Jury finds Depp, Heard both liable for defamation
A Virginia jury on Wednesday found that Johnny Depp and his former spouse, Amber Heard, both defamed each other, awarding $15 million in damages to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star and $2 million to Heard.
The Wednesday verdict in the high-profile defamation case marked a big win for Depp, whose legal team had argued that an op-ed about sexual violence penned by Heard harmed his Hollywood career.
The verdict awarded $5 million in punitive damages and $10 million in compensatory damages to Depp, though Virginia only allows awards of up to $350,000 in punitive damages. Heard won $2 million as part of a countersuit.
Depp had sued Heard for $50 million in damages. In a $100 million counterclaim, Heard accused Depp of damaging her reputation by dubbing her a liar following her allegations of sexual violence against him.
The 58-year-old “Rum Diary” star had claimed that Heard, who married him in 2015 before divorcing a year later, ruined his reputation by insinuating he abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The op-ed, in which Heard spoke out against sexual violence, never named Depp.
Heard said she was “heartbroken” by the ruling.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” Heard said in a statement immediately following the verdict. “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,” she said.
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. 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,” Heard said.
Depp said in a statement that he was “truly humbled” by the decision, saying, “The jury gave me my life back.”
“From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome,” Depp said.
“Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that,” he said.
The jury’s decision brings an end to a star-studded trial that quickly swelled into a media firestorm.
Depp, who was seen performing at a concert in England earlier in the week, was not present in the courtroom as the verdict was read on Wednesday.
The verdict came after Depp’s case against the “Aquaman” actor generated headlines around the world as both fans and critics became regular court watchers, viewing livestreams and breathless coverage of the daily proceedings in Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Thirty-six-year-old Heard had testified that Depp had physically and sexually abused her throughout much of their relationship. She claimed in court that she masked bruises on her face with makeup.
Denying he ever physically assaulted his ex-wife, Depp claimed that Heard was the one who mentally and physically abused him in the past.
Including explosive testimony from Heard and Depp, the six-week trial also included a host of Hollywood witnesses, with model Kate Moss and actor Ellen Barkin both offering testimony, along with a parade of talent agents, doctors, and friends and family members.
Heard claimed in stirring testimony that Depp had assaulted her the night before a fight between the couple that severed one of her then-husband’s fingertips. Depp had claimed that Heard had thrown a vodka bottle at him.
“At some point I shoved him hard, to get him off me, and he shoved me back,” Heard told the court of Depp.
“Johnny had the bottle inside of me, and he shoved it into me over and over again,” Heard testified.
On the stand, Depp described what it was like listening to his ex-wife’s testimony throughout the trial, saying, “It’s insane to hear heinous accusations of violence, sexual violence … that she’s accusing me of.”
“[It’s] horrible, ridiculous, humiliating, ludicrous, painful, savage, unimaginably brutal, cruel,” Depp said.
Jurors had deliberated since Friday before delivering their verdict.
Updated at 4:08 p.m.