Johnny Depp wins defamation case against Amber Heard

Actor awarded $15m in damages for loss of work in Hollywood, though actress will receive $2m through rival suit

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A Virginia jury on Wednesday found both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp liable for defamation in rival lawsuits, but awarded Depp millions of dollars more in damages in a stunning victory for the Pirates of the Caribbean star.

The jury awarded $15 million to Depp while Heard was awarded $2m in damages after a star-studded, six-week trial that captivated the world and shone an unflattering light on the lives of two Hollywood stars.

Depp had brought the case against Heard, claiming the actress had defamed him in an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse.

He said Heard's column had precipitated an "endless barrage of hateful content" that had a "seismic impact on my life and on my career."

"And six years later, the jury gave my life back. I am truly humbled," Depp said in a statement posted on Instagram.

Though Depp was never mentioned in the Post column by name, the actor said the article caused him to lose work in Hollywood, including the lucrative role of Capt Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Heard countersued, saying Depp's lawyer had smeared her by calling her abuse claims "a hoax" in another newspaper article.

In her own statement, Heard said the verdict was a setback for other women.

“The disappointment I feel today is 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.

"It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."

Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised about two years later.

The verdict came after the jury deliberated for 12 hours and 45 minutes over the course of three days.

During six weeks of evidence, Heard's lawyers argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were protected as free speech under the US Constitution's First Amendment.

Throughout the case, jurors listened to recordings of the couple's fights and saw graphic photos, including one of Depp's bloody finger. He said the top of the finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.

Heard denied injuring Depp, saying that he had assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle. She said she struck him only to defend herself and her sister.

Jurors and millions of online viewers heard more gruelling and painful accounts of alcohol-fuelled rages, explicit details of alleged abuse and mental cruelty as well as acrimonious text exchanges between the former couple.

During proceedings, Fans flocked to the Fairfax County Courthouse in northern Virginia to try to nab a seat in the courtroom or simply catch a glimpse of the actors.

After Wednesday's verdict, crowds thronged the courthouse. The most vocal contingent were Depp fans, who whooped with delight after the verdicts were read.

The trial extended far beyond the courthouse, with people across the country and the world weighing in on the case on social media.

Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against The Sun, a British tabloid that had labelled him a "wife beater".

A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.

"I believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of freedom of speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK," Heard said in her statement.

Updated: June 02, 2022, 7:37 AM
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