Depp-Heard Feud Mercifully Ends

Thom Weidlich 12.22.22


Johnny Depp and Amber Heard took pity on their fellow earthlings and settled their defamation suit-countersuit. We are spared appeals-laden years of the continued, sordid affair. The tone of each side’s statement on that was pretty much in line with the communications all along.

To recap: On June 1, at the end of a trial that featured much testimony about drug and alcohol use and abuse by the actors and former spouses (pictured), the Virginia jury ordered Heard to pay Depp $10.35 million and Depp to pay Heard $2 million.

Heard was found to have defamed Depp in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed, in which she called herself a “public figure representing domestic violence,” though the piece didn’t name Depp. Depp, for his part, was found to have defamed Heard through one of his lawyers, who said her allegations against the actor were a hoax. Both sides appealed.

Defamation Trials

The proceeding seemed to be the vanguard of a spate of defamation trials, which are rare but now include those against radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. They are also notoriously difficult to win. The Depp v. Heard verdicts showed that defamation cases may become a tool in the reputation-restoration toolbox.

In a surprise announcement Monday, Heard posted on her Instagram that she made the “very difficult decision” to settle the matter. She didn’t mention it, but it soon came out that she would pay Depp $1 million.

In her post, Heard underscored the unfairness she felt she was subjected to in the trial, which she said was typical of women who accuse men of domestic violence. She said that, in settling, she didn’t admit liability and would not be silenced moving forward.

Lost Faith

She went further and revealed that she has “lost her faith in the American legal system” compared to the “impartial and fair system” she experienced in the U.K., where she testified in a libel suit Depp brought and lost against The Sun, which had called him a “wife beater.”

“Even if my U.S. appeal is successful, the best outcome would be a re-trial where a new jury would have to consider the evidence again,” Heard wrote. “I simply cannot go through that for a third time.”

The statement from Depp lawyers Camille Vasquez and Benjamin Chew was more sedate. “We are pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter for Mr. Depp, who made clear throughout this process his intent to bring the truth to light,” the Brown Rudnick LLP lawyers wrote, according to TMZ.

Justice Pursuit

“This was never about the money,” they added. “The jury’s unanimous decision and the judgment in his favor against Ms. Heard remain fully in place, and the payment of $1M — which Mr. Depp is pledging and will donate to charities — reinforces Ms. Heard’s acknowledgment of the conclusion of the legal system’s rigorous pursuit for justice.”

The “pledging and will donate” bit was a little dig at Heard, an echo of trial evidence that showed she had pledged $7 million to charities but didn’t actually donate it.

After the verdict, there was much talk of Heard’s financial precariousness and fights with her insurance companies. She probably made the right move in ending it.

Depp accomplished what he says he set out to do: He convinced a jury he wasn’t a domestic abuser and rejuvenated his reputation, despite the ugly revelations about how dysfunctional his relationship with Heard was. In the settlement, he largely let his ex-wife off the financial hook, also a smart move.

Photo Credit: Bakounine/Shutterstock

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