Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial verdict explained: 3 counts that proved Depp was defamed by his ex-wife

After deliberating over three days, the jury ruled in a unanimous decision that Heard defamed Depp when she called herself a victim of domestic abuse


                            Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial verdict explained: 3 counts that proved Depp was defamed by his ex-wife
A jury ruled in favor of Johnny Depp in his lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard (Law&Crime Network/YouTube screenshots)
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Jurors finally reached a verdict in the defamation claims brought by actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case after the two accused each other of domestic abuse. On Wednesday, June 1, a jury ruled in favor of Johnny Depp in his lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard.

After deliberating over three days, the jury has now ruled in a unanimous decision that Heard defamed Depp when she called herself a victim of domestic abuse. She has been ordered to pay $15 million in damages, including $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The jury also awarded Heard compensatory damages of $2 million because she was defamed when Depp's lawyer Adam Waldman called her abuse allegations a hoax.

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For Depp to have won the claim, which is what happened, jurors had to determine if some parts mentioned in the Washington Post op-ed were made by Heard about Depp, were false, and were made with "actual malice." "Actual malice" means that the jury must find Heard made them knowing they were false, or with "reckless disregard" for the truth. In Heard's case against Depp, jurors looked at statements made by Adam Waldman, a former lawyer for Depp who has claimed Heard's allegations of abuse were a hoax. Jurors had to determine that Waldman's allegations were made as part of his role as Depp's "agent", whether they were about Heard, whether they were false, and whether they were made with "actual malice."

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Here are the counts jurors considered before the verdict was declared:

First counts against Heard and Depp

Jurors considered whether Heard's Washington Post op-ed, titled 'I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change', defamed Depp. Heard's lawyers claimed that the actress did not write the headline, but the jury ultimately found that Heard “made or published” it, and that it was indeed defamatory. 

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On the other hand, Heard had claimed that Depp's ex-attorney Adam Waldman repeatedly defamed her, calling her allegations a hoax which resulted in her career being hurt. Jurors considered Waldman's statement that said, "​Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual-violence allegations as both a sword and shield depending on their needs. They have selected some of her sexual-violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr. Depp.” They found that Heard's lawyers had failed to prove all elements of defamation.

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Second counts against Heard and Depp

The jury considered the third paragraph of the op-ed, which says, "Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” Although Heard did not name Depp in the op-ed, the actor's lawyers argued that it clearly referred to him considering the 'Aquaman' actress has accused him of domestic violence publicly in 2016. Heard's lawyers argued that a lot of evidence revealed the actress was abused on multiple occasions and that if one incident of abuse is proven, it would make the line not defamatory. They added that since the statement focuses on Heard’s experience speaking out, and not on Depp, it was objectively true. The jury ultimately disagreed and concluded that the statement was defamatory.

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Depp's former lawyer Waldman had called Heard's abuse allegations after a fight the couple had in 2016, a hoax. His statement read, "Quite simply this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911." As per the testimony of two officers, there were no signs Heard was injured. However, she did appear in public with a mark on her face a few days later and sought a temporary restraining order. Jurors concluded that Waldman acted with actual malice, and that his statement was false and defamatory.

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Third counts against Heard and Depp

Heard wrote in a second paragraph of the op-ed, "I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” Depp's attorneys claimed that it clearly referred to Depp despite not naming him. The jury found, in this case, that Heard had defamed Depp with “actual malice”. 

The third count against Waldman involved the statement, "We have reached the beginning of the end of Ms. Heard’s abuse hoax against Johnny Depp.” According to the jury, Heard's lawyers failed to prove that the statement was defamatory.

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For the uninitiated, Depp and Heard were squaring off over a 2018 op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post, where she called herself a domestic violence survivor. Depp has claimed that he was booted from the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise because Heard's op-ed clearly implicated that he was the abuser. The article, however, did not mention Depp by name. The actor sued Heard for $50 million and she countersued him for $100 million, claiming Depp ran a smear campaign for years in an attempt to silence her and destroy her acting career. 

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Depp and Heard began dating after meeting on the set of the 2011 film 'The Rum Diary'. They got married in Los Angeles in February 2015. In 2016, Heard obtained a restraining order against Depp, accusing him of abuse. Depp, however, denied the claims, saying that her accusations were a "choreographed hoax”. In 2019, the two settled their divorce out of court. At the time, Heard said she had donated her $7m (£5.5m) settlement to charity. Depp later accused her of lying about it. 

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During the course of the trial, Depp gave explosive testimony insisting that Heard belittled him for his age and even threw a glass vodka bottle at his hand, severing the tip of his right middle finger. Heard also made some shocking allegations against her ex-husband saying that Depp sexually assaulted her with his fingers and with a bottle, and claimed that his own rage and jealousy were fueled by nightlong cocaine and alcohol binges. The trial probed deep into each party's lives, exposing details about their financial lives, childhood physical abuse and more.

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