Actor Johnny Depp was on a night out at a British pub as the jury in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard ruled in his favour late on Wednesday.
“We love you, Johnny,” patrons yelled as the Hollywood star swept through Newcastle’s The Bridge Tavern to join British singer Sam Fender on a night out.
It came days after Depp joined rocker Jeff Beck on stage in Sheffield to bank out covers of Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix in a surprise performance.
Depp’s visit to Britain meant he wasn’t in the Virginia courtroom when the seven-member jury returned after more than two days of deliberation to back him in his suit against Heard.
But he was quick to react, releasing a statement soon after the verdict.
“The jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” Depp said.
“The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun,” he added, ending with the Latin phrase “Veritas numquam perit. Truth never perishes.”
The jury awarded Depp more than $US10 million ($14 million) in damages, achieving a near-total victory in the defamation suit against Heard to cap a six-week trial that featured graphic testimony about the stars’ soured relationship.
He had sought $US50 million.
The seven-person jury also ruled for Heard on one counterclaim against Depp. The Pirates of the Caribbean film star depicted the decision as a vindication, and his former wife said it was “a disappointment”.
Jurors awarded Depp $US15 million in damages from Heard, which the judge reduced to $US10.35 million to comply with state limits on punitive damages. The panel ordered Depp to pay Heard $US2 million in damages, after ruling that one of his lawyers defamed her during the trial.
Depp, 58, had argued that Heard defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a newspaper opinion piece.
Heard countersued for $US100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax”.
Depp denied hitting Heard, 36, or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
He told jurors the allegations from Heard, best known for her role in Aquaman, had cost him “everything”. A new Pirates movie was put on hold and Depp was replaced in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, a Harry Potter spin-off.
Heard, seated in the courtroom between two of her lawyers, kept her eyes downward as the verdicts were read. In a statement released almost immediately afterwards, she said she was “heartbroken”.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” she said.
“I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence and sway of my ex-husband.”
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women,” she said. “It is a setback.”
Depp faced a different outcome in Britain less than two years ago, when he sued the Sun tabloid for calling him a “wife beater”. A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
The two met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised about two years later.
At the centre of the legal case was a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in The Washington Post. It did not mention Depp by name but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.
The jury agreed with all of Depp’s defamation claims, which cited a passage in the article and headline that read: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
Jurors rejected two of Heard’s three counterclaims. They concluded she was defamed when a lawyer for Depp told a media outlet that Heard staged property damage to show to police after an alleged fight.
“Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist,” the statement said in part.
During six weeks of testimony, Heard’s attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
Jurors listened to recordings of the couple’s fights and saw graphic photos of Depp’s bloody finger. He said the top of the finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.
Heard denied injuring Depp’s finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle. She said she struck him only to defend herself or her sister.
Testimony was livestreamed widely on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple’s troubled relationship.
Depp’s lawyers filed the US case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper was not a defendant.