Jury Awards Johnny Depp $15 Million in Amber Heard-Johnny Depp Defamation Trial

After six weeks of highly publicized testimony, the jury has reached a verdict in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial. Following jury deliberation that began Friday, May 27, they awarded Depp $15 million in damages.

Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard over an op-ed she wrote in 2018

Over the course of the six-week defamation trial in Virginia, lawyers for both Heard and Depp questioned a number of witnesses about the relationship between the former couple. They met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary. In 2015, they married, but Heard filed for divorce just 15 months later. Per People, she also filed a temporary restraining order, alleging domestic violence.

In 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Per The Washington Post, Depp, who has denied allegations of abuse, sued Heard for $50 million. She countersued for $100 million when Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, called her allegations a hoax. Depp previously lost a British case against The Sun newspaper for calling him a “wife beater” in a headline.

The case’s opening arguments began on April 12, 2022, and went to the jury on May 27.

The jury awarded Johnny Depp $15 million in damages

After deliberations began Friday, May 27, and paused for Memorial Day weekend, the jury reconvened on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, they sided with Depp. Per NBC News, the jury awarded Depp $15 million in damages. He received $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit. They also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages but no money in punitive damages.

Following the decision, Heard released a statement.

“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. 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.”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s lawyers presented their closing arguments on May 27, 2022

On May 27, Depp and Heard’s lawyers presented their closing arguments on the case. Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez pointed out a lack of specific evidence and witnesses to Depp’s alleged abuse of Heard.

“She didn’t just want a divorce,” Vasquez said of Heard, per Vanity Fair. “She wanted to ruin him.”

Benjamin Chew, also representing Depp, spoke about Depp’s childhood in an abusive household. He also noted that no other women have claimed that Depp abused them. 

Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, urged the jury to “think about the message that Mr. Depp and his attorneys are sending to Amber, and by extension, every victim of domestic abuse everywhere: If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen. If you did take pictures, they’re fake. If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying. If you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax.”

He also pointed to the precedent the case could set for other survivors of domestic abuse. Some fear that the case could provide alleged perpetrators of abuse with more avenues to silence survivors. Some also worry that the extensive media coverage and social media campaigns against Heard could make survivors hesitant to come forward.

“This trial is about so much more than Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard,” Rottenborn said. “It’s about the freedom of speech. Stand up for it, protect it, and reject Mr. Depp’s claims against Amber.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

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