FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The Johnny Depp-Amber Read libel trial, which generated extreme desire for two months before this yr as a livestreamed, no-holds-barred cleaning soap opera featuring one of Hollywood’s largest stars, is not fading absent quietly.
Earlier this month, Heard’s legal professionals filed a 51-website page motion inquiring Judge Penney Azcarate to established aside the jury’s verdict, which gave $10 million to Depp and $2 million to Listened to on competing defamation statements.
The motion cites numerous good reasons that the verdict is untenable, from the shocking selection to declare the two sides victorious to 1 extent or a different, to a bizarre case of mistaken identity with one of the jurors.
Among the the challenges elevated:
WHY $10 MILLION?
Depp sued for $50 million in Fairfax County after Heard wrote a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Put up about domestic violence in which she referred to herself as “a public figure symbolizing domestic abuse.” The write-up by no means talked about Depp by identify, but his attorneys said many passages in the write-up defamed him by implication by referring to very publicized abuse allegations she built in 2016 as she submitted for divorce.
Read then submitted a $100 million counterclaim, also for defamation. By the time the case went to trial, her counterclaim experienced been whittled down to a couple of statements produced by a person of Depp’s attorneys, who identified as Heard’s abuse allegations a hoax.
The jury awarded $15 million to Depp and $2 million to Listened to on her counterclaim. The $15 million judgment was minimized to $10.35 million for the reason that Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350,000.
Heard’s lawyers say in court docket papers that the $10 million verdict is unsupported by the specifics, and looks to show that jurors unsuccessful to target on the fallout from the 2018 op-ed piece — as they were being intended to do — and alternatively just appeared broadly at the damage Depp’s popularity suffered as a outcome of the alleged abuse.
Depp’s attorneys, even though, say the damages are supported by testimony from his agent and other individuals. They say the precedents cited by Heard’s workforce to aid her arguments “are decades old, and none involves an intercontinental A-checklist celeb.”
Steve Cochran, a civil law firm in Virginia who was appointed by a choose as a neutral conciliator in the case to test to reduce pretrial discovery disputes, mentioned he normally considered the weakest url in Depp’s case was the damages, given proof that the actor’s standing experienced been ruined in Hollywood properly just before the publication of the op-ed. Nevertheless, he stated he is skeptical that Listened to can get the verdict set apart.
Scott Surovell, a attorney and Democratic point out senator who tactics law in Fairfax, also said he sees little purpose to established apart the damages.
“What the judge appears to be like for … is that the verdict was adequately supported at trial and was not primarily based on speculation or conjecture. (Depp) will make a lot of dollars from videos. That does not sound to me like the damages were being primarily based on speculation or conjecture, but on evidence,” he said.
“INCONSISTENT AND IRRECONCILABLE”
Heard’s lawyers argue that the verdicts for Depp on a person hand and Listened to on the other are basically nonsensical.
“The jury’s dueling verdicts are inconsistent and irreconcilable,” her legal professionals wrote.
Depp’s lawyers, however, say the verdict kind used by jurors allowed them to express with specificity particularly which statements they identified defamatory. When you seem at the particular person statements, they say, the dueling verdicts make perception.
Jeremiah Denton III, a Virginia Beach attorney with working experience in defamation cases, said he does not view the verdicts as irreconcilable. If everything, he said, the award most in jeopardy is the $2 million supplied to Heard, simply because he claimed it truly is lawfully doubtful that Depp can be held liable for statements designed by his legal professional.
“I never have an understanding of why the choose even allowed that situation to go to the jury,” he said.
A person of the more unconventional products in the dialogue is a circumstance of clear mistaken id with just one of the jurors. In accordance to courtroom papers, a 77-calendar year-outdated county resident received a summons for the trial. But the man’s son, who has the identical name and life at the identical tackle, responded to the summons and served in his stead.
Heard’s legal professionals say Virginia regulation is stringent about juror identities, and the case of mistaken identity is grounds for a mistrial. They have offered no proof that the 52-year-old son, determined in courtroom papers only as Juror #15, purposefully or insidiously sought to switch his father, but they argue that probability should really not be discounted.
“The Courtroom are not able to suppose, as Mr. Depp asks it to, that Juror 15’s seemingly poor assistance was an innocent slip-up. It could have been an intentional try to provide on the jury of a significant-profile circumstance,” Heard’s attorneys wrote.
Paul Bekman, a Baltimore lawyer who has also experimented with circumstances in Virginia, stated Heard’s group necessary to elevate any concerns about the juror ahead of time.
“Anybody looking at a 52-year-old and a 77-calendar year-old would be equipped to convey to — ideally — that there is a distinction of 25 yrs, and they would have the ideal to inquire about that,” he explained. “I consider it is way too late to complain about the juror.”
Cochran also mentioned he was skeptical that the confusion could final result in a mistrial or the decide location aside the verdict, but he cautioned that it truly is tricky to predict for the reason that the situation is so rare.
“I’ve been training for 50 several years and under no circumstances noticed that difficulty appear up,” he mentioned.
An previously edition of this report improperly said that Depp sued for $25 million and that Heard’s counterclaim sought $50 million. ———
Lavoie reported from Richmond.