The jury deliberating the duelling defamation claims of Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard reached its verdict Wednesday, ruling in favour of Depp, who claimed Heard defamed him when she referred to herself as a survivor of domestic violence in a 2018 article.
As the verdict was being read, Heard looked down and appeared to be holding back tears.
Depp, 58, sued Heard, 36, for $50 million, accusing her of libelling him with a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The three-time Oscar nominee claimed her article ruined his career and led to a series of cancelled film projects, including a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean instalment.
Heard hit back with her own $100 million counterclaim after the star’s former lawyer Adam Waldman called her allegations a hoax. Both accused one another of ruining their respective careers.
The jury awarded Depp $15 million in damages.
Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit. But the jury also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages, finding that Waldman defamed her in one of three counts in her countersuit.
After the jury ruled in his favour, Depp issued a statement to his Instagram page: “Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. All in the blink of an eye … And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”
He added, “Speaking the truth was something that I owed my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.”
Ahead of the jury’s decision, a spokesperson for Heard issued a statement to the Toronto Sun, taking a swipe at Depp for his absence from the courtroom. “Your presence shows where your priorities are. Johnny Depp plays guitar in the U.K. while Amber Heard waits for a verdict in Virginia. Depp is taking his snickering and lack of seriousness on tour.”
Heard called the ruling heartbreaking in a message to the Sun.
“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,” she wrote.
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. 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 believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the U.K.
“I’m sad I lost this case. 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.”
“We are grateful to the jury for their careful deliberation,” Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez said after the verdict was read.
Following the closing arguments on Friday, the seven-person jury weighed the evidence after the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.
Throughout the six-week trial, the former couple aired lurid details from their short-lived marriage. Heard alleged that Depp physically and sexually assaulted her, including in one instance with a bottle. The attacks, she said, left her with cuts and bruises.
During her tearful testimony, Heard painted a picture of an allegedly controlling and abusive Depp, who, as he was known to the world as one of Hollywood’s biggest film stars, was a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde-like “monster” behind closed doors.
While on a 2014 flight from Boston to Los Angeles, Heard alleged that Depp kicked her from behind in a jealous rage over intimate scenes she had filmed with actor James Franco.
“No one did anything. I felt so embarrassed that he could kick me to the ground and no one would do anything about it,” she said sobbing.
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Another time, Heard described Depp’s tantrum when he accused her of flirting with someone at the 2014 Met Gala in New York.
“He shoved me down on the sofa and at some point he whacked me in the face. I think that was the first time (where I thought), ‘Is this a broken nose?’ I remember my nose being swollen, discoloured and red.”
When he took the stand, Depp spoke about finding revenge poop in their marital bed and maintained that he never struck Heard. He also claimed that she was the one who abused him, multiple times.
“She has a need for violence. It erupts out of nowhere,” Depp said.
In her closing statements, Vasquez declared Heard’s pattern of behaviour during their relationship as “violent, abusive and cruel” and called her testimony “the role of a lifetime.”
Recounting Heard’s violent allegations, including one in which she said Depp assaulted her with a bottle that left her bleeding, Vasquez carefully outlined how the actress was photographed at various public events, including an appearance on James Corden’s late-night show, with no visible signs of injury and no medical report that documented bodily trauma of any kind.
“As an actress, she was photographed all the time. Where are the pictures of the horrific injuries Heard describes?” asked Vasquez.
Meanwhile, Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn presented his closing arguments by saying that Depp’s graphic text messages, in which he wrote about wanting to “f— her burnt corpse” and his hopes that she was “decomposing in the f—ing trunk of a Honda Civic,” opened “a window into the heart and mind of America’s favourite pirate.”
The question of how Depp will recover $15 million from Heard remains a mystery. Heard spoke about losing her gig as a L’Oreal spokesperson and revealed she only made $65,000 for an independent movie she filmed in March of this year.
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