Johnny Depp v Amber Heard


E. Frantz, from Getty Images.

Aidan G (Year 12), Chief Contributor

April 11th marked the beginning of one of the most high-profile legal battles that our society has seen in the post-pandemic era – The Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard Defamation Trial. A trial that would fill up our TikTok, Instagram, Youtube and news feed, as each party pursued $50million+ USD in damages from their ex-partner. Being televised live, the world spectated closely.  

Johnny Depp (known for roles such as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean, and his role in Edward Scissorhands) and Amber Heard (known for Mera in Aquaman) were married in 2015 and divorced in 2017. In December 2018, Heard released an op-ed accusing Depp of intimate partner violence, without explicitly naming him, in the Washington Post. Depp denied these allegations and blamed the op-ed for his damaged reputation and extensive financial losses sustained as a result of his dismissal from roles, such as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts. In retaliation, Amber Heard sued Depp for statements made by his lawyer in April 2020, which claimed that her allegations were ‘hoaxes’ and, in order to stage this hoax, her friends “spilled a little wine” and “roughed the place up [and] got their stories straight.” 

Being a massive interest in social media, the live-streamed trial provided much entertainment for the world, with some likening the trial stream to a Twitch stream, rather than a news stream. Johnny Depp overwhelmingly won the favour of public opinion, through his charismatic interactions with his legal team, and honest raw testimony on the stand, popularity for the #JusticeforJohnnyDepp skyrocketed. Contrastingly, Amber Heard’s poor legal representation and inconsistency on the stand saw her public opinion plummet. 

A few notable (or plain amusing) moments from the trial included: 

  • Depp’s testimony with his honest admittance of alcohol and drug abuse and admitted Heard would ‘strike at’ at him. 
  • Amber Heard claimed to use Milani Colour Correcting and Concealer Palette to cover her wounds in 2016, which the company publicly rebuked stating it was released in 2017 (a year after the couple had divorced). 
  • Heard’s lawyer objected to his own question, the recording going wild on the internet. 
  • Heard testified that her dog stepped on a bee – also entertaining many on social media. 

Eventually, after six weeks of trial and a 13-hour jury deliberation period, the 7 jurors ruled in favour of Depp, and he was awarded $15million USD in compensation from Heard. However, Heard was still awarded $2million USD over Depp’s former lawyer’s defamatory comments. 

Heard responded to the verdict, stating, “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,” and that “I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women”.  

Alternatively, Depp responded by thanking the jurors; “Six years later, the jury gave me back my life. I am truly humbled. Truth never perishes” – and despite not being in court whilst the verdict was received, chants of ‘Johnny! Johnny!’ could be heard outside the courthouse. 

Although the public opinion of the verdict was generally positive due to the mass support for Depp, some discrepancies arose around the effect the decision could have on domestic violence victims. In one respect, male domestic abuse victims found that the Depp trial and decision helped them feel empowered to speak up about their own domestic abuse experiences. Yet, on the other hand, many feel that the decision may have hindered the ability of female victims to speak up against their abusers and be believed. Only time will tell the full impact of the verdict.