The Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard defamation trial finally came to an end with Johnny Depp winning the case. If you want to understand what happened in the trial, read on.
Before we get started, here’s the backstory
In 2016, Amber Heard filed an abuse case against Johnny Depp. The case was settled outside the court with Amber Heard receiving $7 million. They eventually got divorced in 2017.
In 2018, Amber Heard wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse without directly naming Johnny Depp.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s was a very public trial, with it being broadcasted on live television. The jury in their verdict found both Depp and Heard guilty of defamation bringing the weeks-long trial to an end.
1. The jury awarded Depp $15 million ($10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages). The punitive damages were capped at $350,000, the legal limit in Virginia. Meaning Depp is entitled to $10.35 million in total.
2. The Virginia civil jury ruled in favour of Depp on all three of his counts on Wednesday, finding that Heard had not only made false and defamatory statements but that she’d done so with “actual malice”.
First count against Heard
The first count against Heard was regarding the headline of her op-ed in The Washington Post: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
Heard’s lawyers argued she didn’t write the headline. But jurors concluded Heard “made or published” it and that it was defamatory.
Second count against Heard
The second count against Heard was the op-ed’s third paragraph: “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Depp’s attorneys said it clearly referenced Depp, given that Heard publicly accused him of domestic violence in 2016. Heard’s lawyers argued that a mountain of evidence showed Heard was abused numerous times, and that just one instance of proven abuse would make the line not defamatory.
They also argued the statement was objectively true because it was focused not on Depp, but on Heard’s experience speaking out.
But the jurors disagreed, finding the statement defamatory.
Third count against Heard
The third and last count against Heard was from another passage in the op-ed where Heard wrote, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real-time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
Depp’s attorneys again said it clearly referenced Depp. Just like the other two counts, the jurors found Heard had defamed Depp with “actual malice” since there was clear and convincing evidence that Heard either knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.
3. Amber Heard also levied three counts of defamation against Johnny Depp. She said she’d been repeatedly defamed by his former attorney Adam Waldman, who called Heard’s abuse allegations a hoax, hurting her career. The jury accepted one of her three counts, awarding her $2 million.
First count against Depp
Jurors considered a statement from Waldman that appeared on The Daily Mail’s website on April 8, 2020: “Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual-violence allegations as both a sword and shield depending on their needs. They have selected some of her sexual-violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr Depp.”
Jurors concluded that Heard’s attorneys had not proven all the elements of defamation.
Second count against Depp
Amber Heard’s only victory was over a statement made by Waldman to The Daily Mail where he accused Heard and her friends of fabricating abuse allegations following a 2016 fight in the couple’s Hollywood penthouse that prompted Heard to call police.
The statement reads: “Quite simply this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilt a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.”
Jurors agreed with Heard’s attorneys that Waldman’s statement was false and defamatory and that he’d acted with actual malice.
Third count against Depp
The final count against Waldman involved a statement from the same article: “We have reached the beginning of the end of Ms Heard’s abuse hoax against Johnny Depp.”
Jurors concluded Heard’s lawyers had not proven the statement to be defamatory.
4. After the verdict, both the parties issued statements on their social media.
Johnny Depp welcomed the verdict saying “the jury gave me my life back”. “From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome,” he said. “The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun.” Depp closed his lengthy statement with “Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes.”
A “disappointed” Heard called the verdict a setback for women. “I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously,” she said. She said she’s “heartbroken” that the evidence she produced was “not enough” to qualify her claims as against Depp’s power and influence.