Jury awards millions of dollars to Johnny Depp in libel suit; Amber Heard wins less in countersuitget the free app
Amber Heard was found liable for defaming Johnny Depp in an op-ed published in the Washington Post, and Depp was found liable for a statement his attorney made to the Daily Mail calling her claims a hoax, a jury decided Wednesday. Jurors awarded Depp a total of $15 million in damages and Heard $2 million.
In a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram Heard said, "The disappointment I feel today is beyond words." Depp said in a statement posted to Instagram, "the jury gave me my life back."
The verdict marked the end of a dramatic trial in the civil suit that laid bare the troubled marriage between the stars.
Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia for $50 million over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." His lawyers say he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.
Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming Depp's attorney defamed her by calling her abuse allegations a hoax.
The jury notified Judge Penney Azcarate that they reached the verdict early in the afternoon, but reading of the verdict was delayed so they could fill in the amount of monetary awards on the jury form.
While the jury found Depp should receive $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the judge said state law caps punitive damages at $350,000, meaning Depp's award would total $10.35 million.
CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson said the mixed verdict indicates that the jury evaluated each of the six statements in isolation and took the claims of defamation carefully.
"It wasn't just a case of, 'We like Johnny Depp, we don't like Amber Heard,'" she said, noting that Depp won on all three statements in his suit and Heard won on one of the three in her counterclaim.
"I think the end of the day, the punchline is that the jury found they both lied," Levinson said.
In his statement, Depp said, "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 stedfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."
Heard, in her statement, said she is sad that that she lost the case, but "sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly." She said the verdict sets back women and the treatment of domestic violence victims.
The jury began deliberations Friday afternoon, after six weeks of disturbing and sometimes graphic testimony.
Both Depp and Heard testified twice. The jury also heard extensive recordings attorneys said displayed violent behavior and saw text messages, including between Depp and fellow actor Paul Bettany, that discussed substance use and contained obscene language.
Heard's sister testified to seeing Depp strike her, and a friend testified about seeing her cuts and bruises.
Supermodel Kate Moss also appeared via video link, adding to the spectacle as broadcast cameras in the courtroom captured every twist to an increasingly rapt audience as fans weighed in on social media and lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats.
Closing arguments were delivered Friday. By the time the court broke for lunch, jurors had head from attorneys for both Depp and Heard — who then had a combined 45 minutes to present rebuttal closings later Friday afternoon. The case went to the jury later in the day, for the final stage in what has been six weeks of courtroom drama that peeled back the curtain on the stars' troubled marriage.
The jury was instructed to focus its deliberation not only on whether there was abuse but also whether Heard's op-ed piece can be considered legally defamatory. The article itself focuses mostly on policy questions of domestic violence, but Depp's lawyer point to two passages in the article, as well as an online headline that they say defamed Depp.
Depp not in court for verdict
Johnny Depp will not be in court to hear the verdict read. Depp played onstage in the U.K. with musician Jeff Beck over the weekend.
"Due to previously scheduled work commitments made before the trial, Mr. Depp will not be physically present for the verdict and will be watching from the United Kingdom," a source close to Depp told CBS News.
Highlights of Heard's testimony
Amber Heard testified she knew she should leave Johnny Depp the first time he hit her, but she couldn't bring herself to do it.
"I knew I couldn't just forgive him, right, because that means it will happen again. Like, I've seen the health class videos," Heard told the court through tears as she took the stand in Depp's libel lawsuit against her. "I was heartbroken."
When Heard returned to the stand, she told jurors she has been getting "harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day" thanks to Depp and his attorney Adam Waldman's statements about her. She said she receives death threats.
Watch the video for some of the earlier highlights from her testimony.
Highlights of Depp's testimony
Depp spent several days on the witness stand early in the trial, in which he acknowledged drug and alcohol use and sending texts with vulgar language about Heard.
He denied the allegations of abuse both times he was on the stand.
"I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse, all these outlandish, outrageous stories of me committing these things," he said during his testimony as a rebuttal witness. "And living with it for six years, and waiting to be able to bring the truth out."
Watch the video for some of the highlights from his testimony.