‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star Johnny Depp wins in the defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard.
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Amber Heard asked a judge Friday to toss the verdict against her – arguing that the $10.35 million judgment in favor of Johnny Depp wasn’t supported by the evidence presented during the sensational six-week trial.
In a 43-page motion, Heard’s lawyers Elaine Bredehoft and Ben Rottenborn argued that Judge Penney Azcarate should throw out the judgment and dismiss the complaint in Fairfax County District Court in Virginia.
“The verdict is excessive as a matter of law in light of the evidence and law, and should be set aside,” they wrote.
A jury awarded Depp a $10.35 million finding that his 36-year-old ex-wife had defamed him and caused him to lose business opportunities by penning a 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post calling herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse."
He made claims that three statements in the op-ed were defamatory – including the headline referring to Heard as a survivor of sexual assault.
Actor Amber Heard stands with attorney Elaine Bredehoft before closing arguments in the Depp v. Heard trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. (Steve Helber / POOL / AFP)
Heard countersued Depp, 59, and won $2 million on her claim that a statement made by his attorney, Adam Waldman, to the press calling her allegations a "hoax” was libelous.
The latest motion from Heard’s team alleges that Depp failed to prove that the op-ed cost the actor his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean” six, noting that a contract had not been signed.
“Mr. Depp presented no evidence of any pecuniary damages suffered,” wrote lawyers for the “Aquaman” actress.
In addition, the attorneys argued that Depp inappropriately broadened the period of the damages to stretch back six years. The trial was supposed to focus on Dec. 18, 2018 – when the op-ed was published – to Nov. 2, 2020, they wrote.
But, in the case presented to the jury, Depp’s lawyers went back to the restraining order that Heard filed on May 27, 2016, accusing him of bashing her in the face with a cellphone, which launched the warring exes’ years-long public battle.
A photo combination of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in court May 23, 2022. ((AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool))
Meanwhile, Azcarate barred jurors from hearing that a UK judge had substantiated 12 acts of domestic violence against Heard in 2020, after a highly publicized London defamation trial. Depp had sued the publisher of The Sun newspaper for branding him a wife beater and lost.
“The exclusion of the UK Judgement, coupled with Mr. Depp’s continuous urging to the jury to go back six years and exonerate him and restore his reputation, resulted in an indefensible $10 million compensatory damage verdict and a $5 million punitive damage verdict,” wrote the lawyers.
Azcarate reduced the punitive damages award to $350,000 – the maximum under Virginia law.
Amber Heard leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia following verdict in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against her. (Win McNamee)
The motion also argued that Depp failed to prove “actual malice,” namely that Heard did not believe or had serious doubts that her ex-husband had abused her when the op-ed was published.
The filing largely rehashed the defense case that Heard’s team presented at trial, which the jury rejected. Heard has said she plans to appeal, and the latest submission is the first step in that process.
Depp is scheduled for another civil trial in July in Los Angeles. A location manager on the set of “City of Lies” filed a lawsuit accusing Depp of slugging him in 2017.
Rebecca Rosenberg is a veteran journalist and book author with a focus on crime and criminal justice. Email tips to email@example.com and @ReRosenberg.