In a surprising verdict delivered Wednesday afternoon, a jury in Fairfax County, Virginia found both actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp liable for defamation charges in their lawsuits against each other. Although both parties were found guilty, Depp was awarded a substantial amount more in damages, making it a legal win for the award-winning actor.
Details of Verdict
The jury came down on the side of Depp, awarding him $10 million in compensatory damages along with $5 million dollars in punitive damages. In contrast, the jury awarded Heard a smaller amount of $2 million in compensatory damages and no money provided for punitive damages.Read More »
Origins of Case
Depp originally sued Heard, his former spouse, for defamation after she wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2018, painting herself as a public figure dealing with domestic abuse. Although Depp was not specifically named in the article, it was easy to connect the dots using the details provided by Heard.
Depp said that the op-ed cost him a number of lucrative acting roles as it tarnished his career. Heard then countersued Depp for defamation due to statements by Depp’s attorney regarding her claims of abuse.
The jury heard from multiple witnesses during the course of the six-week trial. Included on the list of character witnesses for Depp were model Kate Moss and head of DC Films Walter Hamada. Heard’s character witnesses included actress Ellen Barkin and a handful of former associates of Depp.
Attorneys for both actors presented a number of photos and audio and video recordings in an attempt to sway the opinion of the jury. Witness Laurel Anderson, a psychologist who served Depp and Heard as their marriage counselor, said that she would describe the relationship between the two as “mutual abuse.”
During her personal testimony, Heard said that Depp was both verbally and physically abusive over the course of their relationship that began in 2009 when the two met on the set of “The Rum Diary.” Heard also accused Depp of sexual violence.
In turn, Depp vehemently denied Heard’s allegations, asserting that he has never struck a woman. Depp also referred to himself as a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of Heard. Depp’s attorneys said that Heard had faked injuries and used doctored pictures of herself with bruises in an attempt to be awarded more money during the divorce. Heard has denied these allegations.
During a particularly tense moment in Heard’s cross-examination, Depp’s lawyers accused her of being the abuser in the marriage, saying that she lied about her fear of him. The one thing that was clear throughout the testimony is that the two were part of a volatile relationship over the course of its five years.
Statements Following Verdict
Heard sat stoically in court with her lawyers as the verdict was read. Depp was not in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict because of a prior work commitment overseas. Shortly after the verdict was read, Heard released a statement saying that she was heartbroken over the decision. She also called the decision a setback for other women.
Depp also released a statement, conveying that he was overwhelmed with support and the hope that his experience and the resulting truth will help others in similar situations. The actor said that he wanted the truth to come out for his children.
A spokesperson for Heard said that she would appeal the decision.
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