After weeks of accusations on both sides and secrets revealed, plus some intimate details that have been recalled, the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is up to a Virginia jury to decide whether either side is liable for millions in damages, with closing arguments set for May 27.
Seven jurors overseeing the Fairfax trial will decide whether Heard, 36, defamed Depp, 58, when she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2018 in which she defined herself as “a public figure who represents domestic abuse.” The jury will also determine whether the actress should stand trial for millions in damages.
Could Amber Heard go to prison?
Because she faces no criminal charges, only civil lawsuits, Heard is not at risk of jail time.
Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard because of an opinion piece in an English newspaper she wrote, claiming the text damaged his reputation and career, as well as costing him tens of millions.
For her part, Heard has accused Depp of assaulting her dozens of times, in response to the actor saying she was the abusive one in their relationship, in addition to filing a $100 million defamation countersuit, alleging that Depp is leading a “smear campaign” to ruin her life.
Among the possible outcomes for this trial, there is a possibility that the jury will determine that neither Depp nor Heard should be awarded damages, according to a source close to Heard’s legal team.
Even if Heard should not have to answer Depp’s case, she would be entitled to recover the cost of her legal fees from Depp.
What would happen if Depp wins the lawsuit?
But should Depp prove successful in this lawsuit, it would be a strong message that would make others want to follow in Heard’s footsteps.
“Any time a defamation lawsuit is successful, it has a chilling effect on speech. There has always been a chilling effect for victims to come forward and speak out against institutions or entities or people with power because they feel like their world could come crashing down on them” Halim Dhanidina, a criminal defense attorney and former California judge, told the New York Post.
Should the verdict go in Depp’s favor “then I’m sure there are people out there who would think twice about making statements if those statements could expose them to legal liability…. A verdict will have a chilling effect one way or the other regardless of what the verdict is,” she added.