Courtroom Drama

Jury Favors Johnny Depp in Defamation Suit

Earlier today, the Depp v. Heard trial ended with a verdict after six weeks. The core issue in the civil suit was Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp’s claim that his ex-wife, Aquaman star Amber Heard, was maliciously defaming him when she declared herself a victim of domestic violence. Specifically, his complaint focused on an article by Amber Heard in the Washington Post.

Depp asked for up to $50 million in damages, citing his exile from Hollywood roles including the Pirates franchise as a result of being canceled. During the trial, he told jurors that this wasn’t ultimately about that money but was rather about clearing his name. Depp also claimed that Heard was physically violent with him on several occasions, not the other way around.

Amber Heard, who is ranked #12 in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) list of the 150 most beautiful Jewish actresses in Hollywood, launched a countersuit of defamation in which she claimed that Johnny Depp defamed her through the statements of his legal representative, when the latter accused Heard of making false allegations of domestic abuse for personal gain. This countersuit was considered in the same trial.

Amber Heard

The jury was asked to sort all of this out: they had to decide for each party whether or not they had been the victim of defamation by the other, what amount of monetary damages in compensation to apply, and what if any additional punitive damages should be applied.

An audio recording of Heard and Depp speaking revealed her taunting him about the idea that anyone would believe that he’s actually a victim – making the trial, in part, a referendum on the hashtag #BelieveAllWomen.

“Heard: See what the jury and judge think. Tell the world, Johnny, tell them ‘I Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim of domestic violence,’ and see how many people believe or side with you.

Depp: Yes.”

Over the course of the last six weeks, the trial put a microscope over the short, unfortunate marriage between Depp and Heard. Embarrassing details of their private lives were broadcast to everyone who cared to tune in. Johnny Depp was shown to be a deeply flawed person who struggled with substance addiction for his entire life since the age of 11 (this was already known to some degree, but not to the full extent). 

The jury had to listen as each party and their proxies went back and forth about the details of several encounters. Did Johnny Depp lose part of his finger because he was smashing a phone, or because Amber Heard threw a glass bottle at him? Was Depp chasing Heard around the house smacking her, or was she chasing him around the house as he tried to avoid her hysterical outbreak? Was he visiting his daughter or was he getting baked? Was it the family dog, or Amber Heard herself, who pooped in the bed?

How the two handled themselves during this grueling process greatly shaped how they were viewed, at least in the “court of public opinion.” Depp handled himself extremely well, owning up to his shortcomings and being good-natured about the entire thing. Heard, however, seemed frantic and weaselly, always passing the blame for anything that painted her in a bad light. She also lied under oath about rather petty things – such as whether or not she had donated her $7 million of divorce money to charity as she publicly claimed (she didn’t).

Key areas in which Amber Heard appeared to be lying involved the gossip outfit TMZ. In 2016, TMZ published a video of an angry Johnny Depp slamming cabinets in a kitchen, pouring himself some wine, and yelling at Amber in response to her pestering him. An unedited version of this same video (which showed Amber Heard setting up the camera first) was evidence in the trial, and it came from her phone. She implausibly denied leaking this video. For his part, Depp admitted to “assaulting some cabinets”.

She also denied tipping off TMZ to the time and place she would be when she went to the courthouse to get a restraining order against Johnny Depp. A former TMZ paparazzi dispatcher gave testimony which implied that the video and tip both came from Amber Heard or her team (he couldn’t directly name the source due to rules) and that the tip included instructions to the photographers about what side of her face a bruise would be on.

Picture of Heard by paparazzi, with an apparent bruise now widely believed to be fake

This was perhaps the most damning of Heard’s lies, since the apparent truth is that she faked a bruise and tipped off the TMZ paparazzi in order to build her false claims against Depp.

In the end, the jury mostly favored Depp. He was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages, and Heard was hit with an additional $5 million in punitive damages. The judge edited the latter amount down to $350,000 due to legal limits on punitive damages, so Amber Heard’s final cost was $10.35 million.

The jury took a mixed view of Heard’s countersuit. Her complaint was divided between two statements made by Johnny Depp’s legal representative, Adam Waldman. These will be documented below, but the jury decided that one of the two statements qualified as defamation and the other did not. They awarded Heard with $2 million in compensatory damages and assigned Johnny Depp $0 in punitive damages.

The “Waldman statement” not considered defamatory is this:

“Amber Heard and her friends in the media used fake sexual violence allegations as both sword and shield, depending on their needs. They have selected some of her sexual violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr. Depp.”

The jury apparently believed Depp that he was not sexually violent with Amber Heard.

The statement that was defamatory shows that in at least one case the jury didn’t believe Depp’s side:

“Quite simply this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property.”

If the final numbers are compared, the final result is $8.35 million in favor of Depp. The jurors clearly did not believe all women.

“Ordinary Virginians called up for jury duty keep being the unexpected final bosses defeating woke bullshit.” – Matt Parrott

Shortly after the verdict, Amber Heard made a tone-deaf statement on her Twitter account:

“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words… I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women, it is a setback. It sets the clock back to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.”

She’s not wrong. Her case was a huge setback on this matter, as she made herself an extremely prominent example of a woman that just shouldn’t be believed. The damage to the “believe women” movement is likely (and hopefully) irreparable.

It is the opinion of this author that all women who make serious allegations of this kind should be given a fair hearing and have their claims investigated. That took place here, and Heard’s allegations imploded.

Johnny Depp’s statement in reaction to the verdict focused on his relief that he was able to clear his name and his hope that his case asserts the right to be innocent until proven guilty:

“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

Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes.”

It’s too early to say what the long-term cultural impacts of this trial will be, but we can hope with Depp that anyone facing accusations violence or sexual misconduct (or other crimes) is given the benefit of the doubt until they are proven guilty.

Cobblestone Prude
I poast about technology and culture and stuff.

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