FALLS CHURCH, Va. - Johnny Depp and Amber Heard both won, in part, their defamation lawsuits, a jury announced on Wednesday after deliberating for about 12 hours over three days.
After hearing weeks of testimony — including hours from both Depp and Heard themselves — the jury’s stunning decision found both defamation suits credible and awarded both actors millions of dollars in damages. Heard was to pay Depp $15 million, and Depp is to pay Heard $2 million.
The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages, which is compensation for libel, and $5 million in punitive damages, which is the penalty for libel. But, because of a Virginia statute, Depp’s punitive damages are limited to $350,000 — making the total he’ll be awarded just over $10 million. Heard's $2 million was awarded in compensatory damages.
The six-week-long trial centered on whether Heard defamed her ex-husband in a 2018 newspaper op-ed in which she referenced herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." Depp sued for $50 million in damages, saying that, although the piece didn’t name him specifically, it was a clear enough reference to him to damage his reputation and cost him lucrative movie roles. Heard countersued Depp for $100 million, claiming Depp and his former lawyer conspired to defame her by calling her abuse claims a hoax.
Depp had to prove not only that he never assaulted Heard, but that Heard’s article — which focused primarily on public policy related to domestic violence — defamed him. He also had to prove that Heard wrote the article with actual malice. And to claim damages he had to prove that her article caused the damage to his reputation as opposed to any number of articles before and after Heard’s piece that detailed the allegations against him.
Heard said minutes after the verdict was read that she was "sad she lost this case" and "heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband."
She called the verdict a setback for women that "sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."
Depp said in a statement that the verdict "gave me my life back" and that he is "truly humbled."
"From the beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome," he continued. "Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."
The trial captivated the internet and was livestreamed daily, garnering millions of views. Some fans even camped out, spending tens of thousands of dollars, for a chance to witness the court proceedings in person.
Below is a summary of what happened and some key moments throughout the trial:
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case summary
Depp, 58, sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018. The piece was headlined: "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change." In the piece, she referenced herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse."
Heard never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers argued it was a clear reference to abuse accusations Heard made when she sought a 2016 restraining order against him.
Depp denied he ever struck Heard and said she was the abuser in the relationship. Heard testified about more than a dozen separate instances of physical abuse she says she suffered at Depp’s hands.
Depp said his movie career suffered and that the accusations and the article made him a Hollywood outcast and cost him his role in the lucrative "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise.
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - JUNE 01: Actress Amber Heard departs the Fairfax County Courthouse on June 1, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Heard’s lawyers argued that Heard’s opinion piece was accurate and didn't defame him. They said Depp’s career downfall and ruined reputation was due to his own bad behavior and argued that The Walt Disney Co. had already decided to ax Depp from "Pirates of the Caribbean" months before the article’s publication.
Additionally, Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his former lawyer, Adam Waldman, called her claims of abuse a hoax. Heard's lawyers argued Waldman made those statements in league with Depp, something Depp denies.
Where is Johnny Depp for the verdict?
Depp hasn't been waiting in Virginia for the decision. He's spent the last few days on stage, singing and playing guitar with Jeff Beck in the United Kingdom.
A source close to Depp told FOX News that he would remain in the U.K. for the verdict due to previously scheduled work commitments made prior to the trial. A source also said Heard would be present for the verdict.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s relationship timeline
The two met in 2009 while filming "The Rum Diary." Despite their 22-year age difference, Heard testified there was an instant connection when Depp met with her as he considered her for a role in the film.
"I was a no-name actor. I was 22. He was twice my age. He’s this world-famous actor and here we are getting along about obscure books, old blues" music, testified Heard, who’s now 36.
While they had chemistry during the filming of the movie, she said they didn’t begin dating until doing a press tour for the film’s release in 2011. At the outset, they kept their relationship a secret.
Heard testified that the first act of physical abuse against her by Depp happened in 2013.
The two married in February of 2015 reportedly at their Los Angeles home, but the nuptials didn’t last long. In May 2016, Heard filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order against Depp. Their divorce was finalized in early 2017, with Heard saying she was going to donate her $7-million settlement to charity.
Heard’s op-ed was published in the Post in 2018. In 2019, Depp filed a $50-million defamation lawsuit against her. Heard countersued Depp for $100 million.
The trial began on April 12, 2022.
Depp’s alcohol and drug use
Depp and Heard painted very different portraits of Depp’s drug and alcohol use.
Heard said drugs and alcohol — along with paranoid jealousy — is what turned him from the man she loved into the "monster" who made her fear for her life. She said he hid his drug and alcohol use from her and from his family but his behavior made it clear he was high or drunk, often to the point of incoherence.
"Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from Quaaludes Johnny, but I had to get good at paying attention to the different versions of him," Heard testified.
Heard said Depp’s denials of physical abuse lack credibility in part because he would black out and forget what he’d done.
Depp, for his part, admitted that he’d become addicted at one point to oxycodone and underwent a detox process in 2014, which was before the two were married. But he said the allegations of uncontrolled drug and alcohol use are grossly embellished.
"I’ve always had a pretty big tolerance for alcohol," he testified. "I’ve never had a physical addiction to alcohol."
Testimony of one example of his drug and alcohol use focused on a 2014 flight from Boston to Los Angeles while Depp was filming "Black Mass."
Heard said Depp assaulted her on the flight while he was blackout drunk.
Depp testified he took two oxycodone pills — an opiate to which he admits he was addicted at the time — and locked himself in the plane bathroom and fell asleep to avoid her badgering.
He told the court that he drank only a glass of Champagne while boarding the flight. But texts he sent to the actor Paul Bettany at the time referenced drinking half a bottle of whiskey, "a thousand Red Bull vodkas" and two bottles of Champagne before the flight.
Later in the trial, a psychiatrist testified that Depp's behavior fits the pattern of a person whose drug and alcohol abuse contributes to domestic violence.
In order to rule on Depp’s libel claim, the jury had to decide whether the facts in the case proved Depp, in fact, abused Heard. Depp said he never physically abused her, while Heard said she was assaulted on more than a dozen occasions. Depp also alleged he was the victim of abuse inflicted by her.
Heard testified the first act of physical violence against her happened in 2013. She said it happened when the two were talking about one of Depp’s tattoos, and she said she made the mistake of laughing at it.
She said Depp responded by slapping her. Thinking the slap must be a joke, she laughed more. Depp responded by slapping her twice more, with the third slap knocking Heard off balance.
Depp, while he was on the stand, flatly denied it occurred.
The tattoo in question was one that used to say "Winona Forever," which Depp got when he was dating actor Winona Ryder. He had it altered to "Wino Forever" when they broke up.
Depp and Heard both agreed the worst violence occurred in March 2015 in Australia while Depp was shooting the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, but that’s where their agreement of the account ends.
Heard said Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon as part of an alcohol-fueled rage that included accusing her of infidelity with a co-star.
Depp said he was the victim of violence because Heard was irate over a pending post-nuptial agreement and his struggles with sobriety.
Depp testified Heard threw a liquor bottle at him twice, and that one smashed against his hand while it rested on a counter and severed the tip of his middle finger.
Photos of the aftermath showed Depp wrote vulgar messages to his wife in blood on the walls of the house. Jurors also saw contemporaneous text messages Depp sent to others in which he said he cut off his own finger. Depp said he made up that story to protect Heard and avoid police involvement.
A hand surgeon later testified that Depp could not have lost the tip of his middle finger the way he told jurors it happened.
Kate Moss staircase testimony
On one of the last days of the trial, supermodel Kate Moss was called to testify as a rebuttal witness. Her brief testimony only lasted about three minutes. She appeared via live video link from Gloucestershire, England.
Moss addressed the infamous staircase rumor that claimed Depp pushed her down a flight of stairs during an incident while the two were dating. Moss, 48, said that while the two were on a vacation at the GoldenEye resort in Jamaica she slipped and fell while leaving her hotel room following a rainstorm.
Moss said Depp rushed to her aid, carried her back to her room and brought her medical attention after she fell.
"No. He never pushed me, kicked me or threw me down any stairs," Moss answered when asked if Depp was responsible for the incident.
Moss said that she and Depp were involved in a romantic relationship from 1994 to 1998. She was dragged into the case earlier in the trial when Heard blurted out her name during testimony.
Amber Heard bruise kit
On cross-examination, Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez questioned Heard about multiple photos of her that appeared not to show bruises even though they were taken within days of alleged abuse incidents. Heard said she used makeup to cover bruises and ice to reduce swelling.
Heard then discussed her makeup routine, using a color correction wheel that she called her "bruise kit" to cover up marks on her face. She said she learned over the years to use green shades in the first day of a bruise to cover up redness, and switch more to orange shades as the bruise turned blue and purple.
"I’m not going to walk around L.A. with bruises on my face," she said.
Histrionic personality disorder
Heard’s mental health was also on trial, so to speak, for the past several weeks.
A forensic psychologist hired by Depp’s legal team testified that she suffered from borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, which Cleveland Clinic defines as "a mental health condition marked by intense, unstable emotions and a distorted self-image.
The psychologist also testified that Heard does not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from her relationship with Depp, as Heard has claimed.
But weeks later, the first witness to take the stand on Heard’s behalf testified Heard does suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and disputed that she suffered from any personality disorder.
Why did the Depp-Heard trial happen in Virginia?
The trial took place in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia.
Heard’s lawyers had sought to have the case tried in California, where the actors reside. But a judge ruled that Depp was within his rights to bring the case in Virginia because The Washington Post’s computer servers for its online edition are located in the county.
Depp’s lawyers said they brought the case in Virginia in part because the laws there are more favorable to their case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.