Johnny Depp, Amber Heard Settle Defamation Fight – The Hollywood Reporter
Dec 21, 2022
Amber Heard has settled her defamation fight with ex-husband and fellow actor Johnny Depp.
The Aquaman star announced her decision Monday in a lengthy Instagram post. Heard said the decision followed “a great deal of deliberation” and provides her with an “opportunity to emancipate myself from something I attempted to leave over six years ago and on terms I can agree to.” She denied that it was an admission or an act of concession, and added that “there are no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward.”
The duo were originally married in 2015 but divorced 15 months later in 2016, before Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2018 titled, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” In the piece, she describes a history of abuse from a young age and being sexually harassed and assaulted, while pointing to a culture in Hollywood and beyond that has protected male abusers, and makes a call to action for change. In the piece, she refers to previous statements she made about experiencing domestic abuse and identifies herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse,” though she doesn’t name Depp.
In March 2019, Depp filed a $50 million defamation suit against Heard over the op-ed, with the complaint stating that despite Depp not being explicitly named, it would be clear Heard was referencing him in the piece. In May 2022, a jury ruled in his favor on three of his claims and against him on just one, awarding him over $10 million. It also awarded Heard $2 million for statements made by Depp’s lawyer.
Both sides appealed the verdict. Heard argued that her statements at the center of the trial were opinion and didn’t carry a defamatory implication, while Depp argued that he shouldn’t be held liable for statements made by his lawyer. He also maintained that those statements didn’t meet the requisite standard for actual malice because his attorney thought what he was saying was true.
“We are pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter for Mr. Depp, who made clear throughout this process that his priority was about bringing the truth to light,” said Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez, attorneys for Mr. Depp, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Monday. “The jury’s unanimous decision and the resulting judgement in Mr. Depp’s favor against Ms. Heard remain fully in place. The payment of $1M — which Mr. Depp is pledging and will donate to charities — reinforces Ms. Heard’s acknowledgement of the conclusion of the legal system’s rigorous pursuit for justice.”
In her Monday statement, Heard says her life as she knew it was destroyed during the process, writing, “The vilification I have faced on social media is an amplified version of the ways in which women are re-victimized when they come forward. I make this decision having lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder.”
In her statement, Heard also acknowledged the outcome of Depp’s libel case in the U.K. against British tabloid The Sun, after the outlet published an article that used the term “wife beater” to describe him. Heard said during that case she was “vindicated by a robust, impartial and fair system” that “protected” her from sharing “the worst moments of my testimony in front of the world.
“In the U.S., however, I exhausted almost all my resources in advance of and during a trial in which I was subject to a courtroom in which abundant, direct evidence that corroborated my testimony was excluded and in which popularity and power mattered more than reason and due process,” she wrote. “In the interim I was exposed to a type of humiliation that I simply cannot re-live. Even if my U.S. appeal is successful, the best outcome would be a re-trial where a new jury would have to consider the evidence age. I simply cannot go through that for a third time.”
Heard said she wanted to move forward and reclaim not only her time but avoid yet another “arduous and expensive legal process” — one she describes as being “unable to protect me and my right to free speech.
“I cannot afford to risk an impossible bill — one that is not just financial but also psychological, physical and emotional. Women shouldn’t have to face abuse or bankruptcy for speaking her truth, but unfortunately it is not uncommon,” she added. “In settling this case I’m also choosing the freedom to dedicate my time to the work that helped me heal after my divorce; work that exists in realms in which I feel seen, heard and believed and in which I know I can effect change.”
Dec. 19, 9:05 a.m. Updated to include a statement from Depp’s attorneys.
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