A US jury found both Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard liable for defamation—but sided more strongly with the Pirates of the Caribbean star following an intense trial riding on bitterly contested allegations of domestic abuse.
The verdict capped a bitterly-fought six-week trial riding on lurid claims and counterclaims of between the Hollywood celebrities.
The seven-member jury in Virginia awarded the 58-year-old actor $15 million in damages after finding that a 2018 article penned by Heard on her experience of "sexual violence" was defamatory to Depp.
Heard, her eyes downcast throughout, listened impassively as the verdict was read out in Fairfax court, near the US capital—and later declared herself "heartbroken" and disappointed "beyond words" by the outcome.
Depp, who was following the proceedings from the United Kingdom, meanwhile posted on Instagram that the jury "gave me my life back."
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In the op-ed for The Washington Post, Heard had described herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse"—and although she did not name Depp in the piece, he sued her for implying he was an abuser, seeking $50 million in damages.
The 36-year-old Heard, who had a starring role in Aquaman, countersued for $100 million, saying she was defamed by statements made by Depp's lawyer, Adam Waldman, who told the Daily Mail her abuse claims were a "hoax."
The jury agreed that Heard was defamed by those statements, and also awarded her damages—but at a significantly lower amount, $2 million.
Reacting to the verdict, Heard called it a "setback" for women.
"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," she said in a statement.
"I'm even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback... It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously," she said.
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A few dozen onlookers and Depp supporters were posted outside for the verdict, one man sporting a Jack Sparrow pirate hat and a woman with a placard reading: "No matter what happens today, Johnny, you are a winner!!! And the whole world knows the TRUTH!!!"
Dozens of witnesses testified during the trial, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, doctors, friends, and relatives.
Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial, which was attended by hundreds of fans of the Pirates star and accompanied by a #JusticeForJohnnyDepp campaign on social media.
Video and audio recordings of heated, profanity-laced arguments between the couple were played for the jury, which was also shown photographs of injuries allegedly suffered by Heard during their volatile relationship.
Depp testified that it was Heard who was frequently violent and said it has been "brutal" to listen to "outlandish" accusations of domestic abuse made against him.
Heard, who was married to Depp from 2015 to 2017, obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016, citing domestic violence.
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, filed a libel suit in London against the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." He lost that case in November 2020.
Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers. (AFP)