On Wednesday, a jury decided that Johnny Depp should be awarded $15 million dollars in his countersuit against ex-wife Amber Heard. They only awarded $2 million to Heard’s countersuit, although she had requested $100 million.
Depp had sued for $50 million. Although the jury ruled that he should receive $15 million – $10 million compensatory and $5 million punitive – that $5 million dollars was reduced to $350,000 as per Virginia state law.
The jury’s decision shocked many legal analysts and experts who had been reviewing the trial, as Depp had already lost his 2020 U.K. trial against the British tabloid The Sun, which had labeled Depp a “wife-beater.”
Legal Experts Weigh In On Jury’s Decision In Johnny Depp – Amber Heard Trial
Lawyer and legal analyst Emily D. Baker told PEOPLE that the trial had a “strange result.” Family law attorney David Glass also called the result “very unexpected” and noted that it’s “relatively rare” for both parties to win and lose in a defamation trial.
Glass told PEOPLE that the jury “found that each of them was telling the truth enough to get their verdict.” However, he noted that the jury clearly favored the testimony from Johnny Depp “because the jury just did not believe anything that Amber Heard had said — other than her expert saying that her career was slightly damaged.”
Baker told the publication that punitive damages can be considered punishment damages. In other words, it was the jury saying, “we don’t like what you did.” She added, “And that five million number is, I think, a message.”
Glass seemed to agree, saying that the punitive damages meant that the jury decided that Heard “did this on purpose to try and hurt him” when she wrote her 2018 op-ed, declaring herself as a survivor of domestic abuse. Glass also says it means that the jury “did not believe” Heard’s allegations, despite her testimony that she suffered years of physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse at Depp’s hands.
Legal Analysts Felt Johnny Depp Faced An ‘Uphill Battle’ In His Defamation Trial
Defamation cases can be very hard to prove, and many legal analysts, not just Baker, had been saying that Depp was facing an “uphill battle” to prove his defamation suit. However, Baker believes that Johnny Depp’s legal team had the advantage in this trial.
Baker believes that Depp’s legal team knew “how Amber Heard would present to a jury after seeing her testify in the U.K. And I think that they relied on that. She added, “They relied on whether a jury’s going to believe her or not, they relied on her past statements.”
Depp’s legal team – which saw Camille Vasquez and Ben Chew take center stage – won over Johnny Depp supporters on social media. Glass believes that Depp’s attorneys did a “good job with his testimony in preparing him because he came off as a hurt child.” She added, “And they talked about his own childhood upbringing to bring around some sympathy for him. And that was a brilliant move because they allowed him to act that way.”
Baker felt that Heard’s legal team – mainly Elaine Bredehoft and Ben Rottenborn – “did the best they could.” Baker noted that the “Aquaman” actress “wanted to tell her story” and noted that she did so “in a very dramatic fashion.” Baker ventured, “Perhaps she went too far in bringing up new stories that had never been brought up before, and perhaps that’s what turned the jury.”
Legal Experts Don’t Believe This Trial Will Have A Great Impact On Domestic Abuse Survivors
Glass called it a “Very unusual, very unique case,” adding, “This case boiled down to one [volatile] relationship that lasted about a year and had allegations on both sides.”
Although several have expressed concern for what this case might mean for the #MeToo movement, Glass doesn’t seem all that concerned about the impact this trial will have on domestic abuse survivors.
Glass said that he doesn’t believe that this trial will have “a lot of influence elsewhere other than maybe in law schools teaching about defamation. Because, honestly when you go to law school, you’re taught that these defamation cases almost never win, and it’s very hard to prove the damages — to link very short, small statements to any sort of real monetary damage to your reputation or your employment.”
He added, “And so this sort of stands out as an outlier that I think will be talked about, but only in terms of it really doesn’t fit the elements of defamation.”
Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, spoke to TODAY shortly after the jury’s verdict and said that Heard plans to appeal the ruling.