The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial has come to a close, with the verdict being read this afternoon. Social media users who have largely mobilized to support Johnny Depp and harass Amber Heard were waiting anxiously to hear what the jury decided.
The jury was told to focus specifically on whether their was abuse but also whether Heard’s op-ed could be considered defamatory. Written in 2018 for The Washington Post, Heard told her story of being a survivor of domestic violence. Though she did not name Depp in her essay, Depp and his lawyers claim that her words damaged Depp’s career and are false.
Depp’s lawyer point to two passages in the article, as well as an online headline, and said they defamed Depp. Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia for $50 million over that op-ed. Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming that she was defamed by Depp’s attorney and that her allegations were not a hoax.
The jury came to the decision that Heard defamed Depp with her article and acted with malice. Amber Heard won $2M for her counterclaim. The judge capped the $5M Depp won in punitive damages at $350,000, meaning that’s the total Heard must pay for punitive damages.
Depp was not in attendance when the verdict was read. He monitored the court action from the United Kingdom, where he was spotted over the weekend playing surprise musical performances. Heard was present.
“Your presence shows where your priorities are,” Heard’s camp said in a statement. “Johnny Depp plays guitar in the U.K. while Amber Heard waits for a verdict in Virginia. Depp is taking his snickering and lack of seriousness on tour.”
The jury began deliberations Friday afternoon, after six weeks of intense testimony from both Heard, Depp, and psychological professionals. There were extensive recordings played that exposed Depp’s substance abuse and obscene, violent comments about Heard.
Heard testified that Depp beat her and sexually assaulted her, tearing out clumps of her hair on one occasion. She said his mood were unpredictable: “I was constantly doing a juggling act of what kind of version of Johnny I was dealing with. They acted almost like independent versions of this person depending on what combination of drugs and alcohol he was on.”
“I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse, all these outlandish, outrageous stories of me committing these things,” Depp maintained during his examination on the stand.
Additionally, supermodel and former Depp partner Kate Moss appeared on the stand to say that Depp had never pushed her down the stairs — a rumor that had been swirling for years.
The case itself polarized social media and raised rancor between people who parked themselves in two camps: Depp’s side and Heard’s side. Others cultural critics noted that the use of social media and memes trivialized a serious issue and caused harm to future domestic violence survivors who would be nervous to come forward with their stories. Heard herself said she received death threats and threats against her child. Other critics said the case brought attention to oft-ignored male victims of domestic violence.
On social media, folks are feeling emotional, confused, and also vindicated. The hashtag #TruthWins is trending while others lament what a verdict like this means for women.
“The most horrifying bit of the Depp v Heard trial is it’s not about whether he domestically abused her. He did, that’s legally settled. It is literally about whether she allowed to talk about it,” said one Twitter user.
Even with this verdict, there will doubtless remain controversy and conversation in the future.