Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Each Defamed Each Other, Jury Rules

·6-min read

A Virginia jury has found that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp when she wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed alluding to her past claims of domestic violence.

However, the jury also found that Depp defamed Heard, through his attorney, in the course of fighting back against her charges. The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages, plus $5 million in punitive damages — which Judge Penney Azcarate reduced to $350,000 in accordance with the state’s statutory cap.

More from Variety

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages for her counterclaim.

The court clerk read aloud the jury’s verdict, finding that Heard had defamed Depp with each of three statements in the op-ed. The jury also found that Heard had acted with “actual malice,” meaning that they were convinced she had made the statements knowing they were false. The jury ruled in favor of Heard on one out of three statements that were made by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, in the Daily Mail. Waldman had asserted that Heard and her friends had set up “an ambush, a hoax,” when police were called to the couple’s apartment in May 2016.

In a statement after the verdict, Depp said that Heard’s false claims had “a seismic impact on my life and my career.”

“And six years later, the jury gave me my life back,” he said. “I am truly humbled.”

Depp said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness from around the world,” and that the verdict left him “at peace.”

“From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome,” Depp said. “Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.”

Depp’s attorneys, Camille Vasquez and Ben Chew, gave brief statements outside the courthouse thanking the jury for their verdict.

Though the jury awarded damages to both sides, the outcome is a clear win for Depp, who lost a similar trial in the United Kingdom in 2020. Depp brought that lawsuit after The Sun newspaper called him a “wife beater.” The judge ruled that Heard’s allegations are “substantially true.” The lingering question now is whether he can rehabilitate his film career, which has been moribund for the last four years.

Heard issued a statement saying she was disappointed and heartbroken by the outcome.

“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” Heard said. “I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband. I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously. I believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK. I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly.”

Heard was in the Fairfax, Va., courtroom to hear the verdict. Depp watched from the United Kingdom, where he has been appearing at concerts in the U.K. A spokesperson for Heard criticized Depp for not coming to court, saying “Your presence shows where your priorities are.”

The jurors — five men and two women — began deliberating on Friday afternoon. They returned to the courtroom with a verdict at 3 p.m. Wednesday, but were briefly sent back to the jury room because they had not filled out the damages amounts on the verdict form.

Depp brought the lawsuit against his ex-wife in March 2019, alleging that Heard had implicitly accused him of domestic violence in the op-ed. In the piece, Heard called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse,” and spoke about the backlash she had received for speaking out. The op-ed did not cite Depp by name, but he alleged that it nevertheless had a devastating impact on his career.

Depp testified that he filed the lawsuit to “clear the record” and to restore his reputation, both in the eyes of the film industry and for the sake of his children.

“I pride myself on honesty. I pride myself on truth. Truth is the only thing I’m interested in,” Depp said in April. “I’m obsessed with the truth.”

Heard countersued in August 2020, alleging that Waldman had defamed her in a series of statements to the Daily Mail. She testified that she has been hounded and threatened on social media on a daily basis since making her claims against Depp, and that her career has suffered as a result.

The two sides presented dramatically different versions of reality over the course of the six-week trial. Depp alleged that Heard was the real abuser, and that she had a “need for violence.” He acknowledged that the couple had arguments, but denied ever hitting Heard. Heard alleged that Depp had routinely hit her, particularly while either drunk or high.

The jurors heard from more than 60 witnesses, including the couple’s friends, relatives, employees, agents, doctors and therapists. The two sides offered conflicting expert testimony on psychiatry and social media analysis, as well as photographs, audio clips of the couple’s arguments, and numerous emails and text messages.

One of Depp’s witnesses, couples therapist Laurel Anderson, testified that Depp and Heard engaged in “mutual abuse,” and that Heard had “given as good as she got.” Depp’s team also presented several of Depp’s bodyguards and friends, who testified that they never saw Depp strike her and they had not seen bruises when she had claimed to be injured. Depp’s team also played audio clips from the couple’s fights, in which Heard admitting to “hitting” Depp and called him a “baby.”

Heard gave four days of testimony about their relationship, often sobbing as she described repeated assaults. Her lawyers also played clips of Depp bellowing “You’re a fucking cunt!” and showed graphic and violent text messages from Depp, in which he called her a “filthy whore” and said that he hoped “that karma kicks in and takes the gift of breath from her.” Heard also said it was humiliating to have to go through a televised trial on these issues, and that she wished for the whole thing to be over.

“I want to move on. I want Johnny to move on too,” she said. “I want him leave me alone.”

Heard now is expected to appeal the verdict. Her lawyers may take issue with a series of pre-trial rulings, including one that denied a motion to move the case out of Virginia.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting