ADVANTAGE AMBER HEARD? Jury instructions ruling spurs actress ahead of verdict

The judge ruled jurors will not consider if Depp’s former attorney Adam Waldman had free speech protection while making allegations against Heard


                            ADVANTAGE AMBER HEARD? Jury instructions ruling spurs actress ahead of verdict
Actress Amber Heard arrives at the Fairfax County Courthouse on May 25, 2022, in Fairfax, Virginia (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
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Judge Penney Azcarate, who is presiding over the ongoing defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, decided ahead of the final verdict that jurors will not consider if Depp’s former attorney Adam Waldman had free speech protection while making allegations against Heard.

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Waldman has been at the center of the sensational trial between the exes. Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for more than $50 million after she penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2018, claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse. The article does not name Depp and Heard's lawyers have said it is protected by freedom of speech. However, Depp's legal team has argued that the article's implications were obvious and that this damaged their client's acting career. Heard has countersued for $100 million, saying she isn't a liar and that her ex-husband assaulted her several times during their relationship.

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Heard's lawyers claimed in their filing that Waldman had defamed their client on behalf of Depp by calling her abuse allegations a "hoax." The attorney was later removed from Depp's team after it emerged that he allegedly leaked information about the defamation case to the press. 


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Jury instructions are directives written by the presiding judge for the jurors prior to deliberation after all the evidence is presented and closing arguments are delivered. These instructions are the jury's only guidance while deliberating a particular case and are meant to keep the panel on track about the basic procedures and the substance of the law that can be used to make a decision. Attorneys from each camp propose a set of instructions to the judge at the end of a trial, aimed at seeking decisions beneficial to their client. The judge subsequently reviews the content and phrasing of the instructions before handing them over to the jury, according to the Legal Information Institute.

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Judge Azcarate appeared to side with Heard's legal team in a primary ruling on jury instructions on May 26 after both sides rested their case in the Fairfax County Circuit Court. The judge ruled that statements made by Depp's former lawyer Waldman wouldn't qualify for the privilege as his statements weren't in response to anything Heard said or wrote. One of Depp's lawyers argued that Waldman's statements were in response to The Sun branding their client as a "wife-beater," but the judge said, "They have to be Ms Heard’s statements.”

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Waldman reportedly told the Daily Mail in 2020 that Heard's allegations against Depp were a "hoax." “Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual violence allegations as both a sword and shield, depending on their needs," he said at the time. "They have selected some of her sexual violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr Depp.” The previous year, the lawyer reportedly told The Blast that the actress had "painted" her bruises back in 2016 in order to obtain a temporary restraining order against Depp.

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Actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp attend The Art of Elysium 2016 HEAVEN Gala presented by Vivienne Westwood & Andreas Kronthaler at 3LABS on January 9, 2016, in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Art of Elysium)

Depp's lawyers have argued in the ongoing trial that Waldman's qualification for privilege should be decided by a jury. “The statements were clearly in direct response to Ms Heard’s allegations on their face," attorney Samuel Moniz said. "Whether that response was fair and reasonable is a jury question.” But Judge Azcarate explained that the privilege in jury instruction can only be claimed when there is no actual malice. “The only way to find defamatory statements, in this case, is if there’s actual malice. That’s unique to this case, and I understand that. But if they find actual malice in the defamatory statements, you don’t have protected speech privilege anyway," she said.

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However, the judge sided with Depp's team in another ruling on jury instructions, saying jurors must not be asked to draw inferences from objections raised during Waldman's deposition. That said, closing arguments for the trial began on Friday, May 27, and the jury will probably "get the case" before the Memorial Day weekend, Law and Crime Network reported.

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Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.