A jury has found Amber Heard and Johnny Depp liable for defamation in their lawsuits against each other. The jury awarded Depp significantly more damages, a legal victory for the actor.
Depp sued Heard, his ex-wife, for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence.” Although Depp was not named in the article, he claims it cost him lucrative acting roles. Heard has sued her ex-husband for defamation over statements by Depp’s attorney about his abuse allegations.
The jury found that Heard defamed Depp in three separate statements in the Washington Post article, and that Depp defamed Heard with a statement made by his attorney.
The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no money for punitive damages.
Depp asked for $50 million in damages and Heard for $100 million. Punitive damages in the state of Virginia are capped at $350,000, so the judge reduced the amount of punitive damages to that amount.
The verdict is a “huge” legal victory for Depp and a repudiation for Heard, according to CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.
“It’s a tremendous win,” Jackson said. “What he had to overcome was a problem with the First Amendment, which is that we all have the right to express our thoughts and opinions. What they (the jurors) said is that, yes, you have a first amendment right unless you say something untrue that damages someone’s reputation and damages them in their industry.
Heard kept his eyes down as the verdict was read. Depp was not in court, but released a statement that said, in part, “the jury gave my life back to me.”
“From the beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to tell the truth, regardless of the outcome. Telling the truth was something I owed to my children and to everyone who remained steadfast in their support of my regard,” he said. “I feel at peace knowing I’ve finally accomplished this.”
Depp’s lawyers thanked the jury and the court after the verdict was announced. Wednesday, adding that “it is time to turn the page and look to the future”.
“We are grateful, very grateful, to the jury for their careful deliberations, to the judge and to the court staff who devoted so much time and resources to this case,” attorney Camille Vasquez told reporters outside the court.
Heard said in a statement that she was “heartbroken” by the verdict.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I am heartbroken that the mountain of evidence is still not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said.
Depp and Heard met in 2009 on the set of their movie “The Rum Diary” and were married from 2015 to 2016 before divorcing.
In his testimony, Heard said Depp had been verbally and physically abusive during their relationship. She also accused Depp of sexual abuse.
Depp repeatedly claimed on the stand that he had never hit a woman, denied Heard’s allegation of sexual assault and called himself a victim of domestic violence by Heard, which she denies.
Lawyers for Heard and Depp presented photographs and audio and video recordings during the trial to make their case. One expert, Laurel Anderson, a clinical psychologist who worked with Depp and Heard in 2015 as a marriage counselor, said in testimony released April 14 that the couple’s relationship had what she called “mutual abuse.” .
During the trial, Depp’s team presented witnesses including model Kate Moss, with whom he once had a relationship, and DC Films boss Walter Hamada.
Actress Ellen Barkin and a number of former Depp associates testified on Heard’s behalf.
Heard notably had fewer vocal supporters than Depp in the entertainment industry and in and around the courthouse.
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