Johnny Depp verdict: Actor wins defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard

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Johnny Depp won his defamation case against Amber Heard Wednesday with a jury awarding him $15 million after a bombshell seven-week trial marked by shocking allegations of abuse leveled by both sides.

The jury found in favor of Depp on all counts, indicating that the seven-member panel did not credit Heard’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Judge Penney Azcarate reduced Depp’s punitive damages award from $5 million to $350,000 – the maximum under Virginia law, bringing the total sum to just over $10 million.  

Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse after the jury announced that her ex-husband Johnny Depp won his defamation case against her. 

Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse after the jury announced that her ex-husband Johnny Depp won his defamation case against her.  (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In a token win for Heard, the jury – composed of five men and two women –found that Depp had defamed her through his attorney, Adam Waldman, as to a single statement, accusing her of staging an alleged assault. They awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages. 

JOHNNY DEPP WINS DEFAMATION TRIAL AGAINST AMBER HEARD, AWARDED $15m damages: LIVE UPDATES

Depp, 58, who is on tour with guitarist Jeff Beck in England, did not show up for the verdict, while Heard, 36, sat at the defense table wearing a somber expression as she listened to the decision in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia.

Before the verdict was read, she mouthed to her sister, who was seated in the front row of the gallery, “I love you.”

A photo combination of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia, May 27, 2022. 

A photo combination of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia, May 27, 2022.  ( Steve Helber/Pool via Reuters)

The protracted court battle kicked off in 2019 after Depp sued Heard over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post identifying herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

She did not refer to Depp by name, but his lawyers argued that the piece falsely portrayed Heard as a domestic violence victim and ruined his life.

It took the jury about 12 hours spread over three days to reach its verdict. Depp issued a statement celebrating the victory. 

“The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” he said. “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.”

Amber Heard listening to the jury verdict in her ex-husband's defamation claim against her.

Amber Heard listening to the jury verdict in her ex-husband’s defamation claim against her. (Screenshot)

Heard said in a statement that she was devastated by what she believed this verdict means for other women. “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,” the statement read. “[The verdict] 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.”

The warring exes began their public battle on May 27, 2016 – a central date in their saga. 

That’s when Heard went to a Los Angeles courthouse to obtain a restraining order against Depp after he allegedly bashed her in the face with a cellphone. 

Actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard attend the red carpet event for the movie "Black Mass" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in northern Italy September 4, 2015. 

Actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard attend the red carpet event for the movie "Black Mass" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in northern Italy September 4, 2015.  (Manuel Silvestri via Reuters)

She exited the courthouse flanked by her publicist, and with a large bruise under her right eye, as a throng of photographers snapped her picture. 

Depp’s team argued that she painted on the bruise and tipped off the press.

The photos and abuse allegations went viral, garnering international headlines, and set off a vicious public quarrel that has persisted for six years – twice as long as their relationship. 

During closing statements, Vasquez argued that Depp was the sole victim in their doomed romance. 

“There is an abuser in this courtroom, and it is not Mr. Depp,” Vasquez told jurors Friday, noting that it was the six-year anniversary to the day that Heard obtained the restraining order.

Vasquez described Heard as a “deeply troubled person, violent, afraid of abandonment, desperate for attention and approval.”

Amber Heard's lawyer Ben Rottenborn delivers his closing statement Friday May 27, 2022, in Johnny Depp's defamation case against his ex-wife. 

Amber Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn delivers his closing statement Friday May 27, 2022, in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against his ex-wife.  (Steve Helber/Pool via Reuters)

Heard fabricated her “wild, over-the-top and implausible” abuse claims after Depp told her he wanted to end their one-year marriage, the lawyer argued.  

“You either believe all of it, or none of it,” Vasquez said. “Either she is a victim of ugly, horrible abuse, or she is a woman who is willing to say absolutely anything.”

The “Edward Scissorhands” actor took the stand for four days and told jurors how his ex-wife hurled a vodka bottle at him that shattered on his hand and sliced off the tip of his finger during a 2015 brawl in Australia. Heard has denied it.

Jurors were played disturbing audio recordings in which Heard admitted to hitting Depp and called him a “washed up piece of sh-t” and a “sell out.”

In one recording, after the pair split, Heard told Depp, “Tell the world Johnny, tell them Johnny Depp, I Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence.”

He replied, “Yes.”

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Depp alleges that Heard used the bogus abuse allegations to negotiate a $7 million divorce settlement, then moved on with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who she told her agent she didn’t love and was “just filling space.” 

Although she publicly promised to donate the full sum to charity and claimed she had already done so on a TV show, it was revealed during the trial that she had only parted with a small fraction of the payout. Most of the donations made her on behalf came from Musk, according to testimony.

Heard offered a dramatically different account of their toxic relationship during her four days on the stand, telling jurors that Depp became a violent and belligerent “monster” when he was high and drunk. 

A photo combination of Johnny Depp, Kate Moss via video link and Amber Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia, May 25, 2022.  

A photo combination of Johnny Depp, Kate Moss via video link and Amber Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia, May 25, 2022.   (Evelyn Hochstein/pool via Reuters)

In her most extreme abuse claim, the “Aquaman” star accused Depp of dragging her nude body across broken glass then penetrating her with a liquor bottle. 

The alleged sexual assault occurred during the same 2015 blowout in Australia that left the “Black Mass” star missing a piece of his finger. 

In between sobs, Heard recounted another horrific act of sexual abuse. She alleged he forcibly performed a cavity search on her, violently sticking his fingers inside her and searching for his cocaine during a drug-induced rage, she said.

The clashing exes weren’t the only celebrities in the courtroom for the bizarre trial  – Kate Moss was a surprise witness appearing via live link from England on behalf of Depp. Ellen Barkin testified for Heard in a pre-recorded deposition. 

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Heard’s team initially indicated that they would call actor James Franco and Musk – but they never materialized on the stand. 

Camille Vasquez delivers her summation Friday May 27, 2022, in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia.

Camille Vasquez delivers her summation Friday May 27, 2022, in Fairfax County Circuit Court, in Virginia. (Steve Helber/ Pool via Reuters)

Heard’s lawyer, Ben Rottenborn, said in closing statements that Depp’s lawsuit against the “London Fields” actress is a continuation of a relentless smear campaign her ex-husband launched against her after she filed for divorce.

“In Mr. Depp’s world, you don’t leave Mr. Depp, and if you do, he will start a campaign of global humiliation against you,” he said.

Rottenborn added that lawyers for Depp were setting a dangerous precedent for victims of abuse. 

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“If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying. If you did tell your friends, it’s part of the hoax,” he said in summations. 

He added that a finding in favor of Depp would having a chilling effect on First Amendment protections – especially for victims of domestic abuse.

Additional report by Haley Chi-Sing