Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are embroiled in one of the most public and disturbing court battles in recent memory. While the trial is far from over, many people are already wondering what would happen to Heard if she loses.
According to CBS News, Depp is suing Heard for libel over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018 about alleged domestic violence against her. While it did not mention Depp by name, his team said the article strongly implicated him and cost him multiple high-dollar acting roles.
Heard is countersuing Depp, alleging he physically assaulted her on multiple occasions. The jury in the case will have to examine both lawsuits and determine the potential damages for either party, sources close to Heard’s team told the New York Post.
“The jury is going to determine damages for both the claim and the counterclaim,” the sources said. “If the jury finds Amber was liable for Mr. Depp, it would determine damages, if it found that Mr. Depp was liable for Amber’s counterclaims, it makes a determination of damages.”
Heard would not face any prison time or criminal charges, since only civil claims have been brought against her. But she could face significant financial punishment.
Depp’s suit against her is for $50 million. He alleged the op-ed cost him “tens of millions of dollars” by effectively ending his acting career, the Post reported.
Depp alleged Heard not only lied about being the victim of abuse, but that she also abused him numerous times.
Meanwhile, Heard’s countersuit was for $100 million. She said Depp was attempting a “smear campaign” against her for telling what she believes is the truth about their relationship. The jury will also have to determine whether Depp should be on the hook for damages.
The trial has not lacked excitement or bombshell testimonies. At one point, Depp explained how Heard allegedly severed a portion of his finger with a broken bottle while the two were in Australia.
“She threw the large bottle, and it made contact and shattered everywhere,” Depp said. “And I honestly didn’t, I didn’t feel the pain at first, at all. I felt no pain whatsoever.”
“What I felt was, I felt heat. I felt heat and I felt as if something were dripping down my hand, you know? And then I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed.”
Heard also described alleged abuse from Depp during her testimony, but many social media users believed her testimony was fake and scripted.
WARNING: The following media contains content some viewers may find disturbing.
Holy sh*t. What did I just watch? Amber Heard acting out a story of abuse is hard to watch because of how inauthentic it appears. Her voice is steady yet she’s acting out PTSD, like Dr Curry said. Feels like a desperate plea to jurors I don’t think it will work. #DeppVsHeard pic.twitter.com/vmO2ytZ5QB
— SimplynSeattle (@SystemicDunking) May 5, 2022
— Valkyrie ★ (@itsVALKYRIE) May 5, 2022
Expert trial consultant Jill Huntley Taylor said Depp’s team would likely benefit from having “plenty of time” in order to “really meticulously plan their cross-examination of her.”
“I do think there is a real strategic advantage,” Huntley Taylor said.
Others suggested Heard could benefit from the jury getting to digest her raw testimony before she is cross-examined. However, celebrity lawyer Jeffrey Movit told the Post this could also be a disadvantage.
“While the jury has time to ruminate on Ms. Heard’s testimony, they may forget portions of it,” Movit said. “Moreover, her testimony will be significantly separated in time from that of the other witnesses in support of her case.”
A Depp spokesperson told the Post there is a chance neither side is awarded any damages. In that case, Depp might still have to pay Heard’s legal fees.
If Depp is successful in his lawsuit, criminal defense attorney Halim Dhanidina said it could have a “chilling effect” for other alleged victims.
“Any time a defamation lawsuit is successful, it has a chilling effect on speech,” Dhanidina said. “There has always been a chilling effect for victims to come forward and speak out against institutions or entities or people with power because they feel like their world could come crashing down on them.”
This is a bad faith argument, because if Heard is lying about Depp abusing her, she deserves to be punished. Should the jury side with Depp, it would do so because it believed Heard was lying, which would discourage people from fabricating abuse stories in the future.
At the same, true victims of abuse should not be discouraged by this potential verdict. If they were abused and told the truth about it, there is no reason to believe a jury would not give them a just ruling, too.
Heard may not be in danger of prison time, but she is in danger of owing Depp a substantial sum of money if the jury determines she is liable for damages. If she was lying about Depp and ruined his career by doing so, that punishment would be completely justified.
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