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Johnny Depp wins multimillion-dollar US defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard

The jury also found in favour of Amber Heard on several counts
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Picture: AP

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Picture: AP

Denise Lavoie

A jury has found in favour of Johnny Depp in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.

The jury also found in favour of Heard, who said she was defamed by Depp’s lawyer when he called her abuse allegations a hoax.

Jury members found Depp should be awarded $15 million in damages, while Heard should receive $2 million.

In a statement released immediately after the verdicts came in, the Aquaman actress said: "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.

"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."

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In his statement, Depp said: “Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed.

"All in the blink of an eye.

"False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me.

"It had already travelled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it 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.

"My decision to pursue this case, knowing very well the height of the legal hurdles that I would be facing and the inevitable, worldwide spectacle into my life, was only made after considerable thought.

"From the very beginning, 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 steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.

"I am, and have been, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness from around the world.

"I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation, and that those supporting them never give up.

"I also hope that the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media.

"I wish to acknowledge the noble work of the Judge, the jurors, the court staff and the Sheriffs who have sacrificed their own time to get to this point, and to my diligent and unwavering legal team who did an extraordinary job in helping me to share the truth.

"The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun.

"Veritas numquam perit.

"Truth never perishes."

Actor Amber Heard speaks to her legal team in the courtroom. Photo: AP

Actor Amber Heard speaks to her legal team in the courtroom. Photo: AP

The verdicts bring an end to a televised trial that Depp had hoped would help restore his reputation, though it turned into a spectacle of a vicious marriage. Fans — overwhelmingly on Depp’s side — lined up overnight to grab a seat in the courtroom. Spectators who couldn’t get in lined up on the street to cheer Depp and jeer Heard whenever either appeared outside.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

While Amber Heard was in court for the decision, Depp watched the verdict being read in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard from the UK.

“Due to previously scheduled work commitments made before the trial, Mr Depp will not be physically present for today’s 3pm verdict and will be watching from the United Kingdom,” a source close to Mr Depp told Law & Crime in a statement. Earlier this week, he performed on stage with rocker Jeff Beck at a London show.

“Your presence shows where your priorities are. Johnny Depp plays guitar in the UK while Amber Heard waits for a verdict in Virginia. Depp is taking his snickering and lack of seriousness on tour,” a spokesperson for Ms Heard said.

Depp is suing his ex-wife for $50 million, accusing her of libelling him with a 2018 op-ed she wrote describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star after his lawyer called her allegations a hoax. Each accuses the other of destroying their career.

Testimony during the six-week trial has included lurid details of their short and volatile marriage. Heard testified that Depp physically or sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times.

Depp said he never struck Heard, that she concocted the abuse allegations, and that she was the one who physically attacked him, multiple times.

Jurors must decide both claims based on whether or not the statements were made with “actual malice,” meaning they knew what they were saying was false, or were acting with a reckless disregard for the truth.

During closing arguments, both sides told the jury that a verdict in their favour would give their clients their lives back.


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