Judge denies Amber Heard’s motion to overturn Depp’s win

Matthew Barakat and Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press

Published Wednesday, July 13, 2022 9:43 PM EDT

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A Virginia judge on Wednesday denied an attempt by actress Amber Heard to overturn the $10 million judgment imposed on her in favor of her ex-husband Johnny Depp.

Depp won a defamation lawsuit against Heard in a high-profile civil lawsuit last month. Heard won a smaller $2 million judgment on a counterclaim she filed against Depp.

Earlier this month, Heard filed a motion to have Depp’s conviction overturned or a mistrial declared. Her attorneys cited several factors, including an apparent case of mistaken identity with one of the jurors.

In a written order, Judge Penney Azcarate dismissed all of Heard’s allegations, saying the jury question was specifically irrelevant and that Heard could not show that she was biased.

“The jury reviewed, sat for the full jury, deliberated and reached a verdict. The only evidence before this court is that this juror and all jurors upheld their oath, the orders and orders of the court. This court is bound by the competent jury’s decision,” Azcarate wrote.

Depp sued in Fairfax County for $50 million after Heard wrote a 2018 op-ed about domestic violence in The Washington Post, in which she described herself as “a public figure who portrays domestic violence.” The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his attorneys said several passages in the article implicitly defamed him by referring to high-profile abuse allegations she made in 2016 when she filed for divorce.

Heard then filed a $100 million countersuit, also for defamation. By the time the case went to trial, her counterclaim had been reduced to a few testimonies from one of Depp’s attorneys, who called Heard’s abuse allegations a hoax.

The jury awarded Depp $15 million and Heard $2 million for their counterclaim. The $15 million judgment was reduced to $10.35 million because Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350,000.

The judge did not provide reasons for rejecting Heard’s other claims in Wednesday’s order.

Among other things, Heard argued that the $10 million judgment was not supported by facts, and appears to show that the jury did not focus on the aftermath of the 2018 comment — as they should — and instead only did so in general looked at the reputational damage Depp has suffered from the alleged abuse.

Heard’s attorneys also argued that the verdicts for Depp on the one hand and Heard on the other were fundamentally nonsensical.

“The jury’s dueling verdicts are contradictory and irreconcilable,” write their attorneys Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn.

Heard’s attorneys also appealed the verdict on the grounds that one of the seven jurors who ruled the case was never called to jury duty. According to court records, a 77-year-old county resident received a summons to appear in court. But the man’s son, who has the same name and lives at the same address, complied with the summons and served in his place.

Heard’s attorneys argued that Virginia law is strict about jury identity and a case of mistaken identity is grounds for a jury trial. They presented no evidence that the 52-year-old son, identified only as juror 15 in court records, was intentionally or treacherously attempting to replace his father, but they argued the possibility should not be discounted .

“The court cannot presume, as Mr Depp requires, that Juror 15’s manifestly improper service was an innocent error. It may have been a deliberate attempt to serve on the jury in a high-profile case,” Heard’s attorneys wrote.

Heard still has the option to appeal the verdict to the Virginia Court of Appeals. The issues presented to the appeals court could well be different from the issues Azcarate rejected on Wednesday.

In a separate order, the judge ordered dozens of court documents to be unsealed, including motions aimed at enforcing independent medical evaluations of both Depp and Heard. A handful of documents remain sealed, mainly because they contain personal contact information or personal medical information.

“In this matter, both litigants have sued each other, opening themselves to the public forum of a jury trial. Court records are public information,” Azcarate wrote.

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A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Depp sued for $25 million and that Heard’s counterclaim sought $50 million. ___

Lavoie reported from Richmond.

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