The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial verdict, explained

Photos by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images and Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images. Remix by Danny Peterson.

After 51 grueling days, the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial finally reached its conclusion, with a jury deciding that Depp was indeed defamed following a 2018 op-ed written by his former wife.

The trial, which played out through social media and live on television, was a contentious back and forth between the two. The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. He originally asked for $50 million.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the number of punitive damages to $350,000, making his total award $10.4 million.

Heard countersued for $100 million, saying Depp’s former attorney defamed in 2020 to the Daily Mail when he called Heard’s allegations of spousal violence a hoax. The jury agreed with her and awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages and $0 in punitive.

Here’s everything you need to know about the trial.

How long did the jury deliberate?

The jury deliberated for about 13 hours over the course of three days.

What did Amber Heard say after the verdict?

Heard released a statement saying she was disappointed and that the verdict “sets back the clock” on women speaking up against abuse.

The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. 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. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke up could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women should 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 U.K.

I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly.

What did Johnny Depp say after the verdict?

Depp released a statement saying “the jury gave me my life back.”

Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed.

All in the blink of an eye.

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. 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.

My decision to pursue this case, knowing very well the height of the legal hurdles that I would be facing and the inevitable, worldwide spectacle into my life, was only made after considerable thought.

From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. 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.

I am, and have been, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the colossal support and kindness from around the world. I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation, and that those supporting them never give up. I also hope that the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media.

I wish to acknowledge the noble work of the Judge, the jurors, the court staff and the Sheriffs who have sacrificed their own time to get to this point, and to my diligent and unwavering legal team who did an extraordinary job in helping me to share the truth.

The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun.

Veritas numquam perit.

Truth never perishes.

Who sued whom and why?

Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that said she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”

In May of 2016, Heard first levied the abuse accusations at Depp and requested a temporary restraining order over claims of domestic violence. Depp responded by calling Heard a liar, saying she was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”

In August of that same year, Heard decided to pull back her request for a permanent injunction against Depp and they both released statements that “there was never an intent of physical or emotional harm” and that “neither party has made false accusations for financial gain,” basically saying that Depp wasn’t abusive and that Heard wasn’t lying for a better divorce settlement.

Heard reportedly received $7 million in the divorce, which she promised to donate to the ACLU and The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. She later admitted she stopped making those payments after Depp sued her. The donation news helped to craft the narrative that she didn’t make money off the divorce and therefore wasn’t lying to get more money from it.

About three months after the op-ed came out, Depp sued for $50 million. Heard countersued for $100 million.

What about the previous lawsuit from 2018?

This is where things can get a little confusing. In 2018, Depp sued the Sun, a British tabloid, for referring to him as a “wife-beater” after the op-ed came out. The suit went to trial in London in 2020 and Depp lost. But because he sued the tabloid and not Heard, the suit in Virginia was a completely different case.

What did Depp say on the stand?

Depp testified that he was there to clear his name and that Heard’s allegations were “not based in any species of truth.” He agreed that the couple had problems but said “Never did I, myself, reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

Depp claimed she yelled at him and would “strike out” at him violently. He said the op-ed ruined his reputation and he lost millions after being dropped from blockbuster franchises like the Pirates of the Caribbean.

What did Heard testify on the stand?

Heard said the couple had a storybook romance that was picture perfect until it wasn’t.

“When I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world,” Heard said on the stand. “It felt like a dream. It felt like absolute magic.”

She said he became jealous of other men and hit her frequently – including one time when she feared for her life. She provided the court with photos showing purported abuse and texts between the couple that was filled with sweaty expletives.

She claimed the op-ed wasn’t about Depp, but what happened to her following her filing a restraining order.

How does the ACLU fit into the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is an organization that calls itself “our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee.”

It selected Heard as a celebrity ambassador and drafted the op-ed that’s at the center of the case. Heard pledged half of what she received in the divorce ($3.5 million) to the organization.

Did Johnny Depp lose a finger?

A big part of the trial was the telling of a particular incident in Australia in 2015 where the tip of Depp’s finger was severed. Depp claimed that Heard chucked a vodka bottle at him and it cut him badly. Heard’s witnesses said Depp cut the finger off himself and then proceeded to write cryptic messages all over the house in his own blood.

Who pooped in the bed?

This, like the finger cutting incident, was never really quite solved. Depp claimed that Heard pooped on his bed to get back at him after an argument.

Heard denied this vehemently and said her teacup Yorkie did the dirty deed after getting into Depp’s drug stash. Heard said she would never “prank” Depp like that.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. First of all, I don’t think that’s funny. I was not in a pranking mood. My life was falling apart. I had just been attacked on my 30th birthday… it was not really a jovial time and I don’t think that’s funny, period. That’s disgusting.”

What does the verdict mean?

While the sheer amount of money seems astronomical for the case, it wasn’t really about money in the first place. Depp was suing because his reputation was ruined. There are clear signs that Depp’s career may be sputtering back to life, and Heard’s reputation is currently suffering.

How this all plays out remains to be seen, but Heard seems to be the clear loser in this situation, as she took a big hit in the court of public opinion.

Hashtags like #JusticeforJohnnyDepp have more than 15 billion views on TikTok while #Justicefor AmberHeard views are over 50 million, and most of it is negative. Even a petition to remove Heard from the upcoming Aquaman 2 movie reached more than three million signatures.

Things could eventually turn around, but right now they’re not looking great for the actress. Depp is the clear winner here.