Amber Heard and Johnny Depp settle after defamation lawsuit appeal

Actress ordered to pay millions in damages to former husband after trial in Virginia

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp appear in court earlier this year. AP
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Actress Amber Heard said on Monday that she has decided to settle the defamation case brought against her by ex-husband Johnny Depp, ending an appeal she initiated after the trial.

In a post on Instagram, Heard stated that her decision to settle “not an act of concession”.

“I have made no admission … There are no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward,” she wrote.

Earlier this year, she was ordered by a Virginia jury to pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — the latter sum of which was knocked down to $350,000 — following a defamation case the actor brought against her.

The case was based on claims of domestic abuse Heard made against a former partner — which Depp argued was a reference to him — in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

The jury ruled that the two stars had defamed each other — Heard by publishing the op-ed and Depp via a statement made by his lawyer in which his ex-wife was accused of perpetrating a “hoax”.

Heard secured one of three counterclaims against Depp and was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages. He is currently appealing against the decision.

In her Instagram post, the actress blasted the US legal system, saying her “unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder”.

The actress compared the US system to that of the UK, where Depp sued British tabloid The Sun in 2020 for calling him a “wife beater” in an article. Heard served as chief witness for The Sun in that case, which the tabloid won and the “court found that I [she] was subjected to domestic and sexual violence”.

In her home country, however, she said: “I exhausted almost all my resources in advance of and during a trial in which I was subject to a courtroom in which abundant, direct evidence that corroborated my testimony was excluded and in which popularity and power mattered more than reason and due process.

“In the interim, I was exposed to a type of humiliation that I simply cannot relive.”

Despite her decision to settle, she said that she would not be “threatened, disheartened or dissuaded by what happened from speaking the truth”.

“No one can and no one will take that from me,” she added. “My voice forever remains the most valuable asset I have.”

Depp and Heard met in 2009 when she auditioned to star opposite him in The Rum Diary. They married in 2015, but it was short-lived.

In May 2016, Heard filed for divorce and for a temporary restraining order against Depp, submitting a declaration describing his temper, paranoia and substance abuse issues.

During the trial, Depp denied he had ever abused Heard or any other partner and instead claimed that Heard had abused him.

The jury heard accounts of abuse from both actors as well as family members, friends, coworkers and employees.

And the case was weighed heavily in the court of public opinion.

One of the witnesses in Heard's defence, Ron Schnell — a social media expert and member of the Berkeley Research Group — said he had seen more than a million negative tweets about Heard and that the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag was the biggest trending topic throughout the trial.

Following the verdict, Heard's supporters were deeply disappointed, with many seeing it as another instance of a powerful man getting away with abuse.

Depp's supporters, meanwhile, saw the verdict as a victory for male victims of domestic violence.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 7:56 PM
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