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Judge Penney Azcarate in the Fairfax County Circuit Court JIM WATSON via PA

Jury awards $15m in damages to Depp and $2m to Heard in high-profile verdict

The jury deliberated for 13 hours before reaching a decision.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Jun 2022

A JURY HAS decided that actress Amber Heard made defamatory claims of abuse against her ex-husband Johnny Depp and awarded him $15 million in damages.

The seven-member jury in Virginia found that a 2018 article penned by Heard on the “sexual violence” she had suffered was defamatory to Depp, and was written with malicious intent, making her guilty of libel. 

Heard won one of her counter-claims for comments made by Depp’s lawyer in the Daily Mail, with the jury awarding her $2 million.

The jury deliberated for about 13 hours and the verdict was read out at 3pm local time.

Depp did not attend the court for the verdict.

In a statement, Heard said she was disappointed “beyond words”.

“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 said.

“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback… It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously,” she said. 

The jury met for a full day yesterday and returned this morning to Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia, near the US capital, to continue their discussions.

Closing arguments in the high-profile case were held on Friday at the end of a six-week trial riding on claims and counterclaims of domestic abuse between the Hollywood celebrities.

 58-year-old Depp filed a suit against Heard over statements in an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.

Heard did not name Depp in the piece but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and sought $50 million in damages.

36-year-old Heard countersued for $100 million, saying she was defamed by statements made by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, who told the Daily Mail her abuse claims were a “hoax”.

The jury worked through an eight-page verdict form that contained 24 questions relating to Depp’s suit against Heard and 18 questions relating to her countersuit against him.

Both needed to prove the statements were defamatory, and to win compensatory or punitive damages and the jury needed to find they were made with actual malice – with knowledge that they were false or with “reckless disregard” for whether they were false or not.

Dozens of witnesses testified during the trial, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, doctors, friends and relatives. Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial.

Video and audio recordings of heated, profanity-laced arguments between the couple were played for the jury, which was also shown photographs of injuries allegedly suffered by Heard during their volatile relationship.

Hours of testimony were devoted to a grisly finger injury that Depp suffered while filming an installment of Pirates of the Caribbean in Australia in March 2015.

Depp claimed the tip of a finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him. Heard said she did not know how the injury occurred.

Both agreed that Depp went on to scrawl messages on walls, lampshades and mirrors using the bloody digit.

Heard said Depp would become a physically and sexually abusive “monster” during alcohol- and drug-fueled binges and resisted her repeated efforts to curb his drinking and drug use.

Depp testified that it was Heard who was frequently violent and said it was “brutal” to listen to “outlandish” accusations of domestic abuse made against him.

“No human being is perfect, certainly not, none of us, but I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse,” he said.

Heard, who was married to Depp from 2015 to 2017, obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016, citing domestic violence.

Depp filed a libel suit in London against the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” He lost that case in November 2020.

Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers.

AFP 2022