Johnny Depp Won His Defamation Trial Against Amber Heard

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Johnny Depp won his defamation trial against Amber Heard on Wednesday with jurors awarding him $15 million in damages. The seven-member jury also awarded Heard $2 million in one of her competing defamation claims. The jury’s award to Depp breaks down to $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages; under Virginia law, punitive damages are capped at $350,000, so he’ll wind up getting over $10 million. Jurors reached their verdict after 12 hours of deliberations. An appeal is possible.

“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,” Heard said in a statement following the verdict. “I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.” Heard’s statement continued, “I believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK … I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly.”

Depp also issued a statement following the verdict and celebrated the jury’s decision. “False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me. It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career,” Depp said. “And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled. My decision to pursue this case, knowing very well the height of the legal hurdles that I would be facing and the inevitable, worldwide spectacle into my life, was only made after considerable thought.” Depp continued, “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.”

Depp was not in court because of “previously scheduled work commitments,” but “will be watching from the United Kingdom,” a source close to the actor said. Depp has been touring with Jeff Beck in England, and his supermodel ex Kate Moss — who testified during his rebuttal case — allegedly attended one of his concerts. Heard was present in court. As the verdict was read, Heard looked down, her expression sad.

The verdict brought an end to a trial that soared from made-for-tabloid status to viral absurdity over the course of six weeks. Depp alleged that Heard defamed him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described enduring domestic violence, and he filed suit in May 2019. Although Heard did not name Depp, he alleges that she clearly referred to him given their very public, very acrimonious split. Heard got a restraining order against Depp on May 27, 2016, and was photographed at the courthouse with a seemingly bruised eye. They finalized their divorce in 2017. Heard filed counterclaims against Depp in August 2020, claiming that Depp’s denials — made through his lawyer, Adam Waldman — defamed her. Both have alleged that the other’s conduct has tanked their reputation and career. Depp sought $50 million in his suit. Heard wanted $100 million.

Depp and his team repeatedly said throughout the trial that they wanted to repair his reputation. Depp told jurors he was in court “to not only attempt to clear my name for … many reasons, but I wanted to clear my children of this horrible thing that they were reading about their father.” (Heard, for her part, testified that she did not want to be in court, saying, “This is the most painful and difficult thing I’ve ever gone through.”) After weeks of publicly airing their dirty laundry, it’s unclear what either is trying to accomplish in terms of repairing their reputation. The exes’ marriage counselor believed they engaged in “mutual abuse.” Depp and his inner circle testified about his lengthy history of drug and alcohol abuse. Audio recordings played for jurors appear to show Heard as antagonistic toward Depp, taunting him, including for walking away from an argument. For hours upon hours, jurors heard competing narratives over Depp’s severed fingertip. And testimony from both sides’ witnesses made them seem like elite Hollywood actors  who couldn’t get it together despite their privilege and wealth. The trial was a mess.

When Depp’s and Heard’s teams had the opportunity to make their final arguments May 27, both tried to make their clients look like the true victim.

This post has been updated.

Johnny Depp Won His Defamation Trial Against Amber Heard