The popular jury which must decide on the defamation lawsuit of the two former spouses has been struggling to find an agreement for days.
America holds its breath. Five days after the end of the proceedings of the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the outcome of this legal battle remains unknown. First expected on Friday, the decision of the popular jury was postponed until yesterday, and could finally fall on Wednesday… or be postponed until tomorrow.
“It can last for days”, declares on BFMTV Nicolas Rebbot, lawyer at the Paris bar, specialist in media law. “(The jurors) had started deliberating on Friday, they hadn’t been able to agree, and since it’s a long weekend in the United States (Monday was a holiday, editor’s note) they went back home and (returned on Tuesday).”
The mission is difficult: this jury of seven people, made up of five men and two women, must examine the request of Johnny Depp and that of Amber Heard at the same time. And designate a culprit between the two actors, married between 2015 and 2016, who are suing each other for defamation. And their final decision on this over-publicized trial, which spanned six weeks in the city of Fairfax, Va., must be made unanimously. As AFP reports, they have still not reached an agreement despite nine hours of deliberations since Friday.
Reputation and career
Tens of millions of dollars are at stake. Johnny Depp’s complaint, at the origin of the lawsuit, relates to the publication of a column published in 2018 in the washington post in which Amber Heard claimed to have been the victim of domestic violence, without however citing her ex-husband. The actor of Pirates of the Caribbean believes that the words of his former wife in this forum have ruined his reputation and his career in Hollywood, and claims 50 million dollars from him.
Amber Heard hit back with another defamation suit, over comments by Johnny Depp’s lawyer who allegedly called the actress’s statements “Aquaman fake ones. She is asking her ex-husband for $100 million, and believes that this “futile” complaint prolongs “the abuse and harassment” of her ex-husband and has put her own career in jeopardy.
The jury must decide on these two charges and decide on the amount of damages that will be paid by the person found guilty. All according to very specific criteria, as reported by the washington post: regarding Johnny Depp’s complaint, they must answer seven questions. In particular, to determine if Amber Heard made three separate statements in her column, if they refer directly or indirectly to Johnny Depp, and if they were false and / or made with the intention of harming. Regarding Amber Heard’s counterattack, they must answer six similar questions regarding the comments made by Johnny Depp’s lawyer.
Added to this is the pressure of having to rule on one of the most publicized trials of recent years. The major American channels, from CBS to CNN, reported all the developments. Court TV or Law & Crime Network, two online channels, broadcast images of the trial live. Each excerpt has been analyzed, commented on, sometimes to the extreme. On TikTok, countless videos made up of images of audiences have been posted, and all of them boast millions of views. So much so that the identity of the seven jurors is kept secret for a year.
Defamation and domestic violence
Finally, there is a case within the case, which the jury will implicitly rule on in its verdict. Because if the procedure revolves around accusations of defamation, the underlying question is quite different: was there domestic violence, and if so which of the two was the author?
During the six-week trial, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp accused each other of physical and/or sexual abuse. The actress said that Johnny Depp became a “monster” under the influence of an explosive cocktail of drugs and alcohol and did not follow rehab. He would have raped her with a bottle of alcohol in March 2015, a month after their marriage, in Australia where the actor was filming episode 5 of Pirates. That day, Johnny Depp had the end of a finger severed and was hospitalized. He claims it’s because of the glare from a bottle thrown by Amber Heard. She says he hurt himself. The actor, who has always denied raising his hand on the actress, made “mind-boggling” accusations and presented himself as a victim of domestic violence.
“The heart of this case could have been the platform, but it is not,” summarizes Jill Huntley Taylor, legal analyst, in the columns of the Washington Post. “(The crux of the matter) is whether there was abuse or not.”
The deliberations will resume this Wednesday at the beginning of the afternoon (French time), and a culprit could be designated during the day. But there is a third option: the jury may never reach an agreement. In which case, “everything would depend on what Amber Heard or Johnny Depp wish to do for the rest of the procedure”, according to American lawyer Katherine Lizardo in an interview for Law & Crime Network.