Johnny Depp wins defamation trial against Amber Heard, jury awards him $15 million in damages
After sitting through six weeks of gut-wrenching testimony and deliberating for nearly 13 hours, the Fairfax County, Va., jury reached its verdict in the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial.
The jury decided unanimously in favor of Depp on Wednesday, finding that Heard intentionally and maliciously defamed the Pirates of the Caribbean star when she wrote her 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post about her experiences as a domestic abuse survivor. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the punitive damages to Virginia's statutory cap of $350,000.
Heard scored a small victory as the jury found partly in favor of her defamation countersuit, awarding her $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages.
Heard was present in court and appeared shaken as the verdict was announced. "The disappointment I feel today is beyond words," she said in a statement afterward. "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."
Depp was not present in the courtroom to hear the verdict but said he was "truly humbled" by the verdict in a statement provided to EW. He added, "From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."
This all began when Depp filed a $50 million defamation suit against Heard over her Washington Post op-ed. Though Heard never named Depp in the piece, his lawyers argued that references to him are clear and damaged his career and reputation. Heard then filed her $100 million countersuit, claiming Depp and his legal team defamed her by calling her allegations a hoax.
The former couple met on set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary and married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce from Depp in 2016, obtaining a domestic violence restraining order against him and accusing him of physically and verbally abusing her during "violent and volatile" episodes. Depp has denied the allegations, accusing Heard of being the abuser in the relationship.
"Truth is the only thing I'm interested in," Depp said on the stand. "Lies will get you nowhere, but lies build upon lies and build upon lies." The actor accused Heard of attacking him, severing the tip of his finger, and leaving human feces on his side of the bed, among other accusations. He said he "never struck" Heard, "nor have I struck any woman in my life." Depp accused Heard of having a "need for violence," and claimed her allegations cost him film roles, including Pirates of the Caribbean 6.
Depp told the court he has lost "nothing less than everything," and that regardless of the outcome of the trial, he has already "lost." He said last month, "When the allegations were made [and] rapidly circulating the globe, telling people that I was a drunken, cocaine-fueled menace who beat women suddenly in my 50s… no matter the outcome of this trial, the second the allegations were made against me [and] turned into fodder for the media… I lost then."
Heard and her legal team has painted a different picture. She accused Depp of punching her, pulling her hair, and sexually assaulting her with a wine bottle. She testified that Depp often over-indulged on cocaine, MDMA, and liquor, and tried to discourage her from acting due to paranoia she was having affairs with costars. Heard also accused Depp of orchestrating a "smear campaign" against her after she accused him of abuse, claiming that she, too, lost job opportunities following Depp's alleged attacks against her in the press, including a now "pared down" role in Aquaman 2.
On the stand, Heard admitted to hitting Depp but said she did so in self-defense. "I had to defend myself the best I could but it was after years of not defending myself," she said. An emotional Heard went on to testify about the lasting impact of the trial: "Embarrassing, intimate details that I never wanted to be known, never wanted to be public ever, and to have them used every single day to call me a liar," Heard said. "I have to relive this every single day that I have to address those claims." She added, "I didn't want this. I don't want to be here."
The ruling in Virginia comes after Depp lost his libel lawsuit against The Sun in 2020. He sued the British newspaper over their use of the word "wife-beater" in a piece centered on Heard's allegations. A judge ruled that the article was "substantially true" and that "the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard." Depp tried to overturn the ruling but was unsuccessful. Citing the U.K. verdict, Heard initially sought to dismiss the defamation case in Virginia, but Depp was ultimately granted the right to pursue the case in the U.S.