UPDATE 14/07/22: Amber Heard’s request for a retrial in her multi-million defamation lawsuit against Johnny Depp has been rejected.
Virginia based judge, Judge Penney Azcarat, has rejected claims made by Amber Heard’s legal team to set aside the $10 million judgement awarded to her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.
Heard’s lawyers filled a motion requesting to either overturn the judgement made the jury in June or declare the case as a mistrial, citing that the multi-million dollar award was “excessive” and “indefensible”.
In a written order, Judge Azcarat has dismissed the claims entirely, especially rejecting Heard’s assertion that a juror (who was alleged to have not been properly vetted by the court and operating under a mistaken identity) was “irrelevant”.
“The juror was vetted, sat for the entire jury, deliberated and reached a verdict,” Judge Azcarate wrote.
“The only evidence before this court is that this juror and all jurors followed their oaths, the court’s instructions and orders. This court is bound by the competent decision of the jury,” she added.
While the Judge’s verdict may signal that the highly-publicised case will be closed once and for all, Heard still has the opportunity to appeal her verdict to the Virginia Court of Appeals.
11/07/22: Amber Heard’s lawyers have requested a retrial following her multi-million defamation case against Johnny Depp due to “newly discovered facts and information” about the jury.
Heard’s legal team has claimed an individual juror, known as Juror number 15, was summoned to serve in the original jury but did not appear—they were instead replaced by someone else.
“Juror no 15 was not the individual summoned for jury duty on 11 April 2022, and therefore was not part of the jury panel and could not have properly served on the jury at this trial,” read the document filed by Heard’s legal team.
“As the court no doubt agrees, it is deeply troubling for an individual not summoned for jury duty nonetheless to appear for jury duty and serve on a jury, especially in a case such as this. This was a high-profile case, where the fact and date of the jury trial were highly publicised prior to and after the issuance of the juror summonses.”
Her lawyers claimed that Heard’s presentation in court was compromised because she had the right to rely on “basic protection”, and that in a fair trial, the jurors “would be individuals who were actually summoned for jury duty”.
What happens next?
Now that Heard’s lawyers have filed the claim, a judge from the court of Virginia, where the original case was held, will decide if this reason realistically compromised Heard’s right to a fair trial.
This means the judge will consider who juror 15 was in relation to the juror who was supposed to attend, and whether there was any motive behind this alleged misrepresentation.
Given the high profile nature of the case, the decision as to whether juror 15 caused any prejudice in this case could come down to whether they have a history of supporting Johnny Depp, or if they have a personal connection to him.
If neither of these factors are established, it may be difficult for Heard’s legal team to succeed in ordering a retrial.
Her lawyers have also filed claims the final decision from the trial failed to properly consider the evidence presented.
While no decision has been made about a retrial yet, we’ll likely hear from the Court of Virginia within the next few weeks to confirm either way.
What happened in the original trial?
Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for US $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post where she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse. While Depp wasn’t named in the article, he claimed it was implied he was the perpetrator of the alleged assaults and that this implicated his career as a result.
Heard also countersued Depp for US $100 million, claiming she had suffered violence and abuse at the hands of Depp.
After a six week trial involving confronting claims about both Heard and Depp’s behaviour towards each other, the jury found Heard’s statements about her marriage were ‘false’ and conveyed a ‘defamatory implication’. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
But Heard also won part of her libel case against Depp regarding articles in The Daily Mail, where Depp’s former lawyer described her claims of domestic abuse as a hoax. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in damages for this.
Following the verdict, Heard took to Instagram to share her disappointment, writng: “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. I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback.
“I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American—to speak freely and openly.”