Amber Heard was found liable for defaming Johnny Depp in an op-ed published in the Washington Post, and Depp was found liable for a statement his attorney made to the Daily Mail calling her claims a hoax, a jury decided Wednesday. Jurors awarded Depp a total of $15 million in damages and Heard $2 million.
While the jury found Depp should receive $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the judge said state law caps punitive damages at $350,000, meaning Depp’s award would total $10.35 million.
In a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram Heard said,Depp said in a statement posted to Instagram,
The verdict marked the end of a dramatic trial in the civil suit that laid bare the troubled marriage between the stars.
Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia for $50 million over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers say he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.
Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming Depp’s attorney defamed her by calling her abuse allegations a hoax.
The jury notified Judge Penney Azcarate that they reached the verdict early in the afternoon, but reading of the verdict was delayed so they could fill in the amount of monetary awards on the jury form.
CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson said the mixed verdict indicates that the jury evaluated each of the six statements in isolation and took the claims of defamation carefully.
“It wasn’t just a case of, ‘We like Johnny Depp, we don’t like Amber Heard,'” she said, noting that Depp won on all three statements in his suit and Heard won on one of the three in her counterclaim.
“I think the end of the day, the punchline is that the jury found they both lied,” Levinson said.
In his statement, Depp said, “The goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained stedfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.”
Heard, in her statement, said she is sad that that she lost the case, but “sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly.” She said the verdict sets back women and the treatment of domestic violence victims.
The jury began deliberations Friday afternoon, after six weeks of disturbing and sometimes graphic testimony.
Both Depp and Heard testified twice. The jury also heard extensive recordings attorneys said displayed violent behavior and saw text messages, including between Depp and fellow actor Paul Bettany, that discussed substance use and contained obscene language.
Heard’sto seeing Depp strike her, and a friend testified about seeing her cuts and bruises.
Supermodel Kate Moss also appeared via video link, adding to the spectacle as broadcast cameras in the courtroom captured every twist to an increasingly rapt audience as fans weighed in on social media and lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats.
Closing arguments were delivered Friday. By the time the court broke for lunch, jurors had head from attorneys for both Depp and Heard — who then had a combined 45 minutes to present rebuttal closings later Friday afternoon. The case went to the jury later in the day, for the final stage in what has been six weeks of courtroom drama that peeled back the curtain on the stars’ troubled marriage.
The jury was instructed to focus its deliberation not only on whether there was abuse but also whether Heard’s op-ed piece can be considered legally defamatory. The article itself focuses mostly on policy questions of domestic violence, but Depp’s lawyer point to two passages in the article, as well as an online headline that they say defamed Depp.