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Break in trial hands Amber Heard an edge over Johnny Depp, experts say

A 1 1/2-week break means jurors will be left with the defendant's unchallenged narrative that she suffered brutal abuse from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star.
Image: Amber Heard testifies in court in Fairfax, Va., on May 5, 2022.
Amber Heard testifies in court in Fairfax, Va., on May 5, 2022.Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via AP

Amber Heard's gripping testimony during the trial for a defamation lawsuit brought by ex-husband Johnny Depp was made all the more compelling by a random gift — from the courtroom calendar.

Heard's words, chronicling brutal abuse she claims to have endured from Depp, will ring unchallenged in jurors' minds for a week and a half, handing Heard's defense an edge that could play a role at deliberation, legal experts told NBC News on Friday.

"That's the kind of thing lawyers worry about all the time and sometimes you get bad luck," NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said. "This is a significant break and people are going to marinate in it [Heard's testimony]."

A Fairfax, Virginia jury heard two days of Heard's riveting account of her tumultuous relationship with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star before court was adjourned Thursday evening.

In graphic detail, Heard chronicled multiple alleged instances of physical violence and brutal beatings from Depp.

Thursday's testimony included one particularly gruesome account from Heard, accusing Depp of once sexually assaulting her with a bottle.

She told jurors that Depp had pinned her down and was "pummeling" her so viciously that she thought, "This is how I die. He's going to kill me now. He's going to kill me, and he won't even have realized it."

Depp has denied ever abusing his ex-wife.

The trial won't resume until May 16 as Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate is set to attend a conference she'd previously scheduled.

"What we hear last really does stick with us," Los Angeles jury consultant Richard Gabriel said. "Instead of moving on to something else," like another witness, "and focusing on that," jurors will sit for more than a week with Heard's testimony. "That's a real thing," Gabriel added.

Trial attorneys keep a close eye on the calendar, and winning the battle for the last word before an afternoon coffee break, weekend adjournment or week-long gap can matter.

"It's not a wash, it does favor her," Gabriel added. "The timing of trials is very important — when you introduce things, who gets to go last. Who speaks before a weekend. All that stuff matters."

With the burden of proof falling on Depp to prove Heard lied about him, any points she scores with jurors are potentially more valuable.

"I've seen this in divorce cases and judges who have handled divorces cases would tell you it's possible [for jurors] to not believe either side, 'a pox on both your houses,' " Cevallos said. "It's possible neither of them are credible and if that's the case, then Johnny Depp hasn't met his burden."

Before Heard took the witness stand on Wednesday afternoon, the jury heard Depp's four days of testimony and his allegations that she was the aggressor in their relationship.

Depending on how she holds up in cross-examination, Heard may have already dealt key blows against the plaintiff's case.

"Her testimony was quite compelling. Even if you're not a fan of Amber Heard and you're biased toward Johnny Depp, she has presented some fairly detailed, emotional, strong testimony," Southern California civil attorney Ryan Baker said.

"It's hard to imagine that testimony won't be bouncing around the heads of jurors" during the break in the trial "at the expense of the prior evidence," Baker said.