Johnny Depp vs The Sun Part 2? Petition launched to allow star to appeal UK ruling for media giant
A petition to allow Johnny Depp to re-appeal his UK case against The Sun following a US jury's unanimous verdict in his favor has crossed 52,000 signatures.
In one of the most-discussed trials in recent times, a Virginia-based jury ruled in a unanimous decision that Heard, 36, defamed Depp, 58, when she called herself a victim of domestic abuse in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post. Heard was ordered to pay $15 million in damages, including $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, before Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the punitive damages to $350,000 as per Virginia state law. The jury also awarded Heard compensatory damages of $2 million as she was defamed when Depp's lawyer Adam Waldman called her abuse allegations a hoax.
Daniel ShenSmith, a practicing barrister in England and Wales, has now launched a change.org petition to allow the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' star to re-appeal a UK judge's 2020 ruling that he assaulted his ex-wife. "Following the jury trial in Johnny Depp v Amber Heard in the United States (John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard (CL–2019–2911), the jury returned the unanimous verdict that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp in her statements of the alleged abuse and, therefore, that the alleged abuse did not occur," ShenSmith, who calls himself 'Blackbelt Barrister' on social media, wrote. "This is in stark contrast with the UK judgment, rendering it wholly incompatible as a matter of natural justice," he added.
ShenSmith cited several reasons for allowing the re-appeal, including inconsistent evidential findings in both trials as well as issues with disclosure. "Amber Heard was not a party to the claim, she was not subject to the same disclosure obligations under our civil procedure rules," the barrister said of the UK trial. "Mr Depp's lawyers made an application for third-party disclosure against Amber Heard (as required by the rules), but this was refused." The petition has crossed 52,000 signatures of its 75,000 goal at the time of publication.
A similar petition was launched on the UK Parliament website by writer PJ Blackmoore. "I've started a petition to: 1) Review Judge Andrew Nicol for misconduct during the trial of #JohnnyDepp vs The Sun. 2) Investigate perjury accusations against #AmberHeard. 3) Allow #Depp to appeal the ruling," Blackmoore wrote on Twitter. If you are a British citizen or UK resident, you can sign up here.
Last year, a British court refused Depp permission to appeal a judge's ruling that he assaulted Heard, saying his attempt to overturn the decision had "no real prospect of success." Two Court of Appeal judges, namely James Dingemans and Nicholas Underhill, said the 'Donnie Brasco' star couldn't challenge the High Court’s rejection of his libel lawsuit against NGN, the publisher of The Sun newspaper, for branding him as a “wife-beater” in an article. The justices said the earlier hearing was "full and fair" and that the trial judge's conclusions “have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law.”
In November 2020, High Court Justice Andrew Nicol ruled that allegations against Depp made in an April 2018 article were "substantially true" and that the star had assaulted his ex-wife on several occasions. Depp's lawyers argued that their client hadn't received a fair hearing and that Heard was an unreliable witness, considering she hadn't kept her promise to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity.
However, the appeals judges declared that it was “pure speculation, and in our view very unlikely” that Judge Nicol’s decision was influenced by the fate of the divorce money. “It is clear from a reading of the judgment as a whole that the judge based his conclusions on each of the incidents on his extremely detailed review of the evidence specific to each incident,” they said. “In an approach of that kind, there was little need or room for the judge to give weight to any general assessment of Ms. Heard’s credibility.”
At the UK trial, Depp admitted to having drug problems but accused Heard of making false accusations about domestic abuse. He said he was "not a violent person, especially with women.” After the appeal was rejected, Heard's public relations firm said she was "pleased - but by no means surprised” by the decision. “Mr. Depp’s claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the court,” they said in a statement at the time.