For six weeks, Johnny Depp (58) was in the courtroom every day, mostly with tinted glasses and thick rings on his hands. Sometimes he grins, but he often looks down while his explosive relationship with actress Amber Heard (36) is publicly rolled out.
But on Wednesday, when the seven jurors awarded him a victory over the ex-wife, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star was absent from court. Only his legal team is represented.
After the trial, Depp traveled to England to perform in concert with rock guitarist Jeff Beck. On the day of the verdict, he was spotted with musicians in a pub in Newcastle, British media reported.
Dressed in black, Heard listens with his eyes downcast as the verdict is read in Fairfax County Courthouse, Virginia, just outside Washington.
The jury did not believe her allegations of abuse. She has to pay Depp more than $10 million in damages for defamation. Small consolation: Depp owes her two million dollars after the jury’s decision for statements by his ex-lawyer that would have damaged Heard’s reputation.
Word quickly got around about Depp’s victory among the dozens of onlookers in front of the courthouse. “Johnny, Johnny” chants, loud cheers can be heard.
“I’m incredibly happy about this verdict,” says James Golder of the German Press Agency. Justice for “actual” victims of abuse is important to him. She didn’t believe “a word” of Amber, agrees Depp supporter Jordan Kehoe.
Sarah Procter describes herself as a victim of domestic violence. “I’m so happy for Johnny,” says the 33-year-old. The allegations against the star were false.
In the bitter exchange of blows between the ex-husbands, Depp enjoyed a huge fan advantage. The star was greeted by cheering supporters in front of the courthouse every day. Under hashtags like
Depp emerges victorious from the defamation trial, but he is also a loser in a staged mud fight, with intense hostilities, live-streamed from court cameras worldwide.
Neither of the two will completely shake off the described scenes of a marriage. A severed fingertip, messages written in blood, faeces on the bedspread – these are just some of the details now immortalized in court transcripts.
The verdict of the jury, five men and two women, came after three days of deliberations. At the core of Depp’s civil lawsuit was a 2018 op-ed by the Washington Post in which Heard described himself as a victim of domestic violence.
She didn’t name Depp, but the Pirates of the Caribbean star felt she was a victim of false testimony and is suing for $50 million in defamation damages. Heard countersued with a $100 million claim. She claimed that Depp’s ex-lawyer Adam Waldman had damaged her reputation with a smear campaign.
The verdict revolved around complicated legal issues such as freedom of speech, intent or damage to reputation – but the credibility of the Hollywood stars and the mutual allegations of abuse were also put to the test.
For weeks, lawyers on both sides had brought allegations of sexual abuse, physical violence, lies and drug excesses, backed by dozens of testimonies, shocking cell phone videos, audio recordings of rude abuse and photos of bruises.
Heard had described numerous incidents of alleged abuse on the witness stand. The actor said under oath that he “never” used physical violence in his relationship with Heard. Depp’s lawyers portrayed Heard as a notorious liar whose testimony could not be trusted.
Heard’s lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn, in turn, drew a picture of Depp as an aggressive man who had become a “monster” under the influence of alcohol and drugs. A verdict against Heard would send devastating news to abuse victims around the world, Rottenborn warned.
“I am harassed, humiliated and threatened every single day just by walking into this courtroom,” Heard told the jury. “I regularly get hundreds of death threats, almost every day. Thousands since this trial began,” Heard said tearfully on the witness stand at the end of the trial.
Shortly after the verdict was read, the actress expressed her deep disappointment on Twitter. The fact that the jury largely did not believe her despite a “mountain of evidence” breaks her heart.
Worse, this is a “step backwards” for other women in a similar situation, Heard wrote. It was a setback for the idea “that violence against women should be taken seriously”.
For Depp, this is the first win in the exes’ longstanding feud, following a defeat in London two years ago. There he had sued the British tabloid “Sun”, which had described him in an article as a woman beater. Back then, Depp and Heard had been making accusations behind closed court doors for weeks. In the end, in 2020, a judge found most of the allegations in the article to be true.
An important difference: now it was a duel before the eyes of the world public. Depp was able to stage himself in the limelight, also with the prominent support of his ex-girlfriend Kate Moss.
The British supermodel testified for him via video link. Depp dated Moss for several years in the 1990s, and their split was followed by a long-term relationship with French actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two adult children. Depp and Heard married in 2015, but after just 15 months of marriage, the actress filed for divorce following allegations of domestic violence.
A new chapter has finally begun for him, Depp wrote on Wednesday. The jury gave his life back to him after suffering false accusations for six years. “The best is yet to come,” Depp trumped.