The Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial Verdict Explained



The Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial Verdict Explained

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
It's time to breakdown this long-awaited verdict! For this list, we'll be looking at the outcome of the highly-publicized Depp v. Heard trial and what it means. Our video will outline the allegations, the trial, and what it all means.

The Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial Verdict Explained

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re explaining the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial Verdict.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the outcome of the highly-publicized Depp v. Heard trial and what it means.

What are your thoughts on the verdict? Let us know in the comments.

It was the headline that caught everyone’s attention in December 2018: “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Two months after this Washington Post op-ed was published, Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife, seeking $50 million for allegedly defaming him. In August 2020, Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp for allegedly coordinating a social media campaign against her. Three months later, Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd ruled against the actor, who subsequently stepped down from the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. While Depp lost this court case, the legal battle and media frenzy were just getting started.

In April 2022, Depp v. Heard officially commenced in Fairfax County, Virginia. Following six weeks of testimonies, rebuttals, and a whole lot of “objection, hearsay,” both legal teams delivered their closing arguments on May 27. Heard’s legal team argued that Depp was the relationship’s aggressor and even if he wasn’t, Heard’s op-ed didn’t mention the actor’s name and therefore wasn’t libelous. Furthermore, Benjamin Rottenborn maintained that a verdict against Heard would send a negative message to “every victim of domestic abuse everywhere.” On Depp’s legal team, Camille Vasquez argued that Heard was the only wrongdoer in the courtroom and her allegations against Depp were untrue. Exactly six years after Heard received a restraining order, Depp’s counsel implored the jury to “give him his life back.”

The seven-person jury spent about two hours deliberating until being let out for the three-day weekend. They returned on May 31, but only briefly surfaced to ask Judge Penney Azcarate whether they were supposed to determine if the headline or the whole op-ed was false. Depp already seemingly won in the court of public opinion. Awaiting a verdict, a flatbed truck pulled up to the Fairfax County Courthouse with a vessel modeled after a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ship. Meanwhile, Depp played alongside guitarist Jeff Beck in the United Kingdom for three nights. Kate Moss reunited with Depp on the third. The model had testified via video almost a week earlier, denying rumors that Depp pushed her down the stairs while dating in the 90s.

Heard was mostly quiet during the jury deliberations, which makes sense given her May 26 rebuttal. The actress testified that she received death threats amid ongoing online harassment. While many have doubted Heard’s accusations regarding Depp, there’s no denying that social media hasn’t been her biggest fan as of late. Leading up to the verdict, a petition nearly reached its goal of 4,500,000 signatures to remove Heard from “Aquaman 2.” DC and WB have made it clear that Heard won’t be replaced, although it’s unclear how much screen time she’ll receive or if she’ll return for the inevitable “Aquaman 3.” While Heard’s career may hinge on the verdict, some are more concerned for what the trial means for the #MeToo movement.

#MeToo has seen many pay for their crimes, most notably Harvey Weinstein. For all the positive change and justice #MeToo has delivered, false accusations have also been a talking point. This brought attention to #HimToo, a movement that’s been applied to male abuse victims and those who’ve been falsely accused. This hashtag was met with scrutiny when it surfaced during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings with some coming to recognize it as the #MeToo antithesis. #HimToo seemed to lose momentum after that with #MeToo remaining a strong symbol of feminism. Throughout Depp v. Heard, though, it’s been argued that #MeToo could be at a turning point.

On May 18, 2022, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg entitled, “Amber Heard and the Death of #MeToo.” While Goldberg acknowledged that the case wasn’t straightforward, she expressed concern that the trial will lead to “similar lawsuits against other women who say they’ve survived abuse.” Whether Depp won or lost, the internet already seemed to make up its mind about Heard. Will this hurt #MeToo in the long run? Will mistreated men become a larger part of the conversation? Will the public be less quick to rally behind those who claim to be survivors? Can society handle the nuances of this difficult subject matter? The verdict is still out on all of the above, but the jury reached a verdict in Depp v. Heard on June 1.

The verdict was reached after 12 hours and 45 minutes of deliberations. Although this quick response boded well for Depp, he didn’t attend with his legal team. Depp reportedly watched from the U.K. where he had other commitments, although Heard was present at the courthouse. As court reconvened at 3:00 P.M. EST, the judge sent the jury back to complete the damages form. The jury returned shortly after, unanimously finding Heard liable on all three counts of defamation against Depp, granting him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Since Virginia limits punitive damages at $350,000, Depp’s total came to $10.35 million.

The jury ruled in Heard’s favor on one of three counts, finding Depp liable of defamation for Daily Mail statements. They awarded Heard $2 million, meaning she still owes Depp $8.35 million. Heard also has yet to complete her pledge to donate $3.5 million each to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Although defamation was found on both sides, Depp emerged from this trial with more to celebrate than Heard. Following the verdict, Heard released a statement expressing “disappointment” for herself and “other women.” Depp stated, “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.”

While Depp is walking away from the trial $8.35 million richer, let’s not forget legal fees. Although unconfirmed, Manny Arora of Arora Law Trial Attorneys suspects that Depp’s lawyers have cost no less than $5.5 million. So, Depp is probably getting less than $3 million in the end. Although significantly lower than $50 million sought, this trial was arguably never about money for Depp. Even with the negative press and reports of debt he’s endured in recent years, Depp’s net worth is estimated at $150 Million. As of writing, Heard’s is estimated at -$8 Million. Given his income, Depp’s goal above all else was likely to restore his reputation. While the verdict has only further solidified Depp’s fan base, will Hollywood welcome him back?

Depp was still found liable on one count and parts of the trial didn’t present him in the most flattering light. We’ve seen other celebrities come back, but Depp could still be considered a risk for family-friendly brands like Disney. What’s more, can they afford the $300 million and million+ alpacas to get him to play Jack Sparrow again? The trial is over, but its effects on Depp and Heard’s careers, not to mention movements like #MeToo, remain up in the air. For now, all we can do is evaluate what the trial has said about our celebrity scandal-obsessed society. Monica Lewinsky, who’s no stranger to highly-publicized trials, summed it up best: “No matter whom the jury’s verdict favors — be it defendant Heard or plaintiff Depp — we are guilty.”