Amber Heard appeals $10M Johnny Depp defamation verdict, seeks new trial

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - JUNE 01: Actress Amber Heard departs the Fairfax County Courthouse on June 1, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. The jury in the Depp vs. Heard case awarded actor Johnny Depp $15 million in his defamation case against Heard. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Amber Heard has filed an appeal in her and ex-husband Johnny Depp’s defamation case, which she lost earlier this year, seeking a reversal of the decision or a new trial.

Heard filed her formal appeal to Virginia courts last month in an attempt to overturn the June 1 jury verdict that ruled Heard’s Washington Post op-ed in which she claimed domestic abuse was defamatory and awarded Depp $10.35 million in damages. In her countersuit against her ex-husband, the jury also awarded Heard $2 million in damages.

According to the New York Post, the actress’ lawyers listed several legal objections in the 68-page document dated Nov. 23, arguing that the trial was held in the wrong state and that the judge erred in prohibiting certain pieces of evidence, including therapy notes in which she reported being abused. Judge Penney Azcarate of Fairfax County, Virginia, dismissed the evidence as hearsay.

Heard’s attorneys requested that the jury’s verdict be overturned, either with a dismissal of Depp’s claims or a new trial.

Heard’s attorneys wrote in their appeal that the court “improperly prevented the jury from considering several instances in which Heard reported Depp’s abuse to a medical professional.”

They wrote:

“If not reversed, the trial court’s exclusion of contemporaneous reports of domestic abuse to medical professionals will make it more difficult for other abuse victims to prove allegations of abuse, and likely deter them from coming forward.”

The filing also claimed that the verdict, if allowed to stand:

“undoubtedly will have a chilling effect on other women who wish to speak about abuse involving powerful men.”

Heard’s attorneys also argued that the trial should have occurred in California, where the couple previously lived, rather than Virginia, where the Washington Post’s servers are located.

According to Heard’s filing, the case should never have gone to trial in the first place because “another court had already concluded that Depp abused Heard on multiple occasions.”

The filing was in response to a 2020 ruling in favor of the British tabloid The Sun, which Depp had sued for calling him a “wife-beater.” Depp’s libel claims were dismissed by British judge Andrew Nicol, who ruled that the newspaper’s allegations that he was a “wife-beater” were “substantially true.”

Heard’s filing said:

“The trial court should have given preclusive effect to that 129-page decision, which followed a three-week trial at which Depp, Heard, and 24 other witnesses testified.”

Heard’s lawyers added:

“Once this case did go to trial, Depp failed as a matter of law to meet his burden to prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence in two ways. First, he did not demonstrate that Heard was aware of and intended to communicate the alleged defamatory implication that he had abused her. Second, he did not establish that Heard knew the alleged implication was false or subjectively entertained serious doubts about its faith. The trial court erred in declining to set aside the jury verdict and enter judgment in Heard’s favor.”

Depp filed an appeal in November to overturn the payment made to Heard for her counterclaim against him. His legal team argued that her counterclaim victory was “erroneous” because Depp should not be held liable for comments made by his attorney, Adam Waldman, in 2020.

Waldman claimed in 2016 that Heard and her friends set up Depp by calling the cops with a “hoax” of abuse claims.

Depp’s lawyers said in their filing: “Mr. Waldman is an independent contractor, whose allegedly tortious conduct is not automatically attributable to Mr. Depp,” and “no evidence of Mr. Waldman’s actual malice was presented at trial” by Heard’s team.

The documents added:

“Ms. Heard presented no evidence at trial that Mr. Depp was personally involved in directing or making any of the three Waldman Statements. Indeed, Mr. Depp testified that he had never even seen the Waldman Statements prior to the filing of the Counterclaim in August of 2020.”

Camille Vasquez, Depp’s lawyer, explained that Heard’s decision to appeal the verdict prompted them to file their own appeal.

Vasquez said on “CBS Mornings”:

“Mr. Depp ended up filing his own appeal, so that the court could have the full record. And [Heard] insists on continuing to litigate this matter, and we have to protect our client’s interest.”

She continued:

“We are just hopeful that the court will uphold the verdict, which we think was the right verdict, and allow both parties to move on.”