FAIRFAX, Virginia. (AP) — After a six-week trial, a civil jury in Virginia is considering defamation claims by Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. During the trial, grim testimony was presented with explicit details about the short-lived and volatile marriage of movie stars. But what’s the real deal? And what will the jury have to decide?:
Depp has filed a $50 million libel suit against Heard, alleging that a 2018 article she wrote in The Washington Post damaged his reputation and career. In the article, Hurd described herself as “a public figure representing domestic violence”. Depp is not mentioned in the article by name, but his lawyers have argued that it was clear she was referring to Depp, given that she publicly accused him of domestic violence during their 2016 divorce proceedings. Herd’s lawyers said the bulk of the article was about state policy on domestic violence and that she has a First Amendment right to speak on the matter. They also claim that Depp actually abused Heard.
ALLEGATIONS OF VIOLATIONS
During the trial, Hurd described more than a dozen specific instances where she said Depp abused her, including her allegation that he raped her with a bottle of liquor while in a state of alcoholic rage. Depp denies any physical or sexual abuse and says Heard fabricated the charges to ruin his reputation. He also claimed that she physically assaulted him on numerous occasions.
WORK OF THE JURY
A seven-member jury must decide whether two passages and the title of the article are defamatory. The jury verdict form gives jurors instructions on how to determine that, including asking them if the statements about Depp were false and libelous. Because Depp is a public figure, Hurd can only be found guilty of defamation if the jury decides she acted with “real malice,” meaning she either knew she had written a lie or acted with reckless disregard. to the truth. Heard’s lawyers told jurors that Depp’s libel suit should be dismissed if Heard was subjected to even one incident of violence.
Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp after his former attorney called her allegations a hoax. The counterclaim received less attention during the trial, but Hurd’s attorney told jurors that it gives the jury an opportunity to compensate Hurd for the abuse Depp inflicted on her by orchestrating a smear campaign after they broke up.
The jury verdict form asks the jury to decide whether Depp’s former lawyer, acting as Depp’s agent, made or published the three statements that concerned Heard, whether they were false, and whether they were seen by anyone other than Heard. The jury must also decide whether Depp’s lawyer actually made the statements with malicious intent.
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