Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard: Jurors Answered 46 Questions to Come to Their DecisionJune 2, 2022
The verdict is in for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, but the internet still has many questions. First of all, why were there so many queries for the jury to answer? Here’s a rundown of the 46 questions asked on the jurors’ verdict form and how they led to a decision in the case.
Juror questions asked if Johnny Depp proved all the elements of defamation for three statements from Amber Heard
Anyone that watched the trial verdict might have felt a little lost since the jury answered dozens of questions to reach a decision.
Fortunately for them, the work was laid out on a special verdict form. And fortunately for us, this also helps illustrate exactly what they were tasked with. The court provided specific, mostly closed-ended questions to help reach a verdict and decide totals for damages.
First, they considered Depp’s case in terms of each of three statements made by Heard in a Washington Post op-ed. For each of those three statements, they initially decided if Depp’s team proved all the elements of defamation. If “yes,” they moved on to another series of pertinent questions about each claim.
The jurors needed to agree that Heard “made or published” each statement about Depp. They also had to decide if each was false and had a defamatory implication about him. Then, they determined if Heard “designed and intended” the defamatory essence in each. Finally, they decided if each “conveyed a defamatory implication to someone who saw it” other than Depp.
If they answered “yes” to each of those questions for a particular statement, they decided if Depp’s team proved by “clear and convincing evidence” that Heard acted with actual malice in making that claim. After they repeated the process for all three statements in Depp’s case, the question total was already 24.
Then, they answered two more questions regarding his claims. How much should Heard pay in compensatory damages, and how much should she pay in punitive damages?
Juror questions asked if Amber Heard proved all the elements of defamation for three statements from Johnny Depp’s attorney
At the same time, jurors considered three statements made by Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, to the Daily Mail. For each of those three statements, they determined if Heard’s team proved all the elements of defamation.
If they answered “yes,” they moved on to a few more questions. The jurors decided if Waldman’s statements were “made or published” while acting as an agent for Depp. Then, they considered if each was about Heard and if each was seen by someone other than her. Finally, they decided whether each was false.
If they answered “yes” to each of those questions, they were asked if Heard’s team proved by “clear and convincing evidence” that Depp acted with actual malice in making each statement through Waldman.
They repeated that process for all three statements Heard claimed were defamatory, answering 18 questions regarding her case. Then, they were asked how much the Aquaman actor should receive in compensatory damages and how much in punitive damages?
All in all, there were 46 blanks on their form. And once they were all filled with an answer, they had their decision.
Jurors decided Johnny Depp defamed Amber Heard in 1 statement but Heard defamed Depp in all 3
The jury agreed that Heard defamed Depp with actual malice for each statement in his claim. They decided on $10 million in compensatory damages to compensate for his losses and $5 million in punitive damages to punish Heard for defaming him. But, as the judge noted, punitive damages can’t exceed $350,000 in Virginia, where Depp sued Heard.
While the jury decided Heard defamed Depp in all three statements, they sided with her on only one of her claims against him. That was for the following statement, made by Waldman to The Daily Mail, as quoted on the jury’s verdict form:
“Quite simply this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.”
Legal experts on the Law & Crime network noted that the statement implied Heard conspired with not just friends but also professionals. That’s something the jury might not have agreed was proven, and they found this claim to be maliciously defamatory. They awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory and no punitive damages.
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