Johnny Depp wins more than $10 million in defamation case against Amber Heard
The dueling defamation cases between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard came to a somewhat mixed end: The jury found she defamed him, but also awarded her $2 million in her countersuit.
Johnny Depp won his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, a Virginia jury decided Wednesday, with cheers going up outside the courtroom from the crowd of Depp supporters who gathered there.
Inside the courtroom, a black-clad Heard kept her eyes downcast as the jury’s concurrent decision was read, saying that she had lost the bulk of her countersuit. He had sued her for $50 million, and she’d countersued for $100 million.
For the record:
1:41 p.m. June 2, 2022An earlier version of this story stated that videotaped depositions do not allow for cross-examination. Videotaped depositions do include questioning from both sides’ legal teams and are edited for courtroom presentation as agreed to by both sides.
The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in the trial. However, the punitive damages were immediately reduced by Judge Penney Azcarate to Virginia’s statutory cap of $350,000.
In Heard’s countersuit, the jury awarded $2 million in compensatory damages to her after finding one of her points valid: that former Depp attorney Adam Waldman had defamed her when he told a tabloid that she and her friends created a hoax that included roughing up her apartment to look worse for police.
Depp spoke about the verdict in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“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,” he said, in part. “And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”
Amber Heard mourns ‘setback,’ slams Johnny Depp’s ‘sway’ after losing defamation case
Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard, who had sued and countersued each other in Virginia, issued dueling statements after the verdict was read Wednesday.
Depp closed his lengthy statement with “Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes.”
Heard issued a statement as well, saying in part, “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. ... 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. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.
“I’m sad I lost this case,” she added. “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.”
The decision — from a jury of five men and two women — came after nearly 13 hours of deliberation spanning three days. The turbulent defamation trial, which started April 11 and took place over the last six weeks, saw Depp and Heard trade disturbing allegations of domestic violence and abuse against a background of social media chatter that tilted heavily in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star’s direction.
A source close to Depp said Wednesday that the actor-musician had “previously scheduled work commitments made before the trial” and would be watching the verdict from the United Kingdom.
“No matter what happens, I did get here and I did tell the truth and I have spoken up for what I’ve been carrying on my back, reluctantly, for six years,” Depp said last week on the witness stand after calling Heard’s allegations “ridiculous, humiliating, ludicrous, painful, savage, unimaginably brutal, cruel, and all false. All false.”
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Heard told the jury last week what she has gone through since splitting with Depp and filing her countersuit.
“People want to kill me, and they tell me so every day,” she said. “People want to put my baby in the microwave, and they tell me that. Johnny threatened — promised, promised me — that if I ever left him, he’d make me think of him every day that I lived.”
Depp filed a $50-million defamation lawsuit in 2019 against his ex-wife based on a 2018 op-ed she penned for the Washington Post calling herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The op-ed did not mention Depp by name, but was oriented around the time Heard first leveled her allegations of abuse against him. The trial was held in Virginia because that is where the Post’s servers are located.
In 2021, Heard countersued her ex-husband for $100 million, an amount that Heard’s closing arguments revealed to be about sending a message. Both cases have been unfolding in court simultaneously. Heard’s defamation claim pertains to public statements made by Depp’s former attorney, Waldman, that dismissed her allegations of domestic violence as a “hoax.” The trial has been broadcast and livestreamed via CourtTV and other outlets, including YouTube accounts.
Depp’s claim required the jury to find that each of three statements by Heard was false, had a defamatory implication and — because he is a public figure — was made with actual malice.
Heard’s claim required the jury to find that a former Depp lawyer was working as an agent for Depp when he made the statements her case cited, that he knew the statements were false and that someone other than Heard saw the statements.
Amber Heard didn’t want Johnny Depp to pay $100 million. She wanted to send a message
The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard case went to the jury Friday afternoon in Virginia following nuanced closing arguments from both sides’ legal teams.
While waiting for the jury to reach a verdict, Depp joined English guitarist Jeff Beck onstage at back-to-back-to-back concerts Sunday through Tuesday in England. Model Kate Moss, who testified during rebuttal on Depp’s behalf, reportedly attended a show and spent time backstage afterward.
Both Depp and Heard took the witness stand twice each during the trial, which was watched closely by the masses and heavily discussed on social media. While testifying, Depp detailed his experiences with childhood abuse, drugs and alcohol and claimed that Heard became “this other person” during their marriage.
Early in their relationship, Depp said, Heard was “attentive,” “loving,” “smart,” “kind,” “funny” and “understanding” — until Depp deviated from certain behavior patterns he said she had established. At one point, Depp accused Heard of throwing a vodka bottle that shattered on his right hand and severed the tip of his middle finger during a 2015 fight they had in Australia. In her testimony, Heard alleged that Depp injured his own finger by smashing a telephone against a wall.
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The former “Pirates of the Caribbean” star also claimed that Walt Disney Studios cut ties with him after Heard’s Washington Post essay came out.
“It’s very strange when one day you’re Cinderella ... and then in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo,” Depp said on the stand, referring to the toll Heard’s public statements allegedly took on his reputation and career. “I didn’t deserve that, nor did my children, nor did the people who have believed in me for all these years.”
During her turn on the witness stand, Heard told her side of the story. She accused Depp of verbally and physically abusing her, as well as sexually assaulting her on the night his finger was severed. Heard also alleged that Depp physically attacked her after the 2014 Met Gala and left her with what she suspected was a broken nose.
In addition to the alleged physical and sexual violence, Heard maintained that Depp micromanaged her career by evaluating scripts she received and prohibiting her from accepting roles that involved romantic scenes or revealing costumes.
Model Kate Moss, Depp’s girlfriend in the ’90s, set the record straight with testimony about what happened on those stairs in Jamaica. Depp agreed.
As a result of the remarks former Depp attorney Waldman made about her to the press, Heard said, she has suffered incessant harassment and been forced to relive the trauma of their toxic relationship under a microscope.
“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” she told the jury.
“People want to kill me, and they tell me so every day. ... People want to put my baby in the microwave, and they tell me that. Johnny threatened — promised, promised me — that if I ever left him, he’d make me think of him every day that I lived.”
Witnesses who appeared either in the courtroom or live via video tended to support Depp’s version of events, with most of Heard’s witnesses — excluding paid experts — appearing via previously recorded videotaped depositions.
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Heard’s sister, Whitney Henriquez, was the sole eyewitness who testified to alleged violence by Depp, saying on the stand in mid-May that he hit her during a fight on the couple’s staircase and “repeatedly” hit Heard. Henriquez said she was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement after witnessing the March 2015 fight but didn’t sign anything.
On Depp’s side, notoriously private ex-girlfriend Moss testified via video from London that the actor did not push her down any stairs in Jamaica, which Heard had recalled on the witness stand as a rumor she had heard. Moss said she had slipped on some stairs after a rainstorm and hurt her back.
“I screamed, ’cause I didn’t know what happened to me and I was in pain,” she said. “He came running back to help me and carried me to my room and got me medical attention.”
‘No matter what happens’ in his trial with Heard, Johnny Depp says he spoke his truth
In his rebuttal on the witness stand Wednesday, Johnny Depp called ex-wife Amber Heard’s abuse allegations ‘humiliating ... and all false.’
Other witnesses on Depp’s side of the case included a former TMZ employee who strongly implied that Heard or her team had leaked damaging video to the website and a former owner of the Hicksville Trailer Palace who contradicted Heard’s testimony that a trailer had been “destroyed” by her ex-husband, saying that only a light fixture had been broken.
Also, Art of Elysium’s chief executive and -founder, Jennifer Howell, said via recorded deposition that she’d had an email exchange with former friend Henriquez because she had “struggled very much with what to do in a situation that, I loved someone very much who is doing something wrong, and I know that they’re doing it because they’re trying to protect their sister.” Howell said she was trying to get Henriquez to tell the truth.
This isn’t the first time Depp and Heard have gotten into a legal dispute. The “Fantastic Beasts” actor, 58, and the “Aquaman” star, 36, began dating in 2012 after meeting on the Puerto Rico set of 2011’s “The Rum Diary.”
About a year after their 2015 wedding, Heard filed for divorce. A week later, in May 2016, she accused Depp of abuse and was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband while he was heading out on a concert tour in Europe. The two later issued a joint statement saying, “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”
If Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation just to prove that there are people who still think he’s a big movie star, he’s won. But at what price?
However, since suing U.K. news outlet the Sun for defamation — a case he lost in 2020 — Depp has painted Heard as the abuser and positioned himself as the victim in their relationship.
“There is an abuser in this courtroom, but it is not Mr. Depp,” Depp attorney Camille Vasquez said Friday in her closing argument. “And there is a victim of domestic abuse in this courtroom, but it is not Ms. Heard.”
Accusing Team Depp of “victim-blaming at its most disgusting,” Heard attorney Benjamin Rottenborn argued to the jury that if it found for Depp, it would be sending a message, “If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying. If you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax. If you didn’t seek medical treatment, you weren’t injured. If you did seek medical treatment, you’re crazy.
“Imagine watching your husband, the person you love, behaving violently that way. Like a wild animal,” Rottenborn added. “That is abuse. That’s abuse.”
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