Amber Heard settles bitter US defamation case with Johnny Depp
Amber Heard has agreed to settle her defamation case with Johnny Depp for $1 million (£823,000), as she attacked the American legal system for turning one of her trials into a media circus while praising her British court case for being “impartial and fair”.
Following cases on both sides of the Atlantic, with different outcomes, the actress claimed that her testimony in the US had become “entertainment and social media fodder”, while in the UK, the courts had been more “robust” about protecting her.
The 36-year-old said that the decision to settle the American case, rather than pursue an appeal, came after “a great deal of deliberation” and was “not an act of concession”.
Heard said that the US case had been settled with “no admission” of wrongdoing by her and there were “no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward”.
An insurance company is expected to pay the $1 million to Depp on her behalf.
A representative for the Edward Scissorhands star said that he was “pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter” and would donate the money to charity.
It was far less than the $10 million (£8.2 million) originally awarded by a court, but for Depp it was “not about the money” and he “just wanted the truth”.
The settlement brought to an end a long and bitter saga which led to lurid details of the Hollywood couple’s relationship being revealed in court.
The actors married in 2015 and divorced acrimoniously two years later.
In 2020, Depp lost a case in the UK which he brought against News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, after an article in 2018 referred to him as a “wife beater”.
Depp also sued Heard over another article she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018 about her experiences as a survivor of domestic abuse.
Although he was not named in that article, Depp’s lawyers said that Heard had defamed him by falsely accusing him of being an abuser.
A weeks-long case took place at Fairfax County Court in Virginia, just outside Washington, earlier this year.
In June, a jury of seven found in favour of the 59-year-old and he was awarded $10 million for damages to his reputation.
Last month, Heard, using a new set of lawyers, filed court papers indicating she would appeal against the verdict, arguing that it would have a “chilling” effect on other women.
However, in a statement on Instagram, she wrote: “After a great deal of deliberation, I have made a very difficult decision to settle the defamation case brought against me by my ex-husband in Virginia.
“It’s important for me to say that I never chose this. I defended my truth and in doing so my life as I knew it was destroyed.”
She added: “I make this decision having lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder.”
The actress claimed that “abundant, direct evidence that corroborated my testimony” was not allowed to be shown to the jury, and that “popularity and power” had mattered more than “reason and due process” in the US case.
Heard said she had been “exposed to a type of humiliation that I simply cannot re-live” by appealing.
The best she could hope for by appealing was a retrial with a new jury and the same evidence, she said.
“I simply cannot go through that for a third time,” she said, adding that her resources were “exhausted”.
The actress said: “I cannot afford to risk an impossible bill – one that is not just financial, but also psychological, physical and emotional. Women shouldn’t have to face abuse or bankruptcy for speaking her truth, but unfortunately it is not uncommon.”
Heard went on to extoll her faith in the British legal system, comparing it favourably to the US one.
She said: “When I stood before a judge in the UK, I was vindicated by a robust, impartial and fair system, where I was protected from having to give the worst moments of my testimony in front of the world’s media, and where the court found that I was subjected to domestic and sexual violence.”
In a statement, Depp’s lawyers Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez said: “Mr Depp made clear throughout this process that his priority was about bringing the truth to light. The jury’s unanimous decision and the resulting judgment in Mr Depp’s favour against Ms Heard remain fully in place.”
They added: “The payment of $1 million – which Mr Depp is pledging and will donate to charities – reinforces Ms Heard’s acknowledgement of the conclusion of the legal system’s rigorous pursuit for justice.”
In the Virginia case, Heard also won on one element of a countersuit, in which she had claimed that a member of Depp’s team defamed her by accusing her of perpetrating “an abuse hoax”.
During the civil trial, Depp said Heard had “ruined his life” with false claims, while she told the jury she had been repeatedly assaulted.
The jury was played recordings of their rows, and shown graphic photographs of Depp’s severed finger.
He told the jury that was the result of Heard hurling a vodka bottle at him, which she denied.