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Fact Check-Why video streaming is permitted in the Depp-Heard trial but was not in Ghislaine Maxwell’s

As the defamation case filed by actor Johnny Depp against his former wife and actress Amber Heard unraveled, some social media users online have questioned why this trial is being streamed but the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell in 2021 was not.

The comparison, however, is misleading and claims that it evidences a “media cover-up” or “lack of media transparency” of the Maxwell trial are untrue.

Posts referring to the lack of cameras in the Maxwell trial in the context of the Depp-Heard trial can be seen ( here ) ( here ) ( here ).

Another post circulating on Facebook reads: “The same system that kept you in the dark about Ghislaine Maxwell and her client list, doesn’t mind live-streaming Johnny Depp’s trial.” Examples can be seen ( here ) ( here ) ( here ).

Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December of helping the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls. She had pleaded not guilty, saying she was being scapegoated for Epstein's crimes because he was no longer alive. Her sentencing is scheduled for June 28 ( here ).

As Reuters previously explained ( here ) when addressing similar claims in November 21, Maxwell’s trial was held at a federal court in Manhattan ( here ).

Broadcasting and photographing criminal proceedings are generally prohibited in federal courts under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure ( here ).

The Depp-Heard libel trial is being heard in a county court in Virginia, where cameras and recording devices are allowed with previous authorization from a judge ( here ).

In an order published on March 29, Circuit Court Judge in Fairfax County, Virginia Penney Azcarate established that a pool video system would be in place for the broadcast of the trial ( here ) (see “Media” and C). Streaming of the proceedings is viewable ( bit.ly/3ke376T ) ( bit.ly/3vfcny6 )

Speaking to Reuters, Gene Policinski, Senior Fellow for the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute ( here ) said that as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1981 ( here ), rules about cameras in the courtroom vary within states and U.S. territories. “States may make their own rules about broadcasting civil and criminal trials in their courts,” he added.

Critics of broadcasting in courtrooms have expressed concerns that cameras can disrupt the trials and would encourage theatrics by attorneys arguing before them. Advocates, on the other hand, say it helps transparency

( here ) ( here ).

It is not the first time that social media users misconstrued the lack of media coverage of the Maxwell trial. Reuters addressed the same allegation in December 2021 ( here ).

Depp, 58, alleges Heard, 35, defamed him when she penned a December 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse. He filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018. Find the latest Reuters coverage of the trial ( reut.rs/3Mzcyu0 ).

VERDICT

Misleading. The Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard libel trial is being heard in a court in Virginia where cameras are allowed under approval of a judge; unlike Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial in 2021, which was held in a Manhattan federal court, where cameras are prohibited under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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