Amber Heard's lawyer says 'lopsided' social media frenzy influenced jury, actor can't pay over $10M in damagesJune 2, 2022
Amber Heard’s attorney said "lopsided" social media chatter and posts about the Johnny Depp defamation trial "influenced" the verdict and turned the courtroom into a "zoo."
Elaine Bredehoft's spoke to NBC’s “TODAY” show Thursday, one day after Depp won his suit against Heard, his ex-wife, in the high-profile case.
Bredehoft said she believes jurors could not escape the intense social media frenzy surrounding the trial.
"How can you not? They went home every night. They have families. The families are on social media. We had a 10-day break in the middle because of the judicial conference. There’s no way they couldn’t have been influenced by it," she said.
She called the social media coverage "horrible." During the six-week trial, posts on TikTok and Twitter overwhelmingly appeared to favor Depp.
"It’s like the Roman Colosseum, you know? How they viewed this whole case. I was against cameras in the courtroom and I went on record with that and argued against it because of the sensitive nature of this. But it made it a zoo," Bredehoft said.
She described the first words Heard said to her after the bombshell jury decision was announced.
"One of the first things she said is, 'I am so sorry to all those women out there. This is a setback for all women in and outside the courtroom,'" Bredehoft said. "She feels the burden of that."
Bredehoft said the verdict sends "a horrible message."
"Unless you pull out your phone and you video your spouse or your significant other beating you, effectively you won’t be believed," she added.
Depp, who was not in court Wednesday due to a previously scheduled work commitment, sued for $50 million in damages over a 2018 op-ed essay by Heard in The Washington Post, in which she said she had become a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
Although the essay never mentioned Depp by name, his attorneys said it indirectly referred to allegations she made against him during their 2016 divorce.
The jury awarded Depp $15 million in damages — $10 million in compensatory and $5 million in punitive damages.
Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the punitive damages the jury awarded to Depp to $350,000, which is the state’s statutory cap or legal limit, making his total damages $10.4 million.
When asked if Heard is able to pay the $10.4 million judgment, Bredehoft replied, "Oh no, absolutely not."
She said Heard "absolutely" intends to appeal.
"She has some excellent grounds for it," Bredehoft said, noting that "there was so much evidence that did not come in" related to Depp's lost libel case in the United Kingdom two years ago over allegations that he hit Heard.
She explained that Heard’s medical records were suppressed, which she said were “very significant” because they showed “a pattern going all the way back to 2012 of Amber reporting this to her therapist.”
Heard countersued Depp for $100 million. The countersuit centered around three statements made by Depp’s former attorney Adam Waldman in 2020 to the Daily Mail, in which he described Heard’s allegations of abuse as a “hoax.”
The jury found that Depp, through Waldman, defamed Heard on one count. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages but zero dollar in punitive damages.
Bredehoft said the case was “a tale of two trials.”
"Johnny Depp brought a suit in the U.K. for the same case and the burden of proof was easier for him there," she said. "The court found there — and we weren’t allowed to tell the jury this — that Mr. Depp had committed at least 12 acts of domestic violence, including sexual violence, against Amber. So what did Depp’s team learn from this? Demonize Amber and suppress the evidence," she said.
"We had an enormous amount of evidence that was suppressed in this case that was in the U.K. case. And in the U.K. case, when it came in, Amber won. Mr. Depp lost," Bredehoft continued.
In a statement Wednesday after the jury's decision came through, Depp said: “The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”
Heard said her disappointment was “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,” she said.
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