Sunday Feb 05, 2023

Jurors reach anticipated verdict in Depp-heard defamation trial


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Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has won his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard after seven jurors this morning revealed their unanimous verdict in the trial that has captivated the world.

The jurors found Heard’s 2018 op-ed in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” had defamed Heard and had done so maliciously.

They found that although the article did not name Depp, it had been referring to him, that Heard’s accusations were false and that the article was deliberate and intentional.

The jurors said Heard had acted with malice and anyone reading the article would have believed she was referring to her high-profile ex-husband.

But jurors also found that Depp also defamed Heard — through his attorney — and awarded her $2million compensatory damages but no punitive damages.

Heard was in the courtroom as the decision was read out turned her eyes down as all seven questions answered ‘yes’ in favour of her ex-husband.

The jurors awarded US$10 million to Depp and punitive damages against Heard of US$5 million.

However the judge reduced the punitive damages to $350,000 which is the limit in Virginia.

Celebrations could be heard outside the the courtroom as the jurors’ lengthy decision was being read out.

Heard had arrived earlier with her sister and appeared grim as she stood with her legal team and awaited an outcome.

Depp’s spokespeople informed media that the Hollywood star would not be present.

Heard released a statement immediately after the verdict was read out.

“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,” the statement said.

“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.

“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”.

As the court opened in Virginia, USA, Judge Penney Azcarate asked the public gallery to contain themselves before the verdict was read out.

“This is a court of law and regardless of the verdict I will not tolerate any outburst whatsoever,” she said.

You could hear a pin drop in the courtroom as the yellow envelope containing the verdict was handed from the jurors to the judge.

Judge Azcarate pulled out the papers and then said “attorneys approach”, which was asking lawyers on both sides to approach the bench for a private discussion.

As the courtroom held its breath, Judge Azcarate explained that the jurors had not properly filled out the paperwork which required them to fill out the section on compensatory damages.

She told the seven jurors “there has to be compensatory damages” and she asked the jurors to go back and fill in the lines.

“Go back to the deliberation room and do that for me,” she asked.

To the courtroom she said: “We’re in recess until we hear back from them. Don’t go too far.”

But only ten minutes later, the jurors returned to answer the question on everyone’s lips.

Earlier

The rival claims of actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have been considered by a US jury and their verdict is set to be handed down.

The seven-person civil jury reached a verdict just hours after they resumed deliberations on Wednesday after deliberating for about nine hours over two days.

Depp is suing his ex-wife for $US50 million ($A69 million), accusing her of libelling him with a 2018 op-ed she wrote describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”

Heard filed a $US100 million counterclaim against the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star after his lawyer called her allegations a hoax. Each accuses the other of destroying their career.

Testimony during the six-week trial has included lurid details of their short and volatile marriage. Heard testified that Depp physically or sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times.

Depp said he never struck Heard, that she concocted the abuse allegations, and that she was the one who physically attacked him, multiple times.

Jurors must decide both claims based on whether or not the statements were made with “actual malice,” meaning they knew what they were saying was false, or were acting with a reckless disregard for the truth.

During closing arguments, both sides told the jury that a verdict in their favour would give their clients their lives back.

Depp hasn’t been waiting in Virginia for the decision. He’s spent the last few days on stage, singing and playing guitar with Jeff Beck in the United Kingdom.

-with AAP





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