02 June 2022

The final verdict of the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

The Depp v Heard case already has its final verdict. After becoming the most notorious trial in the media during the last two months, filling social networks, capturing large audiences and questioning the truth once again. It is a trial for defamation, where Amber Heard, ex-partner of the famous Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, had previously accused him of domestic violence with a headline in an op-ed published in the Washington Post where such accusation was supported.


The hearings took place in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia. The interest that underlies the choice of the place comes from the hand of a certain anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), which in principle would benefit Heard, granting her immunity considering it is a matter of public interest, under the first amendment that guarantees the right to freedom of speech in the United States.


After six long weeks of testimonies by both parties, having brought to court celebrities such as Jason Momoa or Kate Moss, among many others, it has come to an end. The seven members of the jury made sure yesterday to deliberate the verdict, but after more than nine hours they did not reach a unanimous decision.


Discussion stopped to consult with the judge whether to consider just the headline or the full op-ed. In the headline in question, Heard stated “I spoke out against sexual violence and faced the wrath of our culture, that has to change” and later continued “Two years ago, I became a public figure representing the domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's anger at women speaking out. […] I had the rare advantage of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” Finally, the judge determined that it was the headline that should be taken into account exclusively.


The jury had to answer a form on whether Depp had proven all elements of libel, and whether he had shown by clear and convincing evidence that Heard acted with true malice. The seven juries concluded affirmatively and unanimously.


Depp was demanding 50 million dollars for the damages that Heard's accusation had led to his acting career. For her part, she claimed for twice that amount, since she defended having spoken under her right to freedom of speech, as well as another libel on herself for denying her allegations of domestic violence. However, the judge has questioned Heard's statement of abuse, dismissing his testimony in favor of Depp, since the abuse she denounced has been considered false.


The negotiation has been solved with a great victory for Depp, to whom Heard must pay 15 million dollars, of which 10 are for compensatory damages and 5 for punitive damages, which will later be reduced to 10.35 million dollars, according to the legislation of the state of Virginia that limits punitive damages to that amount ($350,000). While she will receive 2 million dollars for compensatory damages, since he also defamed her, but only in one of the three evidences that were presented.


During the trial, the price of fame has been exposed, as the worst sides of both of them has been brought out, putting their careers and reputation at greater risk. The toxicity of the relationship has been revealed, the extreme that can be reached after a bad breakup and the damage that can be done to the person so beloved in the past. The allegations of domestic violence and other aggressive behavior, as well as excessive drug and alcohol use, have not only been towards Johnny Depp as expected before the trial, but also for Heard, according to the testimonies of close people.


Several psychologists and psychiatrists have spoken before the jury and have diagnosed both Heard and Depp with multiple psychological disorders. ADHD, bipolarity, depression and insomnia in Depp's case; and post-traumatic stress and two personality disorders in Heard's. However, this goes against the Goldwater Rule, a guideline from the American Psychiatric Association according to which psychiatrists should not screen public figures without an in-person examination.


As it is a case of defamation and not a criminal one, the final verdict of the jury does not lead to a guilty nor innocent conviction of any of the parties, and only the damages caused must be compensated.


Among the reactions, Heard has been seen leaving the Court crestfallen and later has communicated her disappointment: “I am heartbroken that the mountain of evidence was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power and influence of my ex-husband… I am even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It's a setback. It turns back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It hurts the idea that violence against women should be taken seriously."


For his part, the actor who was enjoying concerts and pubs in London, has communicated "Six years ago, my life, the lives of my children, the lives of my closest beings and also the lives of the people who for many , many years have supported me and believed in me, changed forever. All in the blink of an eye. False, very serious and criminal allegations were made against me through the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me. I had already circled the world twice in a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and career. And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly honored."

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