John Depp v.s Amber Heard was a trial held in Fairfax County, Virginia, from April 11, 2022, to June 1, 2022, containing charges of defamation between previously married Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Depp, as plaintiff, filed a defamation charge on defendant Heard claiming $50 million in damages; Heard filed a counter proceeding against Depp claiming $100 million in damages.
Depp and Heard’s relationship
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met at the stage of the movie The Rum Diary in 2009. They got married in February 2015. In May 2016, Heard claimed that Depp physically abused her, which he denied. Heard filed for divorce on May 23, 2016, and got a restraining order against Depp. Divorce gained much popularity. A settlement was made in August 2016, and they got divorced in January 2017. Heard withdrew the restraining order. A divorce settlement of $7 million was paid to Heard, which she proposed to donate to the ACLU and Children’s Hospital L.A. The settlement contained a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) restricting both parties from discussing their relationship in public.
Depp vs. News Group Newspapers Ltd
In April 2018, The Sun released an article that depicted Depp as a “wife beater” and, in June 2018, Depp sued News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, and the then executive editor Dan Wootton. November 2020, judge Andrew Nicol gave judgment in favor of the publisher as a majority of Depp’s averted assaults had been proven to the civil standard. The verdict found Depp guilty of assaulting Heard in 12 of the 14 reported incidents. After the verdict, Depp had to resign from the Fantastic Beasts film series at the desire of Warner Bros, its producer company. In March 2021, the Appeal Court rejected Depp’s request to appeal. Lawyers for Depp argued that he did not receive a fair hearing, but the appeals jury concluded that he had a “full and fair” trial.
Heard’s op-ed in The Washington Post
In December 2018, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Heard titled “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” In the article, Heard said that two years ago, she had become the lady suffering from domestic abuse, and she felt a high culture’s wrath for women who speak out. … she saw how institutions protect men charged for abuse. She further told that, because of this, she had to lose her role in a film and an advertising campaign for a famous fashion brand. The op-ed demanded Congress to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act but she did not openly mention Depp’s name.
Opening statements were attained on April 12, 2022.
Lawyers defending Depp
Lawyers defending Depp accused Heard of fabricating domestic abuse charges against Depp, they said that Heard made such accusations because Depp had asked for a divorce. They clarified that even-if Heard’s 2018 op-ed did not mention Depp’s name yet it was clear that it referred to Depp. Depp’s lawyers talked about Heard’s appearance in public with an injured face on May 27, 2016, citing that Depp did not meet her since May 21, 2016, and witnesses too didn’t see her with the injury on her face on or after May 21, 2016.
Heard’s lawyers said that Depp physically and sexually abused Heard many times when they were in a relationship, mostly because of his alcohol and drug addiction. Finally, Heard’s lawyers said that the charges had not lowered Depp’s repute, as they were publicly known two years before the op-ed, and that Depp had rather ruined his Hollywood career himself because of his drinking and drug addiction
Before trial, witness names were put forward by both parties with also presenting objections to the opposing party’s proposed names. Witness testimony started on April 12, and lasted till May 26.
After the judge read the trial’s jury instructions on May 27, 2022, Depp’s and Heard’s pleaders submitted their closing arguments.
Depp’s pleaders said that Heard was the abuser in the relationship and that Heard’s accusations against Depp were not real and wrecked his life. They demanded the jury give him his life back. Pleaders told the court that the close friends of Heard didn’t show up for her. According to a pleader Vasquez, except Heard’s sister, everybody who testified on behalf of Heard was paid for his testimony, whereas most of the witnesses testified for Depp.
Heard’s pleaders kept on saying that Depp abused Heard and that if he had not abused her, the op-ed was not libelous because it didn’t mention Depp by name nor directly prove her accusations against him. They told jurors to take a look over the message that Mr. Depp and his legal team had been sending to Amber. Benjamin Rottenborn, a lawyer accused Depp of victim allegations at its highest offensiveness.
On June 1, 2022, after two days of advisement, the jury found that Depp had proven false all the factors of defamation for all three statements from Heard’s op-ed. Since Heard had defamed Depp with actual spite. The jury granted Depp $10 million in indemnification and $5 million in punitive damages from Heard. However, the punitive damages were cut down to $350,000 because of a limitation imposed in Virginia state.
Regarding Heard’s counterclaim, the jury found one of the three disputed statements that Depp’s lawyer had got published in the Daily Mail to be false, which defamed Heard with actual spite. Keeping in light the other two disputed statements, the jury resolved that Heard’s pleaders could not prove all the factors of defamation false. Heard was awarded $2 million in indemnification from Depp but no punitive damages.
Comments by jury
After the trial, a male judge in an interview with Good Morning America said that they followed the evidence, not Social media. He said that these accusations were very severe and a large amount was also involved. He also clarified that Depp and Heard were both abusive to each other but Heard’s pleaders couldn’t prove Depp’s abuse to be physical. They had only husband-wife fight. They both kept on shouting at each other. Read also Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard