John Depp v Amber Heard    

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On April 11, 2022, the court proceedings in the case began. Amber was being sued on three counts of defamation brought forward by John. The defendant; Amber Heard was also suing the plaintiff on one count of defamation. When the trial concluded the jury’s ruling was in favour of John Depp, II, on all three counts of defamation. The plaintiff was later compensated and the judge instructed John Depp, II, to be awarded $ 5 million for punitive damages and $ 10 m for compensatory damages. The judge also instructed the defendant to be awarded $ 2m in compensatory damages. The $5 million was later reduced to 350000 to meet the limit stipulated in Virginia’s statutory laws, code 8.01-38.1. In this regard, this paper seeks to analyze the facts of the case and weigh in on the jury’s verdict.

Previous Proceedings

The foundations of this case are based on previous proceedings such as the divorce proceedings and the plaintiff’s case against News Group Newspaper Ltd. In the year 2016 Amber Heard the defendant in this case filed for divorce from John Depp. The basis of this divorce was domestic abuse. It was alleged that John Depp was physically and verbally abusive to Amber (Silva, 2022). In August of the same year, a divorce settlement was reached and finalized in the year 2017. The divorce settlement had a non-disclosure agreement where both the defendant and plaintiff were not discussing matters related to their marriage in a public forum. In the April of 2018, John Depp sued News Group Newspaper Ltd based on libel. During this proceeding, the court ruled in favour of the Newspaper citing the statements by the publisher as substantially true. This case is of interest because Amber, the defendant in this case was a witness.

Facts of the Case

The case is founded on the 3 statements highlighted by the plaintiff published in the Washington Post courtesy of Amber. The first statement by Amber in pertinent states that she faced the wrath of speaking up against sexual violence because of the culture and this should change. In the second statement, the defendant stated she became a public figure with a face representing domestic abuse two years ago and she experienced the consequences of speaking up against sexual violence (Bowcott & Davies, 2021). In the third statement, she insinuated that she was privileged to witness in real time how institutions within the society shielded abusive men. These statements as per the current case were viewed to be defamatory because they met the standards of defamation. The court established that the defendant Amber lied against the victim and that the defendant was the abuser in the marriage as there were various cases where it was established that she abused the plaintiff. Testimonies from the defendant’s therapist also help affirm these claims by painting the defendant as a perennial liar.

The plaintiff managed to establish that the statements published in the Washington Post courtesy of the defendant were false statements made to appear as facts. The court hence established there was defamation by implication as in the case of Pendleton v. Newsom. The court also stated that as much as Amber did not mention Depp’s name by choosing the choice of words there was a defamatory reference in her speech (Patten, 2021). The evidence presented to the court also established that Heard republished and adopted the headlines of the Op-Ed creating reasonable grounds for defamation liability. The court also established that the standard of malice was met when the jury declared Amber guilty of defamation. This is because the jury’s verdict implied that Amber had made false statements and the intention of publishing and restating such statements was malice.

The plaintiff also managed to establish that there were damages accrued as a result of that publication. This is because the tainted image of the plaintiff made him lose 40.3, USD worth of earnings due to lost income from current and potential projects. For instance, the plaintiff lost $ 20 million after being dropped from the pirates of the Caribbean film (Young, 2022). Therefore the court’s ruling was based on the fact that the plaintiff managed to establish that the statements were false, there was malice in an Op-Ed, and damages. The evidence brought forward by the defendant helped the plaintiff establish that the publications were about him based on the prevailing circumstances creating room for a defamation suit.

My Opinion/Conclusion

I do agree with the results of the jury, and the ruling of the court. This is because there was no violation of due process in the case as both parties were offered a fair and impartial trial. This is a provision contained in the 1937 case of Palko v Connecticut, where the court denoted that following due process is an important right that parties to a court case must enjoy. Secondly, the evidence presented in court by the plaintiff was substantial. In Pinkerton et al., v United States, the Supreme Court denoted that only substantial evidence can be used in the courts. In this case, the evidence was substantial because the plaintiff proved that the publication was about him based on circumstantial evidence brought forward by him and the defendant. For instance, the newspaper articles and dates coincided with the events that took place in the life of both the defendant and the plaintiff. Malice was also established based on the fact that the jury ruled against the defendant. This implied that the statements made by the defendant were falsely stated as false innuendo giving room for defamation by implication. There was also an Op-Ed, in the Washington Post, and damages accrued. Therefore, the 1st Amendment Rights could not apply in this case based on the above-stated grounds.

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  1. Bowcott, O., & Davies, C. (2021). Johnny Depp loses libel case against Sun over claims he beat ex-wife Amber Heard. The Guardian. London, England. Archived from the original on March21.
  2. Patten, D. (2021). Delayed Again! Johnny Depp’s $50 M Defamation Trial Against Amber Heard Pushed To Next Year. Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March18.
  3. Silva, T. C. (2022). Assessment of credibility of testimony in alleged intimate partner violence: A case report. Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice22(1), 58-86.
  4. Young, C. (2022). Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Us: Rather than Repeating# Metoo Mantras, Let’s Learn a Thing or Two about Domestic Violence.
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