The defamation trial in Virginia between the actors and ex-partners Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began on April 12 and went to a jury on May 27. As the deliberations were paused during the weekend, Depp made a surprise appearance in Sheffield, England, to rock out on stage with Jeff Beck on three cover tunes.
On Wednesday, the jury found Amber Heard liable for defaming her ex-husband Johnny Depp, and the judge ordered Heard to pay $10.35 million in damages to Depp. The jury recommended $15 million though.
The jury also found certain aspects in favor of Heard, such as the defamation done by Johnny Depp, and awarded her $2 million.
Thanking the jury, Depp who wasn’t in the court for the verdict, in an Instagram post, said,
“The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” said Depp
On the other hand, Heard who was really heartbroken by the verdict tweeted,
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It’s a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously,” said Heard
Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard – Trial in the US
The jury ruled Depp was defamed by a passage in the article and by the headline of the op-ed that she had published in the Washington Post, which read,
“I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
Jurors rejected two of the three counterclaims of Heard. They concluded she was defamed when an attorney for Depp told a media outlet that Heard attempted to stage property damage to show police after an alleged fight.
“Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist,” the statement said
During the six-week trial the Hollywood stars accused each other of abuse before and during their two-year of marriage.
Heard testified that Depp physically or sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times. Depp denied her claim and counterclaimed that it was Heard who turned violent in their relationship.
The seven-person civil jury deliberated for about 12 hours over three days.
Much of the waning days of the trial focused on the aftereffects of both claims, with Depp testifying, “I lost nothing less than everything“ and Heard accusing him of trying to erase her ability to work.
On the other hand, Heard said,
“Now as I stand here today, I can’t have a career,“ Heard testified at the close of the trial, breaking down on the stand for the second time. “I hope to get my voice back. That’s all I want.“
The trial was followed by millions of people on social media and live television.
Everything from the court’s testimony, to the body language of both actors was dissected and up for debate in increasingly polarized social media spheres.
Tarana Burke, the renowned US-based activist who started the #MeToo movement back in 2006, opined that the way the #MeToo movement was manipulated during the trial was a “toxic catastrophe and one of the biggest defamation of the movement.”
“Over the last six weeks, we have been confronted with the mockery of assault, shame and blame,” she said in a statement Sunday, ahead of the verdict. “Countless headlines proclaiming the death of #MeToo. News stories full of clickbait, having nothing to do with the actual work happening to interrupt sexual violence, have come across our screens with haste.” Burke added
Eric Rose, a crisis management and communications expert in Los Angeles, told the Associated Press (AP) that both actors stand to lose out from the weeks of contentious court scenes,
“From a reputation-management perspective, there can be no winners,”
In light of the film career of both the actors, Rose added,
“because you’re potentially alienating a large segment of your audience who may not like the fact that you have retained either Johnny or Amber for a specific project because feelings are so strong now.”
Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard case – A brief background
In 2018, Amber Heard write an op-ed in the Washington Post describing herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. After that Depp sued Heard for defamation and claimed $50 million in damages. The claim was then countersued by Heard for $100 million.
The case was heard at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, which began in early April and finally reached a verdict on June 1.
Heard and Depp accused each other of domestic violence. Heard had also accused Depp for “cavity searching” her and penetrating her with a liquor bottle.
Depp also alleged that Heard’s claims were false and led to a considerable loss in his movie roles.
Depp had also hired a clinical forensic psychologist who stated that Heard had a history of borderline personality disorders. There was another report which claimed that the actress had the personality disorder due to intimate partner violence inflicted by Depp.
There were audio recordings played in the court where Heard admitted that she had hit the actor but not punched him. A text too was shown where Depp name-called her and wanted her “dead”.
Heard claimed that Depp also had pushed his ex Kate Moss downstairs but Moss denied the claim and said that Depp had never committed any acts of violence when they were in a relationship.
From Heard’s witnesses, her sister testified that Depp had physically abused her. She also recalled an incident when he had grabbed her “by the hair with one hand and was whacking her repeatedly in the face with the other hand”. The actress’ makeup artist as well had testified that she would often hide her injuries with heavy makeup and she did so right before the actress had to appear on The Late Late Show With James Corden in December 2015.
Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard 2020 trial in the UK
Johnny Depp’s libel case against a British tabloid The Sun that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard wrapped up on July 28, 2020, with Depp’s lawyer insisting that Depp had never hit a woman and branding Heard “a compulsive liar.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star sued the News Group Newspapers (NGN) that publishes The Sun, and also the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, at the High Court in London over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater”.
Heard claimed Depp turned into a violent alter ego he called “The Monster” under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She alleges 14 separate incidents in which he hit, slapped and shoved her, pulled her hair and threw bottles at her “like grenades.” The judge was shown photos of Heard with black eyes, red marks on her face and an injured scalp – alleged evidence of Depp’s violence.
Depp called the allegations a “hoax” and claimed that Heard hit him, even severing the tip of his finger with a thrown vodka bottle. Under cross-examination Depp admitted headbutting Heard during a tussle, but said it was by accident as he tried to stop her punching him.
Heard acknowledged having a short temper and said she punched Depp once in March 2015. But she said it was to prevent him hitting her sister.
Sherborne accused Heard of repeatedly changing her story during the trial, and said that during a “moment of unscripted malevolence” in the witness box, she’d made up a rumor that Depp had pushed former girlfriend Kate Moss down some stairs.
The lawyer said Heard was “a wholly unreliable witness and frankly a compulsive liar – and I don’t say that lightly.”
Depp acknowledged heavy drug use, saying he took marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and magic mushrooms, and became addicted to opioid painkillers. But he denied drugs made him violent.
The couple’s relationship disintegrated against a glamorous international backdrop. Depp’s private island in the Bahamas, a Los Angeles penthouse, a luxury train and a private jet were all locations for violence, according to Heard.
Depp said in the witness box that he had made $650 million since he joined the lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise – and ended up $100 million in debt after his financial advisers neglected to pay his taxes for 17 years. He said his major expenses included $5 million to send the ashes of his literary hero, drug-fueled journalist Hunter S. Thompson, into space.
The couple’s relationship also left a costly trail of destruction. Damage to a rented house in Australia after one altercation was estimated at more than $100,000. The couple’s downtown L.A. penthouse was trashed during another argument. At one point, excrement was left in their bed – whether by a dog or a person is disputed.
Depp said he sued The Sun because his career had been harmed by Heard’s allegations. But the lawsuit has given the claims a huge global audience.
“It almost beggars belief that anyone rational has taken this case to court,” said Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at legal firm Howard Kennedy.
“Now, I know that many people say it’s all about vindication. It’s all about proving he’s not a wife beater. But the stakes are very, very high for everybody. And at some level, mud sticks.”
Heard also has had her character questioned and has been accused of fabricating evidence. A #MeToo activist, Katherine Kendall, alleged that Heard appropriated a violent rape that happened to Kendall for her own ends.
Heard has faced abuse from Depp fans on social media. Depp’s supporters have also been a regular noisy presence outside court, with some holding signs reading “Justice for Johnny.”
How did Johnny Depp lose the case in the UK?
Depp sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of the British tabloid The Sun over a 2018 article in which they called him a “wife beater” in reference to Depp’s marriage to Heard. Depp sued both the publisher and The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton for libel.
Three months after the trial began, a judge ruled that The Sun was correct in reporting that Depp was violent towards Heard, whom he divorced in 2017 after nearly two years of marriage.
Depp filed a separate defamation suit against Heard in response to an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post that detailed her experience with domestic violence. In January 2021, Heard countersued Depp for $100 million after one of Depp’s attorneys claimed her allegations of sexual abuse were a “hoax”.
In closing arguments at the three-week trial, Depp’s lawyer, David Sherborne said that the actor strongly denied “this reputation-destroying, career-ending allegation”.
“He has never hit a woman in his entire life — period, full stop, nada,” said Sherborne
Mr. Justice Nicol confirmed in a London High Court ruling that Depp attacked Amber Heard 12 times.
Heard made a statement on the courthouse steps before a crowd of reporters and onlookers, according to a video posted by The Telegraph newspaper on YouTube. Heard said she preferred to “move on with my life” after her divorce from Depp in 2017.
“I did not file this lawsuit and despite its significance, I would have preferred not to be here in court,” she said.
“It has been incredibly painful to relive the breakup of my relationship and to have my motives and my truth questioned and the most traumatic and intimate details of my life with Johnny shared in court and broadcast to entire world.” Heard continued
“I stand by my testimony and I now place my faith in British justice.” Heard added
Depp left the courthouse without making a statement. Videos posted on Twitter showed his car flanked by lines of supporters cheering and chanting his name.
Many social media posts claimed his team earlier handed out envelopes to some supporters with one of his trademark bandannas and a signed note of thanks.
NGN’s lawyer, Sasha Wass said that there was no doubt Depp “regularly and systematically abused his wife” and so the “wife-beater” label was justified.
In November 2022, Johnny Depp was forced out of the “Fantastic Beasts” movie after the losing the case in London.
The actor wrote on Instagram that Warner Bros movie studio had asked him to leave his role as villain Gellert Grindelwald. “I have respected and agreed to that request,” he said.
In a statement, Warner Bros said that Depp “will depart the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise,” and that his role would be recast.