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Depp-Heard trial result: jury rules in favour of Johnny Depp


After three days of deliberation on the widely publicised trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard for defamation, the jury reached a verdict and sided in favour of Mr Depp. 

The trial began with Johnny Depp suing Amber Heard for $50m for implying he abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. Although she didn’t name him, he maintains that the claims impacted his public persona and ability to work. He said, “I would be a real simpleton to not think that there was an effect on my career based on Ms Heard’s words, whether they mentioned my name or not.” Heard countered by pursuing a $100m counterclaim.

The trial spanned weeks in the Fairfax, Virginia court, beginning on April 11th and reaching closing arguments on May 27th. The reason for the trial’s curious placement is because The Washington Post, the paper in which Heard wrote the article including the abuse allegations that Depp claims defamed him, is published in Fairfax County. Although this detail confused a lot of people, it’s relatively straightforward.

The pair both alleged physical and emotional abuse against one another, including a variety of details such as the claim that Depp bruised Heard’s face after throwing a phone at her in their Los Angeles home, and Depp’s middle finger was partly severed in 2015 after Heard threw two bottles of vodka at him.

Although there are many more details that were chronicled in the televised trial, the ultimate decision is one that can only be made by the jury brought on to decide on the case. However, given the public nature of the trial, it’s clear that the court of public opinion has a lot to say about the details of the case at hand.

The jury reached the decision that Amber Heard had, in fact, defamed Johnny Depp, and was therefore guilty of public defamation for her accusations of Depp. While this is indeed a victory for Depp and male victims of domestic abuse, it is important to note that her guilty verdict is in regards to the public defamation, not his abuse allegations against Heard.

It’s interesting to note that the public nature of this trial has shaped the attention around it, and leaves a lot of room for questioning around the morals and ethics of broadcasting a trial like this. Again, the trial centres around public defamation, and broadcasting and publicising the events further seems against the interests of either party. 

Additionally, it seems it’s been relatively easy for the public to lose sight of the fact that although this is a trial in a courtroom, the suit is over defamation and damages. Regardless of the outcome, nobody will go to jail or receive a sentence regarding alleged abuse. The abuse allegations from either side aren’t legally involved in the sentencing, and therefore neither party can be found guilty or innocent.

Heard released a statement on Twitter regarding the verdict, which reads, “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.”

She continues, “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.”

The verdict stands in favour of Depp but also agreed that Depp’s lawyers had also defamed Heard deliberately meaning that while he was awarded $15 million in damages, Heard was also awarded $2 million. What this means going forward in the US courts for both public defamation and domestic abuse is yet to be explored.