Johnny Depp Wins $15 Million in Defamation Case, While Amber Heard Awarded $2 Million for Counterclaim

The split-verdict decision finds both Depp and Heard liable for defamation

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in court Monday. (Credit: YouTube/Law&Crime)

Johnny Depp has been awarded $15 million in his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard.

The jury’s verdict, which found both parties liable, was reached Wednesday in a Virginia court after the panel spent three days deliberating over more than six weeks of grueling, emotional and highly contradictory testimony in a case focused on a Washington Post op-ed written by Heard.

Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million dollars in punitive damages (although the judge in the case later capped Depp’s punitive damages at $350,000 in accordance with Virginia law), while the jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and nothing in punitive damages. Depp had sought $50 million in damages with Heard counter-suing for $100 million.

Heard was present in the courtroom for the verdict while Depp watched on TV from the U.K., where he had traveled after testimony ended Friday to perform with legendary rocker Jeff Beck, for a show in Sheffield and two at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Heard watched the verdict — read by the judge off a list of the jury’s responses to her instructions — with little emotional response, solemnly looking down throughout the judge’s reading of the verdict.

“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” Heard said in a statement. “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.

“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women,” the statement continued. “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.”

Meanwhile, Depp lauded the verdict in a statement, saying “best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun.”

“False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me,” Depp said. “It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career.

“And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”

A formal oversight from the jury delayed Wednesday’s announcement for nearly 20 minutes.

With the panel reseated in the courtroom and millions watching from TV feeds, expecting a verdict, the judge sent the jurors back to the jury room, telling them to fill out a compensatory-damages form with the amount of at least $1.

Depp sued Heard for three counts of defamation, claiming her 2018 Washington Post op-ed – in which she identified as a victim of domestic abuse – trashed his career. He says he was the abuse victim in their fiery relationship and sought $50 million, though he testified that the purpose of his case is to repair his legacy for his children and restore his reputation in the entertainment industry.

Heard counter-sued for $100 million, based on claims that Depp’s lawyer Adam Waldman defamed her when he spoke to British newspapers during the U.K. version of the case, which Depp lost. Waldman repeatedly said in the press that Heard’s story was a “hoax” perpetrated by a scorned ex bent on destroying Depp’s life.

Of the many witnesses called by both teams, only one – Heard’s sister Whitney – testified that she actually saw Depp strike Heard. But whether Depp ever abused Heard was only one of many complex, interlocking determinations the jury had to make.

Since Heard’s op-ed didn’t call Depp by name, jurors also had to decide whether he was the intended target; whether Heard acted with actual malice; and whether she was even responsible for the article’s contents, since it was written in conjunction with the ACLU. Heard’s team pointed out none of this mattered if they believed Depp abused Heard – “even once.”

The nitty-gritty legal details behind those defamation claims were the crux of a case that was otherwise highlighted by harrowing testimony from Heard, who described nightmarish encounters with a blacked-out Depp in 2014 and 2015. Over multiple days of testimony, Heard described in grim detail how she was punched, kicked, pulled by the hair and sexually assaulted with a glass liquor bottle.

Depp has denied having ever hit Heard, or any woman, in his life, and maintains that Heard was the abuser, not just physically but emotionally. She admitted having “hit” Johnny, and the jury heard her on audio recordings cruelly berating and belittling him.

His legal team blasted away at Heard’s testimony and photographic evidence, grilling her about the day she filed a restraining order in Los Angeles, where she was photographed with face bruises. They suggested Heard had tipped off the waiting paparazzi, which she denied, and suggested that she trashed her apartment to give the appearance of a fight aftermath before calling police.

Team Depp painted Heard’s testimony, photographs, and actions as a staged, calculated, conspiratorial ploy to get back at Depp after a marriage that was, by anyone’s account, volatile. Both sides had widely different accounts of how the actor severed his fingertip; who left a “fecal surprise” in their bed; and just about every other behind-closed-doors matter described on the stand.