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Heard team hints at appeal of verdict in Depp defamation case

An order formalizing the jury’s verdict marks the conclusion of a long trial – but not the end of the case.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met once again in court Friday, as a Virginia judge signed a final order reflecting the jury’s verdict that the two defamed one another in the months after their short but turbulent marriage. 

The verdict for Depp was initially $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. That brought the total award for the 59-year-old actor to $10.3 million. Heard, 36, was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages. For both amounts, the judge's order set interest at 6% yearly.

During Friday's hearing, Heard's lawyer Elaine Bredehoft mentioned post-trial motions she wishes to file, but Fairfax County Chief Judge Penney Azcarate made clear she had no intention of scheduling additional hearings.

"I've had this case for 18 months," the judge said.

A spokesperson for Heard suggested the actress will file an appeal.  

“You don’t ask for a pardon if you are innocent. And, you don’t decline to appeal if you know you are right,” the spokesperson told several media outlets Friday.

Benjamin Chew, Depp's lawyer, said the actor was “most gratified by the court’s entry of the judgment order.” While various attorneys have come and gone on the case, Chew has been with it from the beginning. He first filed Depp’s lawsuit more than three years ago, in March 2019.

Heard met Depp while trying out for the 2011 movie “The Rum Diary,” in which the two actors starred. They eventually married in 2015 but the union was rocky from the get-go. By May 2016, they were headed for divorce, and Heard took out a temporary restraining order against Depp. After an appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom, the actress was photographed with what appeared to be a bruised face.

Magazines, websites and news organizations wrote about Heard's claims of abuse, but Depp did not file suit in California. And when the two formalized their divorce, Heard walked away with a $7 million settlement.

But two years later, in April 2018, the British newspaper The Sun ran an article describing Depp as a "wife beater." This time, Depp sued the publication for libel. He ended up losing that case.

The Virginia lawsuit revolved around an op-ed Heard published in The Washington Post in December 2018. The article, the first draft of which was written by an ACLU staffer, was published just as "Aquaman," a movie in which she co-starred, appeared in theaters.

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

While Depp was not mentioned by name, she referred to a time “two years ago,” when she was married to Depp.

The defamation trial lasted for the better part of two months and became a social media obsession. Both actors took the stand and testified. Depp claimed that Heard was the abuser and he was the victim. He also contended that as the result of Heard's claims, he lost his part in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. His fans, a handful of which were in court to see the judge sign the final order Friday, lined up daily to be in court with him, often arriving at 1 a.m.

For her part, Heard charged that Depp repeatedly abused her and even sexually assaulted her.

In their verdict, jurors sided primarily with Depp, finding that Heard defamed her ex-husband with three statements in the op-ed. The first was a headline that Heard didn't write but republished in a tweet.

The jurors also found that Heard was defamed when one of Depp's attorneys made a statement to a UK publication in which he said Heard and friends called the police to ambush Depp. In an attachment to the final order, Depp's legal team contends that this finding was "contrary to the law and unsupported by facts." In addition, the $2 million award in favor of Heard was "excessive and not supported by the facts."

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