Amber Heard to pay Johnny Depp $1million to settle defamation case

Amber Heard

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp have settled their long-running legal battle, in which they both accused one another of perpetrating domestic violence.

Heard will pay her ex-husband $1million, significantly less than the $8.35million she was ordered to pay Depp in June after a verdict was reached in his defamation case against her.

Depp originally filed a $50million defamation claim against Heard in March 2019. The previous year, she referred to herself in an op-ed written for the Washington Post as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”, and said she had “faced our culture’s wrath” for having “spoke up against sexual violence”.

The piece did not mention Depp by name, but his lawyers argued it falsely implied she was sexually and physically abused by him in their marriage. Heard filed a counterclaim, arguing Depp had created a smear campaign against her.

In the trial that ensued in a Virginia court, both Depp and Heard’s legal teams sought to prove that the other party was the instigator of violence. The trial was live-streamed and attracted a large number of viewers, with the case garnering a significant amount of discussion on social media.

A seven-person jury found Heard liable in three matters of defamation raised. It awarded Depp $10million in compensatory damages and $5million in punitive damages, but due to Virginia state limitations, the latter damages were reduced to $350,000.

Heard, meanwhile, was awarded $2million in compensatory damages due to her counterclaim over statements that Depp’s former lawyer had published in the Daily Mail, which were found to be defamatory and false. As a result, prior to settlement Heard stood to pay Depp $8.35million.

Following the verdict, a spokesperson for Heard said she was unable to pay the damages owed to Depp, and that there were “excellent grounds” for an appeal. Heard filed a notice of appeal the following month, citing “errors” made by the court. That has now been withdrawn.

“I finally have an opportunity to emancipate myself from something I attempted to leave over six years ago and on terms I can agree to,” Heard wrote in a statement posted on Instagram, announcing her decision to settle the case. “I have made no admission. This is not an act of concession. There are no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward.”

“I make this decision having lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder,” Heard continued. She contrasted the trial in Virginia with Depp’s unsuccessful libel suit against UK publisher News Group Newspapers, which he filed in 2018 after The Sun labeled him a “wife beater” in an article.

Heard was a key witness for News Group Newspapers, and in 2020, the presiding judge ruled against Depp, saying “the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard”.

In her latest statement, Heard said that while she was “vindicated by a robust, impartial and fair system” in the UK, in the US she was “subjected to a courtroom in which abundant, direct evidence that corroborated my testimony was excluded and in which popularity and power mattered more than reason and due process”.

Heard said part of her reason for withdrawing her appeal is that even if it were successful, the outcome would be a retrial. “I simply cannot go through that for a third time,” she explained.

“Time is precious and I want to spend my time productively and purposefully. For too many years I have been caged in an arduous and expensive legal process, which has shown itself unable to protect me and my right to free speech.

“I cannot afford to risk an impossible bill – one that is not just financial, but also psychological, physical and emotional Women shouldn’t have to face abuse or bankruptcy for speaking her truth, but unfortunately it is not uncommon.

“In settling this case I am also choosing the freedom to dedicate my time to the work that helped me heal after my divorce; work that exists in realms in which I feel seen, heard and believed, and in which I know I can effect change.

“I will not be threatened, disheartened or dissuaded by what happened from speaking the truth. No one can and no one will take that from me. My voice forever remains the most valuable asset I have.”

Read Heard’s statement in full below:

In a statement shared by Variety, Depp’s attorneys said they were “pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter” for the actor, “who made clear throughout this process that his priority was about bringing the truth to light”. They added that the $1million payment Depp will receive from Heard will be donated to charity.

Despite Depp’s win, many public figures have defended Heard in the months since the trial reached a verdict. In October, musician Phoebe Bridgers discussed what she described as the “disgusting” online treatment Heard received during and after the trial.

“If Amber Heard exhibited any neurotic behaviour, it was held against her,” Bridgers said. “Then Johnny Depp, out of his mouth, admitted some of the most violent, crazy shit in court, and it’s somehow like, people aren’t surprised?”

“It was treated like a fandom war,” Bridgers added of the online commentary surrounding the trial. “Laughing at someone crying in court? It was disgusting.”

The previous month, Succession actor Brian Cox said he felt “sorry” for Heard during an interview with The Times. “I think she got the rough end of it,” he said. During the interview, Cox said the “public love” Depp. When the interviewer suggested the jury in the trial also loved Depp, Cox replied: “Well, they did.”

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