimately impact the jury, it could well be having an effect on Heard and her own legal team, suggested Dhanidina, the former judge.
“It’s an uphill battle for Amber Heard because the public is not liking you—and even likes Johnny Depp’s lawyer more,” he said. “That has to mess with your head a little.”