Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard came up in a civil court hearing to determine whether Gabby Petito’s family can sue Brian Laundrie’s parents.
Ms Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, allege Chris and Roberta Laundrie issued a misleading statement through their attorney that their daughter was still alive when they knew their son Brian had already killed her.
Judge Hunter W Carroll brought up the defamation lawsuit against Mr. Depp, which was due to a statement by his attorney that Ms Heard’s abuse allegations were a “hoax.”
“Are we not responsible for the words we say when we say them,” the judge asked during the hearing on Wednesday.
“Johnny Depp was just charged with civil liability for defamation for what his lawyer said, right?”
Central to Petito’s case is a Sept. 16 statement released by laundry attorney Steve Bertolino as search groups scoured Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming looking for Ms. Petito.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family, we hope that the search for Ms. Petito is successful and that Ms. Petito is reunited with her family,” the statement said.
Ms Petito’s parents claim that the laundries knew where her daughter had been left and that they actively helped their son evade law enforcement.
The laundries have consistently denied any knowledge of Mrs Petito’s death. Her remains were found on September 19.
Matt Luka, the laundromat’s attorney, argued that the parents had no duty or obligation to speak to law enforcement, merely exercising their constitutional right to remain silent.
Judge Carroll, who sits on the Sarasota County Circuit Court, has said he will issue a written ruling on whether Petito’s civil claim can be tried in the next two weeks.
A jury in Virginia awarded Ms Heard $2 million (£1.6 million) at the conclusion of their defamation trial in June, while Mr Depp was awarded the much larger $15 million (£12 million).
Ms Petito and Laundrie set out in their motorhome on a cross-country trip in July 2021 and had their travels documented on YouTube.
On September 1, Laundrie returned to his parents’ house alone.
Ms Petito’s parents reported her missing on September 11 because they were unable to contact her and Laundrie refused to say where she was.
Laundromat went on the run days later as his family told police he was on his way to the wildlife sanctuary close to their home.
On September 19, Ms. Petito’s remains were found in a Wyoming National Park. Her autopsy confirmed she had been strangled.
Weeks later, on October 20, Laundrie’s remains were found on the Florida reservation.
He died by suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Found in a notebook with his remains, he confessed to murdering his girlfriend.