In the motion, TMZ said it was seeking to protect a confidential source who had provided the outlet with a video of Depp yelling at ex-wife Amber Heard and slamming cabinets. The video was played for the jury early on in the trial.
Depp’s team has indicated that it will call Morgan Tremaine, a former TMZ field assignment manager, as a witness on Wednesday. They have not said what Tremaine will be asked about.
TMZ’s lawyers argued that the identity of its source should be protected under the journalist’s privilege in Virginia law. The outlet also argued that Tremaine’s testimony would be irrelevant to the question of whether Depp and Heard defamed each other.
Depp’s attorney, Camille Vasquez, suggested during her cross-examination of Heard that she had leaked the video, and that the outlet had paid her for it.
“I didn’t do that,” Heard testified. “I had nothing to do with that.”
Vasquez also suggested that Heard’s team had tipped off TMZ when Heard went to court to obtain a restraining order against Depp in May 2016. Heard said she was “shocked” that photographers showed up, and suggested that it was in fact Depp’s divorce lawyer, Laura Wasser, who had close connections with TMZ.
In the motion, TMZ’s lawyer argued that Tremaine had nothing to do with its receipt of the video, and that any testimony he might give about the confidential source would be based on “rumor and conjecture.”
“TMZ promised this source that it would maintain their confidentiality and would not disclose their name or other information about them,” wrote the outlet’s attorneys. “TMZ makes such promises of confidentiality, from time to time, so that it may publish information in the public interest, and it relies on the journalist’s privilege protecting the identity of confidential sources to do so.”
Closing statements in the six-week trial are set for Friday.
Update, Wednesday May 25: Judge Penney Azcarate denied TMZ’s motion, noting that Tremaine is testifying voluntarily. She also held that TMZ’s concern for the confidentiality of its source is “not germane to the trial,” and said that TMZ can pursue Tremaine for any breach of a non-disclosure agreement in a separate proceeding.
Tremaine was called to the stand on Wednesday afternoon, but did not reveal anything about TMZ’s sources. He described receiving an email through the outlet’s tipline, which included a link to the video. He said he quickly downloaded it, added TMZ’s logo and the signature “bumper” sound, and published it within about 15 minutes. He said he did not know who sent the video.
Tremaine stated that he had contacted Depp’s legal team six days ago, after watching the trial. He said the version of the video that was played for the jury was longer — with additional material at the beginning and at the end — than the version received and published by TMZ in 2016.
Tremaine said he had also dispatched paparazzi photographers to the Los Angeles County courthouse on the day in May 2016 that Heard arrived to obtain a domestic violence restraining order against Depp. Photographers took photos of Heard with a bruise on her face as she left the courthouse. Tremaine testified that TMZ had received a tip that Heard would be there, but he did not appear to know who had supplied the tip. He said only that he received the tip from a news producer who had vetted it to make sure it was legitimate.