Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard Trial Verdict: What to Know

The jury has awarded Depp $15 million and Heard $2 million.

Meara Isenberg Writer
Meara covers streaming service news for CNET. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. When she's not writing, she likes to dote over her cat, sip black coffee and try out new horror movies.
Meara Isenberg
3 min read
depp and heard

Heard and Depp in the courtroom on May 16.

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This Wednesday a jury found both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard liable for defamation but awarded more money to Depp. The decision follows a highly publicized trial that took place in Fairfax, Virginia, and spanned several weeks.

Depp sued ex-wife Heard for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post, seeking $50 million in damages. On Wednesday, a jury found Depp had been defamed by Heard in the piece and awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. A judge reduced the punitive damages to $350,000, which is the cap in Virginia. 

Heard, who was seeking $100 million in a countersuit, was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages. The jury found that a statement made by a former lawyer of Depp's -- one of the three statements included in Heard's countersuit -- had been defamatory.

Here's what else you should know about the trial.

Why did Johnny Depp sue Amber Heard?

Heard, 36, is a model and actress who starred in 2018's Aquaman. She was married to Depp, 58, from 2015 to 2016. The pair divorced in August 2016.

In December 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled, "I spoke up against sexual violence -- and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." She said in the article that she'd become "a public figure representing domestic abuse" but didn't mention Depp's name. 

Depp alleged Heard defamed him in the op-ed. During opening statements, Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew said Heard's article clearly referred to Depp, and that Heard's "false allegations had a significant impact on Mr. Depp's family and his ability to work in the profession he loved." 

Benjamin Rottenborn, a lawyer for Heard, said that the First Amendment protects what she wrote. "The article isn't about Johnny Depp," Rottenborn said. "The article is about the social change for which she is advocating and that the First Amendment protects."

Rottenborn also said evidence in the trial would show that Heard did suffer domestic abuse at the hands of Depp, and that it was physical, emotional, verbal and psychological. 

Depp was faced with proving that Heard knowingly made false claims. Heard filed a countersuit against Depp, which was decided as part of the trial. She alleged that Depp defamed her when his former lawyer referred to her allegations of abuse as a hoax.

Johnny Depp on the stand during the trial. As he talks, he holds out his right hand, with fingers spread, as if emphasizing a point.

Depp testifies.

Evelyn Hockstein/Getty Images

Depp lost a defamation case that involved Heard in 2020. He'd sued British tabloid The Sun over a headline calling him a "wife beater." Depp filed his current defamation suit in 2019, the year after she wrote the op-ed.

What did Heard and Depp say during testimony in the trial?

When asked about the first time Depp allegedly hit her, Heard described an instance when she'd asked Depp about what one of his tattoos said, and he'd replied "wino." "I just laughed because I thought he was joking, and he slapped me across the face," she said. Heard also testified that Depp sexually assaulted her shortly after they were married.

During his testimony earlier in the trial, Depp said that he never struck Heard but that she displayed violence during their relationship. Depp alleged she threw a vodka bottle at his hand during an argument, cutting off a part of his middle finger. 

Heard's and Depp's teams delivered their closing arguments on May 27.