Two accused actors were found liable for defamation by a court. They were awarded significantly more damages to Depp, who is a legal professional for them.
Actor Johnny Depp sued actress Amber Heard, his ex-wife, for defamation over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Depp claims the article cost him lucrative acting roles. Heard countersued her ex-husband for defamation over statements Depp’s attorney made about her abuse claims. A jury found that Heard defamed Depp in three separate statements in The Washington Post piece, and that Depp defamed Heard with one statement his attorney made.
In the Depp v. Heard case, a jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no money for punitive damages. Depp sought $50 million in damages, while Heard sought $100 million. Punitive damages in Virginia are capped at $350,000, so the judge reduced the punitive damages award to that amount.
According to CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, the verdict is a “tremendous” legal win for actor Johnny Depp and a repudiation for Amber Heard, who was sued by Depp over a column written by The Washington Post’s Roxanne Gay. “It’s a tremendous victory,” Jackson said. “What he had to overcome was a First Amendment issue which is that we all have the right to express our thoughts and opinions. What they (the jurors) said was that, yeah, you do have a First Amendment right unless you say something that is false that injures someone’s reputation and causes damages to them in their industry.” David Shane, a spokesman for Heard, said she plans to appeal the verdict.
Depp and Heard react to the verdict
Heard kept her eyes down in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Depp was not present in the court room. In a statement he released on his website and social media accounts, he said, “The jury gave me my life back.” The actor 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,” he said. He concluded by saying, “I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.”
On Wednesday, Depp’s attorneys thanked the jury and said it was time to move on. “We are grateful to the jury for their careful deliberation, to the judge and court staff who have devoted an enormous amount of time and resources towards this case,” attorney Camille Vasquez told reporters outside court. Heard said in a statement she was “heartbroken” over the verdict.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” Amber Heard said during a statement Friday. “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.” Heard is best known for her roles in films such as “Friday Night Lights” and “Pineapple Express”; she and Depp met on the set of their film “The Rum Diary” in 2009 before marrying in 2015. They divorced in 2016.
Heard’s testimony involved accusations of physical and verbal abuse by Depp. Depp claimed on the stand that he has never struck a woman, denied Heard’s allegations of sexual battery and called himself a victim of domestic abuse by Heard, which she denies.
The pair’s relationship was highlighted in a California court during the trial, which began on April 13, 2017. Depp and Heard’s attorneys presented witnesses with photographs, audio and video recordings to make their cases. One expert, Laurel Anderson, a clinical psychologist who worked with Depp and Heard in 2015 as their marriage counselor, said in testimony played on April 14 that the pair’s relationship had what she characterized as “mutual abuse.”During the trial, Depp’s team presented witnesses that included model Kate Moss (with whom he had a relationship previously), and Walter Hamada (the head of DC Films). Actress Ellen Barkin and a number of former Depp associates testified on Heard’s behalf. Heard had notably fewer vocal supporters than Depp in the entertainment business and in and around the courthouse.