Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial concluded Wednesday in Fairfax, Va., following six weeks of testimony, three days of jury deliberation and immeasurable public scrutiny.
In 2019, Depp sued ex-wife Amber Heard over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post, in which she identified as a victim of domestic abuse.
While Depp wasn’t named in the article, his legal team wrote in a complaint that the op-ed is a “clear implication that Mr. Depp is a domestic abuser.”
Denying all allegations of domestic abuse, Depp sued Heard for $50 million in damages. Heard countersued for $100 million, on the grounds that Depp’s team launched a “smear campaign” against her.
On June 1, the jury found evidence that Heard defamed Depp in the opinion article and acted with actual malice — which means she knew her statements were false or acted with reckless disregard to truth — effectively rejecting Heard’s testimony.
Depp was initially awarded $15 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages. Later Wednesday, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the punitive damages the jury awarded Depp to $350,000, which is the state’s legal limit, making his total damages $10.4 million.
As for Heard’s counterclaim: The jury found one statement defamatory and awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages, but none in punitive damages.
When the verdict was read out, the camera lingered only on Heard — because Depp was not in the courtroom. Over the weekend, Depp was seen touring in the U.K. with musician Jeff Beck.
Both Heard and Depp released statements on Wednesday after the verdict came down.
Depp’s statement pointed to the detrimental impact Heard’s op-ed had on his life and career. On the stand, Depp claimed that Heard’s words were directly responsible for the loss of roles.
“Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. All in the blink of an eye,” he said, adding that “false” statements traveled around the world in a “nanosecond.”
According to Depp, this jury decision is a reversal of fortune. “And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” he said.
When Depp lost a U.K. libel trial in 2020 held on the same grounds, he vowed in a statement he would continue to “fight to tell the truth.” Depp echoed those words in his statement, and said he is “at peace.”
“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,” 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. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that,” Depp said.
Depp pointed to the “outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness” from people “around the world.”
He finished his statement: “The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun,” Depp said.
In Heard’s statement, she wrote about her disappointment in the case’s outcome.
“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,” she said at the start of her statement.
Heard went on to discuss the implications of the trial, during which she illustrated instances of alleged abuse, which were rejected by the jury.
“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,” she said.
In his statement, Depp similarly took a big-picture perspective to the trial, but came to a different conclusion, saying he hoped it would allow people “in (his) situation” to “never give up.”
“I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation, and that those supporting them never give up. I also hope that the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media,” Depp said.
Heard said she believed Depp’s team succeeded in “getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech” as well as “ignore evidence” that won the trial in the U.K., during which similar evidence was presented and the judge ruled in favor of Heard.
“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,” Heard said.