A US jury found Wednesday that actress Amber Heard had made defamatory claims of abuse against her ex-husband Johnny Depp, and awarded him $15 million in damages.
The seven-member jury in Virginia found that a 2018 article penned by Heard on the “sexual violence” she had suffered was defamatory to Depp, and was written with malicious intent — making her guilty of libel.
The jury reached a verdict on Wednesday in the high-profile defamation case.
The seven-person Virginia jury has been deliberating for about 13 hours over three days in Fairfax County Circuit Court near the US capital.
Closing arguments in the case were held on Friday at the end of a six-week trial riding on claims and counterclaims of domestic abuse between the Hollywood celebrities.
The 58-year-old Depp filed suit against Heard over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
The Texas-born Heard, who had a starring role in “Aquaman,” did not name Depp in the piece, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $50 million in damages.
The 36-year-old Heard countersued for $100 million, saying she was defamed by statements made by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, who told the Daily Mail her abuse claims were a “hoax.”
The jury has been working painstakingly through a special verdict form that contains dozens of questions.
The eight-page verdict form contained 24 questions relating to Depp’s suit against Heard and 18 questions relating to her countersuit against him.
Both needed to prove the statements were defamatory, and to win compensatory or punitive damages, the jury needed to find they were made with actual malice — with knowledge that they were false or with “reckless disregard” for whether they were false or not.
Depp flew to England over the Memorial Day weekend and made surprise appearances at concerts by Jeff Beck in Sheffield on Sunday and at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Monday and Tuesday.
Depp, a guitarist, has his own band, the Hollywood Vampires, with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.
“Your presence shows where your priorities are,” Heard’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“Johnny Depp plays guitar in the UK while Amber Heard waits for a verdict in Virginia. Depp is taking his snickering and lack of seriousness on tour.”
Dozens of witnesses testified during the trial, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, doctors, friends and relatives.
Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial, which was attended by hundreds of fans of the “Pirates” star and accompanied by a #JusticeForJohnnyDepp campaign on social media.
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