ACTOR Johnny Depp won more than $10 million in damages on Wednesday, achieving a near-total victory in a defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard to cap a six-week trial featuring graphic testimony about the stars’ soured relationship.
A seven-person jury in Virginia also ruled for Ms. Heard on one counterclaim against Mr. Depp. The Pirates of the Caribbean film star depicted the decision as a vindication, and his former wife said it was “a disappointment.”
Jurors awarded Mr. Depp $15 million in damages from Ms. Heard, which the judge reduced to $10.35 million to comply with state limits on punitive damages. The panel ordered Mr. Depp to pay Ms. Heard $2 million in damages.
Mr. Depp, 58, had sued Ms. Heard for $50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a newspaper opinion piece.
Ms. Heard countersued for $100 million, saying Mr. Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax.”
Mr. Depp denied hitting Ms. Heard, 36, or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship. He told jurors the allegations from Ms. Heard, best known for her role in Aquaman, had cost him “everything.” A new Pirates movie was put on hold and Mr. Depp was replaced in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, a Harry Potter spinoff.
“The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” Mr. Depp, who watched the verdict from Britain, said in a statement.
“The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun,” he added, ending with the Latin phrase “Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes.”
Ms. Heard, seated in the courtroom between two of her lawyers, looked down as the verdicts were read.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” she 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,” she added. “It is a setback.”
Mr. Depp faced a different outcome in Britain less than two years ago, when he sued the Sun tabloid for calling him a “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
JURY HEARS ABOUT COUPLE’S CLASHESThe two met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.
At the center of the legal case was a December 2018 opinion piece by Ms. Heard in the Washington Post. The article did not mention Mr. Depp by name but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Ms. Heard was referring to him.
The jury agreed with all of Mr. Depp’s defamation claims, which cited a passage in the article and headline that read: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
Jurors rejected two of Ms. Heard’s three counterclaims. They concluded she was defamed when an attorney for Mr. Depp told a media outlet that Ms. Heard staged property damage to show to police after an alleged fight.
“Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist,” the statement said in part.
During six weeks of testimony, Ms. Heard’s attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
Jurors listened to recordings of the couple’s fights and saw graphic photos of Mr. Depp’s bloody finger. He said the top of the finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.
Ms. Heard denied injuring Mr. Depp’s finger and said Mr. Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle. She said she struck him only to defend herself or her sister.
Testimony was livestreamed widely on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple’s troubled relationship.
Mr. Depp’s lawyers filed the US case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper was not a defendant. — Reuters