Johnny Depp wins defamation trial against Amber Heard
Johnny Depp has won his high-profile defamation case against Amber Heard.
A jury of five men and two women returned their verdict Wednesday evening (1 June) and found Heard defamed her ex-husband in her 2018 op-ed.
She was ordered to pay the actor $15 million in damages. The verdict followed a nail-biting delay as the judge sent the jury back as they had not filled out the damages section on the form.
The seven-person jury’s verdict finally caps off the years-long bitter legal battle between Depp and Heard. The case became a fight over the truth for the pair in which both accused the other of repeated domestic abuse and lying.
The six-week trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court saw witnesses describe how a whirlwind Hollywood romance soon soured into a turbulent marriage splashed onto tabloids.
Depp, 58, sued Heard, 36, for her 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post referring to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”. It did not mention Depp by name.
This ignited a year of legal sparring between the pair. Depp filed a defamation suit countering her claim and said her allegations of abuse were an “elaborate hoax” that cost him his career and damaged his reputation. He sued her for $50 million.
Heard responded with a countersuit against Depp in 2020 for $100 million, with the jury having considered both suits in their verdict. Her defamation claim against Depp centred on his lawyer Adam Waldman’s remarks to The Daily Mail, in which he called her allegations an “abuse hoax”.
In her countersuit, Heard claimed that Depp had “conspired” with his attorney to “attempt to destroy and defame” her.
When it came to Depp’s seemingly tattered reputation, she said, Depp’s reported abuse and bad behaviour were the cause. Not her.
During the trial Heard testified that Depp engaged in a “pattern” of violence often fuelled by drugs, alcohol and jealousy. His outbursts left Heard afraid for her life.
Their relationship, which started when they first met as co-stars for the 2019 movie The Rum Diary, was almost topsy-turvy at times, Heard recalled. Jumping between extreme feelings of love to brutality.
She described dozen of instances in which Depp was violent towards her – claims Depp has strongly denied.
In 2015, he allegedly set upon her and sexually assaulted her with a bottle while under the influence of MDMA in Australia. Depp tore her nightgown as he threw her across the room and choked her, she testified.
“I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to leave him,” Heard said, “and that’s what broke my heart because I didn’t want to leave him.”
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To Depp, Heard was the aggressor in their relationship. Denying any wrongdoing, Depp said Heard’s – and other women’s – allegations of abuse were false.
Heard, he claimed, would launch into angry outbursts of “demeaning name-calling” that escalated into violence. She once punched him in the face for being late to her birthday dinner, he alleged.
“It could begin with a slap, it could begin with a shove, it could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head, throwing a glass of wine in my face,” Depp told the court.
In his version of what happened in Australia, Depp said Heard had lobbed a bottle of vodka at him which cut into his right hand. “The tip of my finger had been severed,” he said, “and I was looking directly at my bone sticking out.”
Heard denied this, alleging that Depp injured his finger when tearing off a phone on the wall.