US jury awards Johnny Depp US$15m, Amber Heard US$2m in defamation fight
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA (REUTERS) - A Virginia jury on Wednesday (June 1) ruled that actor Amber Heard defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp in a widely watched six-week trial that featured explicit and graphic evidence and testimony detailing the former Hollywood couple's soured relationship.
The seven-person jury also ruled in favour of Heard in some aspects of her counter-suit against Depp.
Jurors awarded Depp US$15 million (S$20 million) in damages from Heard, which the judge reduced to US$10.35 million to comply with state limits on punitive damages. The panel ordered Depp to pay Heard US$2 million in damages.
Depp, the 58-year-old Pirates Of The Caribbean star, sued Heard for US$50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself "a public figure representing domestic abuse" in a newspaper opinion piece.
Heard, 36, countersued for US$100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a "hoax."
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
"The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled," Depp, who watched the verdict from Britain, said in a statement issued by a spokesman.
"The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun," he added, ending with Latin phrase "Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes."
Heard, seated in the courtroom between two of her lawyers, looked down as the verdicts were read.
"The disappointment I feel today is beyond words," she said in a statement. "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," she added.
"It is a setback."
Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised about two years later.
At the centre of the legal case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in the Washington Post in which she made the statement about domestic abuse. The article did not mention Depp by name but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.
During six weeks of testimony, Heard's attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the US Constitution's First Amendment.
Throughout the case, jurors listened to recordings of the couple's fights and saw graphic photos of Depp's bloody finger.
He said the top of the finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.
Heard denied injuring Depp's finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle. She said she struck him only to defend herself or her sister.
Testimony was livestreamed widely on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple's troubled relationship.
Auto, H. (2022b, June 2). US jury awards Johnny Depp US$15m, Amber Heard US$2m in defamation fight. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/life/entertainment/us-jury-awards-johnny-depp-us15m-amber-heard-us2m-in-defamation-fight