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Depp fires back at Heard, asks court to uphold verdict

More than a month after a jury awarded damages in the defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the two actors continue to battle over the verdict.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Attorneys for actor Johnny Depp on Monday described his ex-wife Amber Heard’s attempt to set aside a defamation verdict as “outlandish” and “frivolous” and asked a Virginia judge to reject her request.  

In a 30-page memo, attorneys for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star asserted that substantial evidence presented at trial showed that Heard "deliberately fabricated" the story that Depp abused her during their 15-month marriage.

The two actors remain locked in battle over the outcome of a six-week defamation trial, which concluded in early June. Depp, who brought the case to Fairfax County Circuit Court, contended he was defamed by a 2018 op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post with Heard’s byline. In the article, Heard recounted that she had become a public figure representing domestic abuse and pinpointed a period two years earlier in 2016, when she took out a temporary restraining order against Depp.

Heard countersued, claiming that an attorney representing Depp made statements defaming her.

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages – the latter amount was reduced to the statutory maximum of $350,000. Chief Judge Penney Azcarate presided over the trial.

"A jury of Ms. Heard's peers rendered a verdict against her in virtually all respects," according to Depp's filing, signed by his lead attorney Benjamin Chew. "Though understandably displeased with the outcome of the trial, Ms. Heard has identified no legitimate basis to set aside in any respect the jury's decision."

Asked for comment, Heard's attorney Elaine Bredehoft described the memo by Depp's legal team as "predictable" and said she found nothing surprising.

The filing was a response to a motion filed July 1 by Heard’s legal team, led by Bredehoft, which argued that Depp's $10.3 million award was unsupported by evidence. Heard's attorneys took issue with Depp’s contention that he lost his "Pirates" role of Captain Jack Sparrow because of statements made by Heard in the op-ed.

Depp's lawyers argued that the actor's financial loss was well substantiated during the trial, specifically by his agent Jack Whigham, who testified, "After the op-ed, it was impossible to get him [Depp] a studio film, which is what we normally would have been focused on in that time period."

Whigham also testified he had negotiated an agreed-upon deal for Depp to star in a sixth installment of "Pirates" for $22.5 million but that Depp was fired by Disney after the op-ed ran.

Depp's team also contends there was "copious evidence presented at trial from which the jury could find (and did find) that Ms. Heard's false statements about Mr. Depp were made with actual malice. Indeed, the jury concluded that Ms. Heard lied about being abused." (Parentheses in original.)

A reasonable jury, the filing said, "having found that Ms. Heard's story was false could reasonably conclude from the evidence that Ms. Heard was aware that her claims were false."

Notably, Heard's legal team has claimed that at least one juror was not properly vetted by court officials, as his birthdate was incorrectly reported. Her attorneys filed an additional memo last Friday arguing that the juror chosen to serve was not the person actually summoned, but a younger person living at the same address.

Such an error is not grounds for a mistrial, according to Depp's lawyers, who argue that Heard's July 8 memo was filed late. In addition, they say Heard's team waived the right to challenge the accuracy of the information by failing to properly raise the issue.

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