Jury Says Amber Heard Defamed Johnny Depp In Civil Lawsuit, Awards Him $15 Million
After 14 hours of deliberations, the jury has reached a verdict for the civil defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that has been unfolding in Fairfax County, Virginia. The jury decided unanimously that Heard’s public writings in the Washington Post constituted defamation as claimed by Depp’s legal team. They also awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
Depp first sued Heard for $50 million, claiming her calling herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse,” in a Washington Post op-ed caused him to lose out on several profitable film roles from the ensuing backlash, even though he wasn’t named. The jury scrapped most of Heard’s countersuit against Depp also claiming defamation. She was awarded $2 million by the jury for the single statement they found defamatory, and no punitive damages.
The jury’s verdict answered “yes” to all outlined questions determining their thoughts on whether Heard defamed Depp. These included that they believed Heard acted with “actual malice” by writing the article, that her op-ed communicated a “defamatory implication,” and that it was clearly referencing her relationship with Depp. According to reporters on the ground, a pro-Depp crowd gathered outside the courtroom and cheered “Johnny!” every time a verdict was read in his favor.
The seven-person jury’s verdict was supposed to be released promptly at 3 p.m., but Judge Penney Azcarate noticed that they neglected to fill out the amount of money in compensatory damages they recommend for whoever they decided to rule in favor of, and asked the jury to complete the paperwork. Azcarate told jurors that an amount of at least $1 has to be listed for cases where defamatory statements are confirmed.
The couple had been reliving extremely tumultuous moments from their relationship in the early 2010s and brief marriage from 2015 to 2016. As the trial has gone on, online support particularly for Depp began growing exponentially due to clips of the trial being shared on apps like TikTok.
This has concerned experts, who worried that regardless of the particulars of this individual case, it will set a trend where defamation suits can be used to silence accusers of powerful people and that victims of abuse will now be scrutinized even more by their fans and others just because of this high-profile case.
“I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said in a statement after the verdict was read. She also said this verdict “sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out should be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”
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