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Appeal opens new chapter in Depp-Heard court battle

Attorneys for the “Aquaman” actress are fighting the $10.3 million defamation verdict a Virginia jury awarded to her ex-husband Johnny Depp.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Attorneys for actress Amber Heard filed notice Thursday with the Fairfax County Circuit Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals that they will appeal a jury’s verdict finding that she defamed her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp.

“We believe the court made errors that prevented a just and fair verdict consistent with the First Amendment,” according to a statement released by Heard’s spokesman. “We are therefore appealing the verdict. While we realize today's filing will ignite the Twitter bonfires, there are steps we need to take to ensure both fairness and justice."

The straightforward three-page filing by Heard’s lawyers, Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn, gives notice to the Virginia courts of Heard's intent to keep fighting the June 1 verdict. This is just the first step – and it is not unexpected. Bredehoft previously confirmed that an appeal was forthcoming.

Heard has contended that she had been abused during the couple’s marriage, which ended when the actress took out a temporary restraining order against Depp in 2016.

Just as “Aquaman” opened in 2018, the actress published an op-ed in the Washington Post about becoming a public figure representing domestic abuse.  She never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp claimed she was clearly talking about him and that he lost his role in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise as a result.

Depp’s lawsuit, filed in 2019, asked for $50 million in damages. Heard later countersued, contending that she was defamed by statements made by one of Depp’s attorneys. She asked for $100 million in damages.

After a six-week trial, the jury sided mostly with Depp. They awarded him  $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the latter of which was reduced by the judge to the statutory maximum of $350,000. Depp’s total award came to $10.3 million.

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages.

Asked for comment, Ben Chew, Depp's attorney, responded via email, "Mr. Depp believes that the jury considered the evidence carefully and made a clear, unanimous verdict in his favor as to the three statements at issue in his complaint." Chew added he was confident the verdict would stand.

In post-trial motions, Heard’s attorneys argued that the award was unsupported by evidence. They charged that at least one juror was not properly vetted by court officials. The judge denied all of those motions.

Along with the notice of appeal, Heard filed a $500 bond Thursday.

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