Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial outcome will have a 'chilling effect' on abuse victims
There is a possibility that the jury could be unpersuaded by either side and determine neither Depp nor Heard should be awarded damages, say experts
While the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is on a week-long break, people are wondering what the end result will be like. The result of this case lies in the hands of a Virginia jury, which includes seven jurors who will decide whether the 58-year-old actor wins it or the 36-year-old actress.
"The jury is going to determine damages for both the claim and the counterclaim. If the jury finds Amber was liable for Mr. Depp it would determine damages, if it found that Mr. Depp was liable for Amber's counterclaims it makes a determination of damages," a source told The New York Post.
Depp filed a $50 million defamation suit against his former wife, Heard, claiming she harmed his reputation and career when she wrote the Washington Post op-ed claiming she was a victim of domestic abuse. Though Heard did not name Depp in the article, the actor's lawsuit says, "The op-ed depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her." Heard then filed a $100 million countersuit, alleging that Depp and his legal team defamed her by calling her allegations a hoax.
The trial being held at the Fairfax County Courthouse is already in its fourth week. After the one-week break, it is currently on, the trial will resume. Closing arguments are set for May 27 and the jury will start deliberating the former couple's fate after that. A source close to Heard's team feels there is a possibility that the jury could be unpersuaded by either side and determine neither Depp nor Heard should be awarded damages.
"Jury decides damages and yes it is possible that no damages are awarded," said a spokesperson for Depp. If the jury doesn't find Heard should be on the hook in Depp's case, she would be entitled to recoup the cost of her legal fees from Depp. The amount would be determined by a judge later, stated a source.
Experts observed that in case the jury finds that the couple was mutually abusive then it means that Heard's op-ed may have been a true account or that she may have been 'deceptive' and told only half the truth. Heard and Depp's relationship being 'mutually abusive' was a divisive analysis that was previously put forth by Dr Laurel Anderson, Heard and Depp's former couples therapist, in a pre-recorded deposition. Jill Huntley Taylor, a legal analyst and the CEO of Taylor Trial spoke to EW explaining that Depp will have to prove that the op-ed was intended malice on Heard's part to prevail in court.
However, Halim Dhanidina, a former California judge and current criminal defense attorney. weighed in on the celebrity trial and said: "Any time a defamation lawsuit is successful, it has a chilling effect on speech. There has always been a chilling effect for victims to come forward and speak out against institutions or entities or people with power because they feel like their world could come crashing down on them."
If the hypothetical win leads to a substantial money judgment awarded to Depp, Dhanidia told The New York Post, "Then I'm sure there are people out there who would think twice about making statements if those statements could expose them to legal liability. We don't want to create a world where people feel like they can say whatever they want even if they know it's not true. A verdict will have a chilling effect one way or the other regardless of what the verdict is."
Even Taylor says: "No matter who wins, there are truly no winners. This is a case of a toxic relationship, and no one is coming out of it unscathed, regardless of whether monies change hands." But what must be observed is that the 'Aquaman' actress does not risk prison time since she doesn’t face any criminal charges, just civil claims.