US jury awards Johnny Depp $15 million in damages after finding an article penned by his ex-wife Amber Heard was defamatory to Depp. Depp is ordered to pay compensatory damages of $2 million to Heard.

Heard and Depp spent days on witness stand during televised trial, attended by hundreds of fans of
Heard and Depp spent days on witness stand during televised trial, attended by hundreds of fans of "Pirates" star and accompanied by #JusticeForJohnnyDepp campaign on social media. (Reuters)

A US jury has 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.

Wednesday's verdict capped a bitterly fought six-week trial riding on lurid claims and counterclaims 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.

At the same time, the jury found that the 58-year-old Depp had made defamatory claims against the 36-year-old Heard and also awarded her compensatory damages –– but a much lower amount of $2 million.

Both needed to prove the statements were defamatory, and to win compensatory or punitive damages, the jury needed to find they were made with actual malice – with the knowledge that they were false or with "reckless disregard" for whether they were false or not.

Reactions

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."

"From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome.

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

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.

Reacting to the verdict, Heard called it a "setback" for women.

"It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously," she said in a statement posted on her Twitter account.

Testimonies   

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.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies