Johnny Depp Wins Multi-Million-Dollar Libel Trial Against Amber Heard

Johnny Depp has won his multi-million-dollar defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, whom he sued over claims of domestic abuse she made in a Washington Post article in 2018.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Johnny Depp has won his multi-million-dollar defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, whom he sued over claims of domestic abuse she made in a Washington Post article in 2018.

Following a six-week trial, the seven-person jury found that Heard had defamed her ex-husband, after writing in the first-person Washington Post article that she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.

Consequently, the jury has awarded Depp a total of $15m (£11.9m) – consisting of $10m (£8m) in compensatory damages and $5m (£3.9 million) in punitive damages.

The jury has, however, found that Johnny Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, had defamed Amber Heard – but only in one of three counts. Heard has been awarded $2m in compensatory damages as a result.

Johnny Depp outside court

Photo by Drew Angerer.

Following the verdict, it’s since been reported that Heard has intentions of appealing the decision, as per NBC News, although no further details have since been provided.

Depp had originally sued Heard for $50m over the article, whilst Heard had issued a counterclaim for $100m (£76.4m) over statements made by Waldman which called her allegations a “hoax”, and which were published in Mail Online stories in 2020.

Depp wasn’t present in the Fairfax, Virginia court when the verdict was delivered as he continued a string of surprise concerts in the UK with the musician Jeff Beck. In a statement following the announcement, however, has said: “From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome.”

“Speaking the truth was something that I owed to 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.” The Pirates of the Caribbean star added that “the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”

The case has inevitably garnered a huge amount of attention given the high-profile nature of those involved and has made details about the couple’s largely toxic relationship public. At one stage, supermodel Kate Moss, Depp’s former partner, gave evidence over videoconference.

Epitomising the era of social media, too, the case has induced a torrent of online commentary and abuse. In total, TikToks with #JusticeforJohnny or similar variations were viewed more than 19.8 billion times, whilst those with #JusticeforAmberHeard received 81 million views, as the actress has largely been vilified on TikTok and other platforms.

Amber Heard leaving the courthouse

Actress Amber Heard departs the Fairfax County Courthouse after the verdict was delivered. Photo by Win McNamee.

A petition to remove Heard from Aquaman 2, set for release in March 2023, has also reached over 4.5 million signatures.

Such a scenario, Heard’s lawyers have argued since the verdict was delivered, is one such reason for an appeal.

A statement released by Heard shortly after the verdict was announced said: “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.

“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 UK.

“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.”

Further fuelling speculation over whether an appeal is forthcoming, high-profile American attorney Lisa Bloom, said on BBC Two’s Newsnight “this is not the end because most defamation cases are really decided on appeal.”

“I think this is an inconsistent verdict,” she added. “How can it be that Amber Heard was defamed when Johnny Depp’s lawyer said that her allegations were a ‘hoax’, and yet Johnny Depp was also defamed when she said she was representative of domestic violence?

“She also got hit with the defamation verdict for the headline in the article, which she did not write… I think within a year or two, we’re going to have a more definitive answer and outcome in this case.”

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