The Verdict Is In: Depp Wins Infamous Defamation Trial Versus Heard
Johnny Depp has won his lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, who was found culpable for libel by a Fairfax County, Virginia jury on June 1. It awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. But the judge capped the punitive damages total, resulting in a total of $10.35 million that Heard will have to actually pay.
The jury did find that a statement by one of Depp’s attorneys defamed Heard, however, for which the jury ordered the awarding of $2 million in compensatory damages and a zero-dollar punitive damages payout.
Heard issued a statement after the ruling:
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. 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.”
She added, “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.”
In his own statement, Depp, who is currently in the U.K, said: “False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me. It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career.
“And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled… Truth never perishes.”
Heard wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed implying that she endured physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual domestic abuse at the hands of Depp, whom she did not actually name. The Oscar-nominated actor sued Heard in 2019 for $50 million over the loss of big-budget film roles, alleging that he himself was the victim of abuse by Heard. The “Aquaman” actress later countersued for $100 million.
The live-streamed six-week-long Depp v. Heard trial, taking place in Virginia, went to jury deliberation on Friday, May 27. The verdict was reached on June 1, finding Heard culpable for libel, which means that the jury felt Heard acted with malicious intent.
During the trial, Johnny Depp claimed that he lost out on $22.5 million for a slated sixth entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise as well as numerous other roles, including reprising his ongoing role in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, which went to Mads Mikkelsen in the latest film.
Depp previously lost his U.K.-based libel case against The Sun for referring to him as a “wife-beater” amid Heard’s claims in 2020. That makes the verdict in his favor in the Virginia case surprising, considering that the standard for proving libel in the U.S. is harder than in the U.K. where the burden of proof is on the defendant. The U.K. court deemed The Sun’s characterization of Depp as “substantially true.”
“Pirates of the Caribbean” star Depp has spoken out about the “instant rush to judgment” over Heard’s allegations. Depp alleged that he has lost out on millions of dollars due to the ongoing allegations.
“It takes one sentence and there’s no more ground, the carpet has been pulled,” Depp said last year when accepting the Donostia Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. “It’s not just me that this has happened to, it’s happened to a lot of people.”
Depp’s former partners Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis defended Depp in witness statements during his 2020 court case, and ex-girlfriend Kate Moss debunked rumors of the Oscar winner’s past violent behavior during the case against Heard.