The jury found Mr. Depp was defamed by Ms. Heard when she described herself in an op-ed as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
On Wednesday, a jury in Virginia found in favor of actor Johnny Depp in his trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, ruling that Ms. Heard had defamed Mr. Depp in a 2018 op-ed, giving the actor a victory in his long, tumultuous battle over domestic violence charges.
The jury’s judgment came after a six-week trial that captivated the nation, with millions of people watching on television or streaming it online as the two prominent Hollywood stars traded accusations of physical abuse, often in graphic detail, in court. It was one of the most high-profile civil cases to go to trial during the #MeToo era.
Mr. Depp vehemently denied Ms. Heard’s claims that he repeatedly assaulted her, including punching, headbutting, and hair dragging, as well as many instances of sexual assault.
Mr. Depp stated, “It’s absurd to hear horrific charges of violence — sexual violence — that she’s imputed to me.” “I don’t think anyone likes having to cut oneself open and confess the truth, but there are times when it’s necessary because things have gotten out of hand.”
In a Washington Post op-ed, Ms. Heard referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” and claimed she watched “how institutions shield males accused of abuse,” according to Mr. Depp’s lawsuit.
The American Civil Liberties Union sponsored and wrote the article, which did not identify Mr. Depp by name, but he claimed it plainly linked to their marriage, which began in 2015 and ended just over a year later.
Ms. Heard, 36, insisted throughout the trial that everything written in the op-ed was true and that she was the one who was defamed when a lawyer for Mr. Depp, 58, made statements to a British newspaper in 2020 calling her abuse allegations a “hoax.” She filed a lawsuit against Mr. Depp, alleging that the lawyer was acting as his agent. The jury, however, did not conclude that her ex-husband had defamed her as part of its ruling on Tuesday.
Mr. Depp’s victory, which he denies ever hitting Ms. Heard or any other woman, contrasts with a legal loss in the United Kingdom in 2020, when he sued the proprietors of The Sun, a tabloid newspaper. In a headline in The Sun, he was dubbed a “wife-beater,” and the case ended with a judge, Andrew Nicol, declaring that there was proof he assaulted Ms. Heard.
During the trial, Ms. Heard testified that during their relationship, Mr. Depp sexually abused her and engaged in a “pattern of violence,” lashing out at her in jealousy-fueled rages that were sometimes accompanied by drug and alcohol use, and that she was terrified for her life at times.
Mr. Depp’s behavior, according to Ms. Heard, fluctuated between passionate shows of love and aggression throughout their relationship.
Ms. Heard testified, “I knew it was wrong and I knew I had to leave him, and that’s what crushed my heart because I didn’t want to leave him.”
Ms. Heard said that the first time Mr. Depp hit her was when she auditioned for “The Rum Diary,” a film in which she ended up playing his love interest, some years after they first met in 2009. Mr. Depp slapped Ms. Heard three times across the face when she laughed at one of Mr. Depp’s tattoos, which said “Wino forever” after Mr. Depp changed the original “Winona forever,” referring to his former fiancée Winona Ryder.
Mr. Depp started crying and dropped down on his knees to tell her, “I thought I put the monster away,” she recalled. (Mr. Depp claimed he didn’t hit Ms. Heard because of the tattoo.)
Ms. Heard detailed a slew of additional incidents in which she claims Mr. Depp was abusive to her, all of which he denies. During a trip to Australia, she claimed that he beat and sexually harassed her, kicked her in the back in rage over a love moment she saw in a movie, and head-butted her and tore out clumps of her hair during a quarrel.
Ms. Heard stated, “I was constantly juggling what kind of version of Johnny I was dealing with.” “Depending on what combination of narcotics and booze he was on, they acted almost like independent versions of this guy.”
Camille Vasquez, one of Mr. Depp’s lawyers, attempted to disprove Ms. Heard’s account of abuse during cross-examination by displaying text messages, love notes, and audio of the couple’s disagreements, which Ms. Vasquez claimed revealed Ms. Heard to be an untrustworthy witness. Ms. Vasquez questioned why Ms. Heard didn’t have medical documents to back up significant cases of alleged abuse, and she displayed images of Ms. Heard taken around the time she claimed she was struck that showed no visible bruises or swelling.
Ms. Heard said of one-shot, “You should see what it looked like below the makeup.”