After six weeks of testimony and three days of deliberation, the seven-person jury in the Depp v. Heard defamation case delivered its verdict today. The jury made a unanimous decision to find both parties liable for defamation, although appeared to side more closely with Depp, awarding him $15 million in damages, while awarding Heard $2 million in damages. Both parties were present at the courthouse in Fairfax County, Virginia, to hear the ruling. Amber Heard was present at the courthouse, while Johnny Depp watched the proceedings from the United Kingdom, where he recently traveled for “work commitments”.
In 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post describing herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. While she did not mention Depp by name, his legal team argued that the implication was strong enough that it negatively affected Depp’s ability to land movie roles. In 2020, Depp filed a defamation suit seeking $50 million in damages from Heard. That same year, Heard countersued for $100 million.
The pair met while filming The Rum Diary in 2011. Their relationship was volatile, and they were married in 2015 before Heard filed for divorce in May 2016 and was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp. They acknowledged their relationship had been “volatile” and announced they had settled their divorce in 2017.
In 2018, after a British newspaper called The Sun ran an article alleging that Depp was a “wife-beater” following allegations made by Heard at the time of filing for the restraining order, Depp sued both The Sun’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, and News Group Newspapers. An extremely publicized three-week trial took place in London in 2020, during which the court ultimately ruled in favor of The Sun. A further appeal by Depp was unsuccessful, and he stepped down from his role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise soon after at the request of Warner Bros., the film’s production company.
The broadcast of Johnny Depp’s recent trial has become a media circus and a social media phenomenon, with many finding footage from the proceedings all but inescapable across a number of platforms, including Twitter and TikTok. Most notable of all have been the army of Depp fans who have flooded the pages of both those testifying on behalf of Heard and individual social media users speaking negatively about Depp with the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp. Meanwhile, Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez became an overnight internet celebrity for her intense lines of questioning during Heard’s cross-examination.
The lawsuit has also sparked broader discussions about domestic violence, substance abuse, the current state of the #MeToo movement, and mental health. Supporters of Depp have seen the trial as an example of a man subjected to domestic abuse; supporters of Heard have viewed the proceedings—and the outsize online reactions—as a deliberate smearing of the actor. Given the intensity of these online debates, it’s unlikely that they will be settled after today’s verdict.