Depp-Heard trial: what did the jury hear?
Tech Updates

Depp-Heard trial: what did the jury hear?

After a six-week trial, a civilian jury in Virginia spent about 12 hours discussing charges of defamation by Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp-Heard trial: what did the jury hear?

The trial contained gruesome testimonies with explicit details about the film stars’ brief and fleeting marriage. But what was the case really about? And what was the jury to decide?:


Depp filed a $50 million ($A69 million) defamation lawsuit against Heard, alleging that the the 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post damaged his reputation and career. In the article, Heard described himself as “a public figure representing domestic violence”“. Depp is not mentioned by name in the report. Still, his lawyers argued that it was clear that she was referring to Depp as she had publicly accused him of domestic violence during their divorce proceedings in 2016. Heard’s attorneys said the bulk of the article focuses on public policy on domestic violence and that she had a First Amendment right to address that issue. They also claim that Depp did indeed abuse Heard.


During the trial, Heard detailed more than a dozen specific cases where Depp abused her, including her allegation that he sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle in an alcohol-fueled rage. Depp denies physical or sexual abuse and says Heard made the claims to destroy his reputation. He also claimed that she physically assaulted him several times.


The seven-member jury had to decide whether two passages and the article headline were defamatory. The jury verdict instructed the jurors to determine, including by asking them whether the statements were about Depp, that they were false and had a defamatory implication about him. Heard’s attorneys told the jury that Depp’s libel claim would fail if Heard faced a single abuse incident. Because Depp is a public figure, Heard can only be found guilty of libel if the jury decides she acted with “genuine malice,” meaning she either knew what she wrote was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.


Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his former attorney called her allegations a hoax. The counterclaim received less attention during the trial. Still, Heard’s lawyer told jurors that it allows the jury to compensate Heard for the abuse Depp did to her by staging a smear campaign after they broke up.

The jury verdict asked the jury to decide whether Depp’s former attorney, acting as an agent for Depp, had made or published three false statements about Heard and were seen by anyone other than Heard. The jury must also decide whether Depp’s attorney made the statements with genuine malice.

The jury will announce its verdict on Thursday morning Australian time.