Domestic Violence Allegations and Injury Photos in Court-Martial Trials

Posted by Ernesto Gapasin | Apr 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

The Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial has brought to mind one case in particular.  The Johnny Depp trial has undoubtedly captured the attention of millions of Americans.  At the core of the trial is the subject of domestic violence.  Add to that already explosive issue, the involvement of Hollywood superstars, and you have the making of a high-profile, compelling courtroom drama.  The expected items of evidence in the Depp trial that has me the most intrigued are the purported photos of bruises and other injuries to Amber Heard.  At this point in the trial, Depp does not really appear to be this drug and alcohol-induced wife beater.  All of the evidence seems to show the exact opposite, and instead, Heard appears to be this cruel abuser in their marriage.  If the jury, however, finds her photos to be credible, that could really turn the tide in Heard's favor.  The fact is that photos can be very convincing.  It's forensic evidence, evidence that is scientifically based.  This gives the evidence much more credibility, and far more believability.  It can be difficult to disprove photographs in trials, and if the Government has photos of injuries to an alleged victim, it is evidence that the defense must take very seriously in trying to refute them.  

The Depp defamation trial brought to mind a case I had that went to a court-martial trial at the Washington Navy Yards in D.C.  In that trial, my client's girlfriend alleged very serious domestic violence allegations that supposedly resulted in significant injuries, to include a dislocated shoulder that required her to go to the emergency room and eventually wear a sling.  Witnesses see her wearing the sling and she informs them that her injuries were caused by my client beating her multiple times.  Prior to trial, during the discovery process, things just weren't adding up about her injuries.  We couldn't find the applicable hospital records detailing this dislocated shoulder.  We couldn't find any records regarding use of the sling.  Statements and police reports seemed to indicate she wore the sling on both arms, or forgot which shoulder was supposed to be injured.  

This alleged victim testified glowingly under direct examination by the Government counsel.  During my cross-examination, however, she had had enough.  In an exasperated and angry surrender, she loudly and with expletives, admitted she faked her injuries.  To the best of my recollection, a part of my cross-examination was as follows:

Gapasin:  "You faked your injuries to get him in trouble."

Alleged Victim:  "Yes I did!  He deserves it anyway that [expletives]."

Gapasin:  "So what you're telling this court under oath is that you faked wearing a sling on your arm to appear injured when you actually were not injured."

Alleged victim:  "You bet I did, I don't need this sling.  He's such a [expletive], he deserves everything he is getting."

Gapasin:  "So he never dislocated your shoulder at any time."

Alleged victim:  "No, he's a [expletives]"

It was completely silent and everyone in that courtroom was completely dumbfounded.  The fact is that faking injuries and lying about injuries occurs far more often than believed.  This particular witness just felt entitled enough to admit it under oath.  She would later should additional expletives at me from the stand, then storm off and out of the courtroom.  The case resulted in a full acquittal, Not Guilty on all charges and specifications.

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Ernesto Gapasin



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