After the shocking verdict in the defamation case between two Hollywood stars, it is hard not to speculate whether the multiple recordings of Amber Heard’s expressions which were admitted into evidence didn’t seal her fate of being found liable for falsely claiming to be a victim of domestic violence.
“Tell the world; Johnny. Tell them ‘Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence.”
“see how many people believe or side with you.”
“I did not punch you; I was hitting you.”
“You’re such a baby, Johnny”
“I can’t promise you I won’t get physical again.”
Unlike Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard, the vast majority of family law cases are heard before a judge and not a jury. A bench trial (when there is only a judge) can be incredibly different than presenting a case to a jury. While audio recordings may have been the lynchpin of the six week long televised trial, here are five reasons why pressing ‘record’ may not be the best evidence or serve you as well in your own domestic violence case. Plus five ways to ensure your evidence -regardless the type – is impactful.
1. An audio recording may cause suspicion about why a critical moment or argument is being recorded at all. Georgia is a one-party knowledge state for audio recordings, but even though you can record the conversation, many judges will hesitate and wonder how accurately a recorded conversation is when only one party knows they are recording. Since you know it’s being recorded, odds are you will be on your best behavior.
2. An audio recording may be too long. Hours of audio that can be boiled down to a minute of testimony may not bolster your case as much as you think when judges just want to know what was said, why, and what happened. Often times, audio recordings don’t answer those questions linearly because it is a conversation.
3. An audio recording often hinders honest communication. Recording incentives people to protect their image, reputation, and narrative because they know others may hear it later. Not only does that halt effective communication, but it delays truth.
4. An audio recording may not be clear and understandable. What use is a recording when the speaker’s voice is low, muffled, or too far away?
5. Audio recordings require tech savvy courtrooms and judges. While on TV the technology is smooth and seamless, expecting no glitches when you rely on Window’s Media Player is a recipe for disaster.
That being said, text messages are also provide your opponent’s words that can be used against them to support your case. Unlike audio recordings, text messages are much more likely to aid your case. Here are 5 tips to make sure those text messages have the best impact:
1. Screen shots of your texts with the opposing party should have the contact name (firts and last) at the top. No nicknames, jokes, insults, or emojies. Bonus if it has their phone number as well.
2. A conversation thread should include the date and time stamp of the text. Sometimes this means waiting a day or two before saving a screen shot. It is well worth it to identify when the message was sent.
3. When it takes multiple captures to have the full conversation, make sure they read cohesively from screen shot to screen shot. This means, no overlap or duplicate messages, but also no jumps that could appear that something is missing.
4. If photos, gifs, videos, or links are imbedded in the texts, make sure they are legible in the screen shot or download.
5. Lastly, if you have text messages that are helpful to your case consider if there are any text messages from you that aren’t helpful. It is just as important to know what can be used against you. And don’t delete them; don’t omit them. The other side has your texts as well. Excerpting only the good parts will only highlight any bad parts.
So, while the audio recording from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard sealed the fates of the two stars, consider less riskier and more certain methods of proving your case.