A judge in Virginia on Wednesday dismissed an attempt by actress Amber Heard to either have a mistrial declared or have her $10 million judgment overturned 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 in which one of the seven jurors who ruled the case was never called to jury duty.
In a written order, Judge Penney Azcarate dismissed all of Heard’s allegations, saying that the jury’s question was specifically irrelevant and that Heard could not show that the juror was biased.
Court bound by jury decision, judge says
“The jury reviewed, sat before 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 decision of the jury,” Azcarate wrote.
Depp is suing for $50 million in Fairfax County, Virginia, after Heard wrote a comment in 2018 The Washington Post on domestic violence, in which she described herself as “a public figure who represents domestic abuse.”
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.
Judgments as “contradictory and irreconcilable”
The judge did not explain her reasons for rejecting Heard’s other claims in Wednesday’s order.
Among other things, Heard argued that the $10 million verdict was not supported by the facts, and appears to show that the jury did not focus on the aftermath of the 2018 op-ed — as they should — and instead only have looked broadly at the damage to Depp’s reputation 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.
Juror served improperly, attorneys claimed
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 filings, was intentionally or treacherously attempting to replace his father, but they argued the possibility should not be ruled out.
“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 of a high-profile case,” Heard’s attorneys wrote.
Heard still has the option to appeal the verdict to the Virginia Court of Appeals.