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Depp appeals $2 million judgment awarded to Heard

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star will fight the split verdict that awarded his ex-wife $2 million in compensatory damages.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Seven weeks ago, a laborious defamation trial pitting Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, ended with a split verdict: The jurors found that Heard had defamed Depp in an op-ed and that one of Depp’s lawyers defamed Heard.

Now, one day after Heard filed notice that she would appeal the verdict, Depp’s lawyers fired back with an announcement that they, too, will appeal.  

The Virginia jury handed down a verdict June 1 that Heard, 36, defamed Depp, 59, by describing herself as a domestic abuse survivor in a 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post. They also found that one of Depp's lawyers defamed Heard by characterizing her accusations as a "hoax."

Depp claims he lost his part in "Pirates of the Caribbean" as a result of the op-ed, and the jury awarded Depp a far higher award: $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the latter of which was reduced to the statutory maximum of $350,000, for a total of $10.3 million.

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

On Friday, Depp's attorneys filed a two-paragraph notice that they would appeal "all adverse rulings" from the final judgment, signed June 24 by Fairfax County Chief Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate. Ben Chew, lead attorney for Depp, declined to comment.

Heard's notice of appeal was expected, as her legal team had confirmed that it was in the works. But Depp's appeal came as surprise to one of Heard's attorneys.

"I think [Depp's team] felt so buoyed by the judgment, they viewed [Heard's verdict] as insignificant in comparison to what they obtained," said Elaine Bredehoft, lead attorney for the "Aquaman" actress. She said she felt confident in the strength of their case on appeal.

Jurors found that three statements from Heard’s op-ed defamed Depp:

–“Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”

– “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”

– “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

They also found that Adam Waldman, one of Depp's attorneys, defamed Heard with this statement: “Quite simply this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So, Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.”

In the weeks that have come and gone since the trial , Heard's legal team has filed motions asking that the verdict be set aside. They argued that Depp's $10.3 million award was unsupported by evidence and claimed that at least one juror was not properly vetted by court officials.

Azcarate denied those motions.

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