Paul Morigi/Getty Spectators at the defamation trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Spectators at the ongoing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial went to great lengths to secure a spot in the courtroom to view the action up close, including camping out in cars in front of the courthouse and spending up to $30,000 on travel expenses in one instance .
Several fans of Depp, 58, tell PEOPLE that they came in the early hours of the morning to ensure they would be given a wristband to allow them to sit inside the Fairfax, Virginia, courtroom to witness the explosive trial.
“I’ve never been to a public trial before. I’ve never stayed up overnight for anything in line, and I came at 12:45 am,” says Sabrina Harrison of Madison, Wisconsin. “I’ve never done anything like this in my 46 years of life.”
Spectators have shown up from all over the country and even overseas. Sharon Smith, 52, who recently ended a 12-year relationship in Britain, put her belongings in storage and decided to fly to Virginia so she could see the trial when it began on April 11.
When the trial is not in session, Smith flies to Los Angeles, then returns to Virginia when proceedings resume — and the costs add up. “I’ve been coming back and forth from LA so you’re looking at $600 to $700 each time , 10 hours of your life in the air. But yeah, hotel, food, drinks, about $10,000,” she says of the total she’s spent thus far.
When the trial comes to an end, Smith isn’t sure where she will call home. “I’m sort of in between Liverpool, London and Leeds at the minute. I don’t know where I’m going to end up,” she tells PEOPLE.
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STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty; EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Johnny Depp; Amber Heard
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Smith lines up at the courthouse at 1 am each day to ensure she has a spot to sit in the courtroom.
One early morning she got soaked while in line during a rainstorm. At the time, a reporter asked if she was there in support of Depp or Heard.
“I just said, ‘I’m getting wet for Johnny,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “I don’t know; it came in my head and then out my mouth.”
Smith says her family thinks she’s “having a midlife crisis” by making the US her home for the length of the trial.
“They’re like, ‘She’s put everything in storage. She’s sold everything.’ Well, I didn’t sell anything. I left him with pretty much everything. ‘She’s just hopped on a plane, she’s gone to America, and when we keep asking when she’s coming back she’s saying, “I don’t know. I do not know. I don’t know.” ‘ I’m having fun,” Smith says. “People keep saying, ‘Are you okay? Are you really okay?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ “
Emily, 26, from Arlington, Virginia, says she woke up at 2 am on May 4 so she could be one of the first 100 people in line.
“My friends think I’m insane for doing it but I think it’s a historic trial and I think it’s really interesting that it’s taking place in Northern Virginia,” she says. “Someone got here last night [at 9 p.m.] to get the first spot.”
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Other arrangements made to come to the courthouse every day, sleeping in their cars to keep their trip expenses down.
“It is not totally convenient to be in Virginia for most of the week, every week, but I was sleeping in my car when I came here. And since then, I’ve been staying at the Ritz with my friends. I stayed in my other friend’s apartment, and I’ll stay in my car if I need to. It’s worth it,” says Jarva, 33, who hails from Brooklyn, New York. She draws sketches of the trial each day, hoping to independently publish her storyboard soon.
Aneela Metha, a 40-year-old doctor from Fairfax, Virginia, had to make arrangements to free up time to watch the trial in-person five times.
“I came and stood in line today at 4 am Picked up my mother-in-law so she can sleep with the kids; they’re 4 and 6. Stood in line, got my pass, then went back home at 7:30 and then I’ve been working extra shifts so I can take days off to come here,” she says.
Metha says of her family’s reaction: “They think I’m nuts,” adding that her 10-year wedding anniversary is on Thursday and she asked her husband if he would join her for a day.
“I told him, ‘As part of our present, can you come with me?’ And he’s like, ‘Hell no,’ ” she says.
Metha says her husband “loves Johnny Depp but he just he doesn’t understand people getting up in the middle of the night standing in line to come and see him. But it’s exhilarating seeing this in person.”
JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP/Getty Amber Heard; Johnny Depp
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Ivan De Boer, 59, from Los Angeles, tells PEOPLE she used her paid vacation time for the year to attend the trial. So far, she has spent about $30,000 on expenses.
“I took my whole year’s vacation so I could be here for Johnny,” she says. “I’m the same age as Johnny. I’m single, so I do what I want to, basically.”
When asked if she has any regrets about spending so much, De Boer replies, “No regrets. I’d regret it more if I wasn’t here.”
Jennifer, 43, who traveled from Rome, New York, came out at 1 am to wait in line to secure a spot to enter the courtroom. She tells PEOPLE that her shopping trips for clothes to wear during the trial, which is broadcast live online, have cost her about $2,200.
“As a person who has been through domestic violence herself, it just needed to be something that we did. I’ve been here since the start of the trial,” she says. “I’m self-employed, so it was very flexible.”
PEOPLE spoke with Depp’s fans at the courtroom on May 4, the first day Heard, 36, took the stand. while the aquaman 2 actress tested, Depp could be seen looking down most of the time and occasionally whispering to his lawyer.
Thursday was the last day of the trial before a break commenced due to the judge’s prior commitment to attend a conference. It will resume Monday.
Depp originally filed the $50 million lawsuit against Heard back in 2019 but it was delayed due to the pandemic. The lawsuit is over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, though she never mentioned Depp by name.
Depp has tested that his “goal is the truth” as he seeks to clear his name in the trial, which is being televised live via various outlets. Ahead of the trial, Heard said in a statement that “hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world.”
For more about the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLEon newsstands Friday.