A Fairfax County, Virginia, jury ruled that actress Amber Heard is liable for defamation, as she acted with “actual malice” in her 2018 op-ed about domestic abuse, and the claims made about actor Johnny Depp were false and did harm to him on a public level.
Depp will be awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. However, Heard will be awarded $2 million in compensatory damages, but $0 in punitive, for her counterclaim. (The jury found she proved one of the counts of her counterclaim.)
In 2019, Depp filed a $50 million lawsuit, as he believes that “demonstrably false” claims were made about him in the piece, according to The Cut. The Associated Press said that Depp and his legal team were led to believe the op-ed was hinting at him because Heard accused the actor in 2016 of domestic violence during their divorce.
From The Associated Press before the verdict was announced:
The seven-member jury must decide if two passages and the headline of the article are defamatory. The jury verdict form gives jurors instructions on how to determine that, including by asking them whether the statements were about Depp, were false and had a defamatory implication about him. Because Depp is a public figure, Heard can only be found guilty of libel if the jury decides that she acted with “actual malice,” meaning that she either knew what she wrote was false or that she acted with reckless disregard for the truth. Heard’s lawyers told the jury Depp’s libel claim must fail if Heard suffered even a single incident of abuse.
Heard also filed a $100 million counterclaim over three statements from Depp’s former attorney that she said are false and damaged her public reputation.
In terms of the public’s opinion of the televised trial, many have taken the side of Depp, sympathizing with his side of the story that also indicates alleged abuse by Heard. RedState’s Jennifer Oliver O’Connell even referred to Heard as an example of “Toxic Feminity.”
The six-week-long trial was known for its viral moments involving both the actors and the lawyers, including a time when Amber Heard’s lawyer seemingly objected to his own question, RedState’s Nick Arama wrote. It deeply analyzed both the mental and physical health issues through audio and visual exhibits about their relationship, which is partly why the trial gained so much attention.