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Tipsheet

Verdict Reached in Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard Trial

AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool

Following a six week-long trial, a civil jury sided with Johnny Depp on Wednesday in his $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge read the jury's findings on three claims made by Heard in a 2018 op-ed. As the jury's verdict concluded, Depp proved all elements of defamation, Heard's statements were about Depp, those statements were false and defamatory, and "clear and convincing" evidence proved Heard acted with "real and actual malice." As a result, the jury found that Heard must pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — but the judge lowered the punitive damages to just $350,000, per statute.

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In Heard's $100 million counterclaim, the jury's findings were more mixed, only awarding $2 million in compensatory damages to Heard and zero dollars for punitive damages. 

Depp was not present in the Virginia courtroom as the verdict was read — his team said he was in the U.K. on a previously scheduled work trip. Heard's team released a statement before the verdict came in saying "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."

The trial — which took place in Fairfax County, Virginia and began on April 12 — became a media spectacle for both Hollywood tabloids and everyday Americans who were familiar with Depp and Heard's acting careers. What was clear from the at times acrimonious testimony was that the two parties had a rollercoaster of a relationship that was rife with drama and often-toxic situations. 

After meeting in 2009 on the set of The Rum Diary, Depp and Heard got married in February 2015, but things fell apart soon thereafter and Depp filed for divorce in May 2016. 

Depp's libel case against Heard centered on a 2018 op-ed she published in The Washington Post about speaking up against sexual violence. Though Depp is never mentioned by name in Heard's column, his legal team claimed that her words were clearly about a restraining order she sought against him two year before the op-ed was published.

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For his part, Depp maintained his denial of ever striking Heard, and instead asserted that he was the victim of her aggression. Depp was also slapped with a $100 million counterclaim by Heard over claims Depp's former lawyer made that her charges of abuse were a hoax. Depp's team argued that Heard's accusations damaged his acting career and cost him roles. 

The trial saw days of testimony from both Heard and Depp, revealing some interesting claims about "mega-pints" of wine Depp had consumed and an incident in which Heard allegedly, literally, sh*t the bed. Heard claimed that "Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from Quaaludes Johnny," referring to the many substances and personalities Depp would take on during their relationship. Depp said Heard's allegations of uncontrolled drug abuse were greatly exaggerated. 

There were also questions about Depp's alleged shoving-down-the-stairs of actress Kate Moss, allegations that Moss debunked herself when she appeared virtually to testify in the trial. Testimony from hand surgeons was used to dispute Depp's claims of violent outbursts from Heard. A forensic psychologist consulted by Depp's legal team said Heard displayed signs of histrionic personality disorder. 

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For more than a month, the trial was a captivating mess of contradictory claims about who instigated aggression, who could and couldn't remember situations due to drug or alcohol use, and which party was the bigger victim in their tumultuous relationship. Watching the trial, one of the only clear points was that both Heard and Depp were unstable, prone to violent outbursts, and generally deserving of pity.

In the end, the jury took barely more than one day of deliberations to reach its verdict.

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