The trial of Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard has been full of high emotions and explosive accusations. Now, a verdict in the weekslong trial has been reached.
On Wednesday, Depp won the defamation lawsuit he filed accusing Heard of defaming the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star in a 2018 op-ed, with a Virginia jury awarding him more than $10 million in damages and vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.
Depp sued Heard for libel in Virginia's Fairfax County Circuit Court, saying her 2018 Washington Post op-ed defamed him when she described herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers said he was defamed nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to abuse allegations Heard levied in 2016.
The weekslong trial ended May 27, with closing arguments from each side. Depp's legal team claimed Heard “ruined his life by falsely telling the world she was a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Mr. Depp,” while Heard's lawyer's dubbed Depp "a monster" who not only abused his ex-wife, but with this lawsuit, Depp also continued an ongoing smear campaign he launched after Heard filed for divorce.
Read the closing arguments: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard's libel case is now in jurors' hands
Both actors, as well as witnesses and experts, were called to the stand to back up each side throughout the trial, which began April 11.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the trial.
Who won the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial?
Depp won the defamation lawsuit he filed accusing Heard of defaming him in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed.
The jury found Depp should receive $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, but the judge said state law caps punitive damages at $350,000, meaning Depp was awarded $10.35 million.
"My decision to pursue this case, knowing very well the height of the legal hurdles that I would be facing and the inevitable, worldwide spectacle into my life, was only made after considerable thought," Depp said in a statement to USA TODAY. "From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome."
Heard also partially won her counter-lawsuit over comments made by Depp's lawyer Adam Waldman when he called her abuse allegations a hoax. The jury awarded her $2 million in damages.
However, in another libel case that took place in a London courtroom in the summer of 2020, Depp lost. He had sued the publisher of The Sun tabloid for defaming him by labeling him a "wife beater" without adding "accused." Heard was the tabloid's star witness.
Following a three-week trial, the British judge ruled The Sun had not libeled Depp because "the great majority" of Heard's claims that Depp repeatedly assaulted her before and during their marriage could be "proved to the civil standard." Depp subsequently lost attempts to appeal the decision.
Jury reaches verdict: Johnny Depp wins libel trial, Amber Heard partially wins countersuit
What does the verdict in the Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial mean?
The jury came to the unanimous verdict Wednesday following 13 hours of deliberations, including seven hours on Tuesday. After six weeks of testimony, the $50 million libel lawsuit came to a close and jury deliberations began Friday, when it determined that Heard is guilty of defaming Depp.
Heard was present in the courtroom as the verdict was read.
"The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I'm heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband," Heard said in a statement to USA TODAY.
"I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback," Heard continued. "It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."
Depp's lawyer Camille Vasquez told reporters and a sea of cheering Depp supporters outside the courthouse that the verdict "confirms what we have said from the beginning: that the claims against Johnny Depp are defamatory and unsupported by any evidence."
Depp was not in attendance due to previously scheduled work commitments and watched from the U.K. The actor has been performing with Jeff Beck at the artist's concerts overseas for the past few days, according to social media reports.
What was the jury deciding?
While testimony focused on alleged abuse between the former couple, the case itself was a defamation claim and that's what the jury decided on, specifically two passages and the headline of the 2018 op-ed.
The jury verdict form gave jurors instructions on how to determine that, including by asking them whether the statements were about Depp, were false and had a defamatory implication about him. Because Depp is a public figure, Heard could only be found guilty of libel if the jury decided that she acted with "actual malice," meaning that she either knew what she wrote was false or that she acted with reckless disregard for the truth. Heard’s lawyers told the jury Depp’s libel claim must fail if Heard suffered even a single incident of abuse.
What was Amber Heard's counterclaim?
In addition to Depp's claim, the jury also decided on Heard's $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his former lawyer called her allegations a hoax. The counterclaim has received less attention during the trial, but Heard’s lawyer told jurors it provided an avenue for the jury to compensate Heard for the abuse Depp inflicted on her by orchestrating a smear campaign after they split up.
The jury verdict form asked the jury to decide if Depp’s former attorney, acting as an agent for Depp, made or published three statements that were about Heard, were false and were seen by someone other than Heard. The jury also had to decide if Depp’s attorney made the statements with actual malice.
Why was the Johnny Depp case in Fairfax?
Depp sued Heard over a column she wrote for The Washington Post, which is printed in Fairfax, Virginia. The trial took place at the Fairfax County Courthouse.
What did Johnny Depp, Amber Heard say in their testimonies?
After a month-and-a-half of the trial, Heard and Depp both testified, getting emotional at times as they shared allegations against one another and recounted their rocky relationship from meeting on the set of 2011's "The Rum Diary" to sparking a romance, getting married, splitting up, and all the fights in between.
During Heard's testimony, she described more than a dozen specific instances when she says Depp abused her, including her allegation that he sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle in an alcohol-fueled rage. Her attorneys argued the op-ed did nothing to damage Depp’s reputation – that the abuse accusations had been public for two years already, and Depp’s spiraling career was the result of his drinking and drug-using.
When Depp took the stand, he maintained he "never struck Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any women in my life." He said Heard concocted the claims to destroy his reputation. He also claimed that she physically attacked him on multiple occasions.
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'Did he just hit me?': Amber Heard tearfully testifies about Johnny Depp's alleged abuse, drug use
Who are Johnny Depp's lawyers Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez?
Depp's legal team included attorney Benjamin Chew and co-counsel Camille Vasquez with the Brown Rudnick law firm. Both have experience with defamation lawsuits, according to their bios on the law firm's website.
Chew, a partner with the firm, "successfully prosecuted two breach of fiduciary cases for Johnny Depp in Los Angeles, and is currently representing Mr. Depp in his defamation case against Amber Heard in Virginia," his bio says, also noting he also represented Cher in several cases.
Vasquez is an associate in the firm's Litigation & Arbitration Practice Group. She is "adept at formulating offensive and defensive litigation strategies for private clients," according to her bio.
Both lawyers have been visible throughout the trial with Vasquez handling the cross-examination of Heard.
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Who is Amber Heard's lawyer J. Benjamin Rottenborn?
Rottenborn has "extensive experience representing clients in complex civil litigation matters involving issues in fiduciary duty, general commercial law, private equity/venture capital, securities, intellectual property, and products liability," according to his website bio.
In Rottenborn's opening statement of the trial, he predicted a weekslong "spectacle" trial about the most intimate details of the couple's 15-month marriage.
"I am sorry Amber will have to relive it, but that is the case Depp chose to bring, and we're not going to stand by and let them sling mud and make inflated, false statements."
Who is Ellen Barkin?
A prerecorded deposition of Barkin was played in court on May 19. Barkin, an actress, said she met Depp in 1990 and developed a decade-long friendship with him, which evolved into a sexual relationship when she moved to Hollywood in 1994. The two appeared together in the 1998 dramedy "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
While speaking about their relationship, Barkin shared details about Depp’s substance abuse and “jealous” nature. "He was drunk a lot of the time," said Barkin of Depp’s excessive drinking. Barkin added that Depp also frequently used hallucinogenics, cocaine and marijuana in her presence.
Regarding Depp’s jealousy, Barkin said Depp was often "controlling" and recalled an incident in which Depp became angry when he saw a scratch on Barkin's back, as he assumed the scratch came from Barkin having sex with someone else. "He's just a jealous man," Barkin said.
What happened with Johnny Depp and Kate Moss?
During her testimony, Heard recalled a 2015 fight near a staircase in which she said she hit Depp in the face out of fear he would hurt her sister, Whitney. The actress said she was "instantly" reminded of Moss at that moment. Moss, who dated Depp in the '90s, has never accused the actor of abuse, but Heard previously claimed during their 2020 U.K. trial that two people told her Depp once pushed Moss down the stairs.
Moss denied the claims in testimony May 25.
The model recalled an incident in Jamaica where she and Depp were leaving a room after a rainstorm. Moss testified that Depp left the room first and she followed.
"I slid down the stairs and hurt my back and I screamed because I didn't know what happened to me and I was in pain," she testified. "He came running back to help me and carried me to my room and got me medical care."
Moss added: "He never pushed me, kicked me or threw me down any stairs."
After Heard mentioned Moss in early testimony, Depp's legal team appeared to celebrate. Some legal experts believe their reaction was because Heard referencing past instances of alleged abuse in this case opened the door for Depp's team to do the same – and Heard has prior domestic abuse charges against her.
What does James Franco have to do with the trial?
At separate points in her testimony, Heard said Depp accused her of having affairs with actors James Franco and Depp's former "Fantastic Beasts" co-star Eddie Redmayne. The actress claimed she had to "bargain" with Depp throughout their relationship about taking on certain roles due to his jealousy.
Heard said Depp got aggressive when she began filming "The Adderall Diaries" with James Franco in 2014. "He hated James Franco and was already accusing me of having a relationship with him in the past because we already did ‘Pineapple Express’ together," she said.
Heard also claimed that following their honeymoon in August 2015, Depp became abusive after she wanted to work on a TV series that also starred Franco. The role would require some nudity, which she said Depp had problems with.
Heard said this tension only exacerbated Depp's reaction to her work on the 2018 film "London Fields," due to the sexuality of her role. Heard said the couple was away in France at Depp's secluded château when he demanded to see a screener of the film. There was a sex scene, where Heard said unbeknownst to her production used a body double, which Depp became upset over.
"I have an incredibly jealous man who’s already upset with me for breaking the rule that I had a sex scene; on top of that I’m telling him it wasn’t me, I didn’t shoot that scene. You can imagine how upset he was. He was irate, calling me a liar … among many other things," Heard testified May 16. "That combined with the fact that I had even entertained doing this job that involved James Franco was a pressure cooker. I called It a week of hell."
Franco appeared on Heard's list of witnesses, but did not testify in person or via video.
Why was Marilyn Manson mentioned in the trial?
During Depp's cross-examination, Heard's lawyer Rottenborn brought up the actor's friendships with Elton John, who Depp said was helping him get sober, and Marilyn Manson, who has several abuse allegations against him including those of his ex-fiancée Evan Rachel Wood.
Depp confirmed his friendship with Manson in court, adding that the two often did drugs together.
What about Paul Bettany and Elon Musk?
Franco isn't the only high-profile names mentioned in the case's witness lists. Actor Paul Bettany, a friend of Depp's, was listed on Depp's witness list, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who previously dated Heard, was included on hers.
Heard mentioned Musk in her May 15 testimony, noting when they met and testifying his involvement in her donation pledges to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bettany's name came during the trial: Rottenborn brought up a text exchange between Depp and Bettany, in which Depp wrote: “Let’s burn Amber!!!” Bettany responded: “Having thought it through I don’t think we should burn Amber.” Depp texted: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!"
Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Maria Puente, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial: We answer your FAQs, including who won