Johnny Depp's legal team has hit back after ex-wife Amber Heard appealed to have his $10 million defamation compensation overturned.
In court papers filed on Monday, Depp’s lawyers dispute arguments from Heard’s team that the jury’s verdict was "excessive" and "improperly" reached. They also say complaints about the juror’s identity are irrelevant — last week, Heard's team contested the actual seated juror was not the same person listed on the jury panel.
The verdict in favour of Depp was "well-supported by the overwhelming evidence (and) consistent with the law" and the appeals "verge into the frivolous", his lawyers said.
Last month, a civil jury in Virginia, US, awarded $10.35m in damages to Depp after they found he was defamed by Heard when she wrote a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post about domestic violence.
The jury also awarded $2m to Heard on her counterclaim that she was defamed by one of Depp’s attorneys after he called her allegations a hoax.
Heard’s lawyers filed motions earlier this month asking the judge to throw out the verdicts on a variety of legal theories.
Heard’s lead lawyer Elaine Bredehoft also filed a supplement to a post-trial motion requesting a mistrial. According to that filing, first reported by Deadline, Bredehoft contested the actual seated juror was not the same person listed on the jury panel.
“As the court no doubt agrees, it is deeply troubling for an individual not summoned for jury duty nonetheless to appear for jury duty and serve on a jury, especially in a case such as this,” the filing said.
In April, one jury summons was sent to a Virginia address, but someone else at the residence having the same last name appeared before the court, Heard’s lawyer argued. The juror seated for the trial was born in 1945 and another legal resident at that address was born in 1970.
On Monday, Depp’s lawyers filed their response.
They argue there was nothing inconsistent in the fact the jury awarded judgments in favour of both Depp and Heard. They said the jury verdict form allowed jurors to be very specific about which statements were libellous and the verdict makes sense when you look at the specific statements cited by the jury.
As for the confusion over the juror’s identity, Depp’s lawyers say it’s too late for Heard’s team to object. According to court papers, a summons went out to a 77-year-old man. But the man who responded in his place was his 52-year-old son, who has the same name and lives at the same address.
Depp’s lawyers argue if Heard’s team had concerns, they should have spoken up at the time because it was apparent that the man who served was not 77 years old, even though court paperwork described him as such.
"Though understandably displeased with the outcome of trial, Ms Heard has identified no legitimate basis to set aside in any respect the jury's decision," they said.
"Virginia law is clear that a verdict is not to be set aside unless it is 'plainly wrong or without evidence to support it'. Mr Depp respectfully submits that the court should deny Ms Heard's post-trial motions, which verge into the frivolous."
Judge Penney Azcarate has not yet indicated if she plans to hold a hearing to hear arguments on the motions to set aside the verdict.
The verdict in Virginia came two years after a similar trial in the UK in which Depp sued a British tabloid after he was described as a “wife beater.” The judge in that case ruled in the newspaper’s favour after finding Heard was telling the truth in her descriptions of abuse.
Jurors in the Virginia case were not told the judge in the British case had ruled against Depp.
— Additional reporting by AP and PA News