Amber Heard seeks to throw out verdict in Johnny Depp defamation trial

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Amber Heard’s lawyers have asked a judge to throw out the US$10.35 million (S$14.4 million) verdict against her in the defamation case filed by ex-husband Johnny Depp, arguing that the verdict was not supported by the evidence and that one of the jurors may not have been properly vetted by the court.

In post-trial motions filed on Friday (Jul 1), Heard’s attorneys call the jury’s Jun 1 award of US$10 million in compensatory damages and US$5 million in punitive damages to Depp “excessive” and “indefensible”. They ask the judge to set aside the verdict and dismiss Depp’s lawsuit or order a new trial. Immediately after the verdict, the judge reduced the compensatory damages to US$350,000 under a state cap.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. Depp’s lawyers alleged he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned him by name.

The six-week televised trial turned into a spectacle that offered a window into their dysfunctional marriage. Much of the testimony focused on Heard’s claims that she had been physically and sexually abused by Depp. Heard described more than a dozen alleged assaults, including a fight in Australia where Depp was shooting a Pirates Of The Caribbean sequel in which Depp lost the tip of his middle finger and Heard said she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle.

Depp said he never hit Heard and that she was the abuser.

Depp had to prove that he never assaulted Heard, that her op-ed piece defamed him and that she wrote the article with actual malice.

In their post-trial motions, Heard’s legal team argued that to find that Heard had actual malice, Depp would have had to show that at the time Heard’s article was published, she did not believe she had been abused.

“Instead, the evidence overwhelmingly supported Ms Heard believed she was the victim of abuse at the hands of Mr Depp,” Heard’s lawyers say in their motion.

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