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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 26, 2022

Depp, Maxwell trials held in different jurisdictions with different media rules

If Your Time is short

  • The trial in Johnny Depp’s defamation case is being televised and Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking case was not, but not because of a double standard.
  • Depp’s trial is taking place in a county courtroom, while Maxwell’s was in federal court which generally prohibits recording devices. 

Actor Johnny Depp is in the midst of a trial in the defamation case he made against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, and some news organizations have been streaming it live online. 

On social media, some users called out what they seem to consider a double standard in how the "system" is treating this case versus the case against Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted of sex trafficking a minor. 

"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," one such post said. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We’ve checked a similar comparison before.

Featured Fact-check

In 2021, PolitiFact looked at the claim that the media televised the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse "because he is a ‘white supremacist shooter’" while limiting coverage of Maxwell’s trial to "some cartoon drawing." We rated that Mostly False, because while Rittenhouse’s trial was televised and Maxwell’s wasn’t, the claim implied that the coverage was handled differently because of the nature of the crimes and the people involved. 

That was wrong then, and it’s wrong in this case, too. 

Rittenhouse was tried in state court in Wisconsin, where cameras are allowed inside the courtroom. 

Maxwell was on trial in federal court, where in most instances, cameras and recording devices aren’t allowed. That’s been the case for decades. However, the trial was covered widely in the media. Many reporters were in the courtroom taking notes to file stories later, providing live updates as the trial unfolded, filming segments outside for television broadcast coverage, and more. 

Depp’s trial is taking place in Fairfax Circuit Court in Virginia, where the decision to allow cameras in the courtroom is left to the judge presiding over the case. 

We rate claims about a double standard False.

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Depp, Maxwell trials held in different jurisdictions with different media rules

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