Amber Heard appeal alleges myriad errors led to Johnny Depp’s win in defamation trial

Two photos show a man and a woman separately testifying on the witness stand during a trial.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, both shown testifying in court, have both filed appeals of the June decisions that came from their joint defamation trial in Virginia.
(Associated Press)

Amber Heard has officially appealed the decision in the defamation case brought by Johnny Depp, with her attorneys citing what they believe to be numerous errors committed at trial, including allowing the case to be heard in Virginia and refusing to allow communications between Heard and certain doctors to be admitted as evidence.

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star in June was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — the latter reduced to $350,000 in line with Virginia statute — after Heard was found liable for defaming him in an essay published by the Washington Post. Heard, who had filed a countersuit, was awarded $2 million at the same time after the jury found Depp liable for a comment made about Heard by his then-attorney Adam Waldman.

Heard’s appeal was filed Nov. 23 with the Court of Appeals in Virginia.

Depp originally sued the “Aquaman” actor for $50 million in March 2019, alleging that an essay published by the Washington Post — whose servers are in Virginia — dubbed him a perpetrator of “sexual violence” and cost him tens of millions of dollars’ worth of lost work.


Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against Amber Heard turned the former couple’s dirty laundry into trending topics. Here’s a timeline of key moments.

June 1, 2022

She countersued for $100 million in summer 2020, though attorney Elaine Bredehoft later said that Heard didn’t want that much money but rather wanted to send a message to her former husband.

In the appeal, Heard’s legal team alleges that California was the only appropriate venue for the trial and states that Virginia was a “completely inconvenient forum” for the case, with “both parties and most of the fact witnesses ... located in California, with none of them located in Virginia.”

The appeal alleges errors surrounding evidence were made, including exclusion of the November 2020 decision in the U.K. defamation case that Depp brought unsuccessfully against the Sun, which had labeled him a “wife beater.” The appeal claims irrelevant and prejudicial evidence was allowed, while third-party communications that allegedly went to both parties’ states of mind — including Heard’s communications with medical personnel — were excluded.

Among the other claims made in the appeal: Depp’s legal team allegedly did not prove “actual malice”; the jury was improperly instructed about the role of actual malice in the case; Heard didn’t write the online version of the headline that was discussed in court; the award was excessive; and the essay itself, which did not mention Depp by name, was “not reasonably capable of conveying a defamatory implication.”

Rejecting a post-trial motion and request for a mistrial, Johnny Depp’s lawyers say Amber Heard made ‘frivolous’ arguments and ‘outlandish requests.’

July 11, 2022

While both parties filed initial appeal paperwork in July, Depp’s detailed filing didn’t come until early November. Now that Heard’s detailed filing is in as well, the case will go to a three-judge court of appeals panel for decisions.

If either Depp or Heard is unsatisfied with the appeals court’s decision, they can petition Virginia’s Supreme Court.