A Virginia jury has ruled that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp when she wrote an op-ed in 2018 for the Washington Post that alluded to her past claims of domestic violence against her ex-husband. However, the jury also found that the actor defamed his former wife, through his attorney, while fighting back against her charges, Variety is reporting.
As a result of its ruling, the jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages, plus an additional $5 million in punitive damages. However, the judge who’s ruling over the case, Penney Azcarate reduced the latter damages to $350,000, in accordance with the state’s statutory cap.
The jury also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages for her counterclaim against Depp.
The jury’s verdict stated that the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom actress had defamed the Oscar-nominated actor through three statements she made in the op-ed. The ruling also found that Heard had acted with “actual malice,” which means the jurors were convinced she made the statements knowing they were false.
But the jury did rule in favor of Heard on one out of three statements that Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, made in the Daily Mail. The lawyer for the Pirates of the Caribbean series actor asserted that the actress and her friends set up “an ambush, a hoax,” when police were called to the couple’s apartment in May 2016.
In a statement after the verdict, Depp said that Heard’s false claims had “a seismic impact on my life and my career…And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”
The actor added that he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness from around the world.” He also shared that he was left with a feeling of peace after the verdict was read.
“From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome,” Depp continued. “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.”
Though the jury awarded damages to both sides, the outcome is a major win for Depp, who lost a similar trial in the United Kingdom in 2020. The actor filed that lawsuit after The Sun newspaper called him a “wife beater.” However, the judge in that case ruled that Heard’s allegations are “substantially true.”
The actress also issued a statement, in which she said she was disappointed and heartbroken by the verdict. “The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” she shared. “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 added that she’s “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.”
The actress continued, “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.
“I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly,” Heard also declared.
Heard was in the Fairfax, Virginia courtroom when the verdict was read. Depp watched the ruling being read from the United Kingdom, where he has been appearing at concerts.
The jury, which featured five men and two women, began deliberating on Friday afternoon. They returned to the courtroom with the verdict this afternoon.
Depp said he brought the lawsuit against his ex-wife in March 2019 because she had implicitly accused him of domestic violence in the op-ed. In the article, Heard called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” She never cited her ex-husband by name in the piece, but he alleged that it still left a devastating impact on his career.
Depp testified that he filed the lawsuit to clear the record, in an effort to restore his reputation in the film industry. He also wants to restore his image for the sake of his two children with his former partner, French singer-actress-model, Vanessa Paradis. Their daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, is also an actress and model.
Heard countersued her ex-husband in August 2020, alleging that Waldman had defamed her in a series of statements to the Daily Mail. She also testified that she has been threatened on social media on a daily basis since she made the claims against Depp. The actress added that her career has also suffered since her op-ed was published.
In response, Depp testified during the six-week trial that Heard was the real abuser. He acknowledged that they had arguments, but denied ever hitting her.
Heard retorted by alleging that Depp had routinely hit her, particularly while he was either drunk or using drugs. She added that it was humiliating to have to relive the experience during the televised trial, and she wished for the whole experience to be over.
The actress now is expected to appeal the verdict. Her lawyers may take issue with a series of pre-trial rulings, including one that denied a motion to move the case out of Virginia.