A Virginia jury has found that actress Amber Heard defamed Hollywood star Johnny Depp when she wrote a 2018 'Washington Post' op-ed alluding to her past claims of domestic violence, reports 'Variety'. The jury also found that Depp defamed Heard, through his attorney, in the course of fighting back against her charges. It awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages, plus $5 million in punitive damages, which Judge Penney Azcarate reduced to $350,000 in accordance with the state's statutory cap.
Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages for her counterclaim. The jury, five men and two women, who have been deliberating on their verdict since this past Friday, also found that Heard had acted with "actual malice", meaning that they were convinced she had made the statements knowing they were false, according to 'Variety'. Responding to the verdict from the United Kingdom, where he has been attending concerts, Depp said Heard's false claims had "a seismic impact on my life and my career".
He said: "And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled." Depp added that he was "overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness from around the world," and that the verdict left him "at peace". Though the jury awarded damages to both sides, the outcome is a clear win for Depp, who lost a similar trial in the United Kingdom in 2020, notes 'Variety'. Depp brought that lawsuit after 'The Sun' newspaper called him a "wife beater".
The judge had ruled that Heard's allegations were "substantially true". The lingering question now, according to 'Variety', is whether Depp can rehabilitate his film career, which has been moribund for the last four years. In a statement, Heard said she was "disappointed" and "heartbroken" by the outcome. "The disappointment I feel today is beyond words," Heard said. "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 also pointed out that the verdict was "a setback" for women. "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." Raising the issue of freedom of speech, Heard said Depp's attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook this "key issue" and "ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK". She concluded by saying: "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."