Legal experts have weighed in on the explosive court showdown between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – and are predicting a very surprising outcome.
Jurors in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s libel trial could return with a big cash verdict for the winning team — even if the celebrities aren’t proving as sympathetic, legal experts tell the Post.
The seven jurors have been hearing about the warring Hollywood couple’s troubles for five weeks and have been briefed on their big payday movies and jet-setting lifestyle, including on Depp’s private island in the Bahamas.
“Usually people look at these two and think there are nicer characters to worry about than Johnny Depp’s ex-wife,” Virginia libel attorney Jeremiah Denton said.
Still, that might not stop the jury from awarding a large sum in damages, Denton and other experts said.
Heard is being sued by Depp for $50m (A$67m) for suggesting he abused her in 2018 Washington Post editorial. Although she hasn’t named him, he claims her claims are false and cost him lucrative movie roles.
Heard fought back, demanding $100m (A$134m) and claiming she suffered “endemic violence and physical abuse” at his hands.
“They might be really unsympathetic, but they might come back and say it’s mathematically probable that I lost at least $25 million (US) in future income,” Denton said. “Well, it’s kind of hard to turn your back on that.”
Depp, 58, had forensic accountant Michael Spindler testify at the trial in Fairfax, Va., that he lost $40 million in income as a result of Heard. Washington Post room.
His talent manager Jack Whigham also spoke out, saying Heard’s essay had struck a $22.5 million deal with Disney to continue Depp’s role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Heard has yet to call a witness to discuss her alleged financial losses due to her claims that Depp and her lawyer defamed her when they denied her abuse allegations. On Thursday, however, Heard’s talent agent, Jessica Kovacevic, testified that Heard’s career prospects plummeted after claims she was lying.
Even if Depp or Heard prove that they were defamed, they must also prove that the defamatory statements caused financial losses totaling $50 million (A$67 million) and $100 million (A$134 million) respectively. ).
Texas civil attorney Katherine Lizardo agreed that hearing about the lives of celebrities might make jurors less sympathetic, but noted that jurors could be invested in the larger issues at play in the case, including perjury, defamation and domestic violence.
“Ordinary people in general might be less sympathetic whenever parties are rich or have more money than them,” Lizardo said. The post office. “But I think in this situation there’s a chance the jury might consider awarding damages to whoever wins their defamation suit because of the big issues here.”
The attorney said the jury might want to send a “message” to whoever loses in the case.
“The jury might say that one of them committed real malice…that they’ll say, ‘You’ve seriously damaged the other’s reputation and now you’ve made us sit here and listen to all this for six weeks’ and they might be upset that way,” Lizardo said.
“I think the jury is very invested in this,” she added. “If they’re going to get mad, I think now it’s not about money anymore, it’s about principle for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.”
Denton, Virginia’s attorney, noted that on the other hand, jurors might not want to award large sums to actors who were apparently already wealthy.
“Because they’re privileged actors who have a life where they don’t know what the financial need is, a jury might say, ‘Why the hell are they here wasting their time?’ and award a dollar to one of them,” Denton said, noting that he knows of at least one case in Virginia where a jury awarded the measly sum to send a message.
In the fifth week of the trial on Thursday, jurors heard Depp’s former business partner Joel Mandel testify about how the actor spent US$10,000 (A$14,000) a day on a security guard and employed doctors and nurses to help him stay sober. – up to US$100,000 (A$142,000) per month.
During Mandel’s testimony, Ian Runkle – an unconnected Canadian lawyer who is observing the trial while in Virginia for work – said he saw “some of the [the jurors] the writing and some expressions to the big dollar amounts of the life of mega-celebrities.
Runkle said the jurors had been “very emotionless”, but noted that they seemed to be “leaning towards [Depp’s] direction.” And he said they sounded “verified” at the end of Heard’s live.
Denton explained that whoever loses is likely to appeal. But even though the award is very high compared to previous libel jury awards in Virginia, a court can still uphold the figure due to their large earnings.
“Because these people were such high earners, it’s very possible that a very high reward of tens of millions of dollars could be sustained,” Denton said. The post office.
He also explained that this case could not be accurately compared to prior libel cases and jury verdicts in Virginia.
“The court was actually quite explicit in saying that you can’t compare one defamation verdict to another because the moving parts are so different, the factors are so different,” Denton said. “We probably don’t have another defamation case on our books — in Virginia at least — involving a famous movie star who makes several millions a year. That makes a huge difference.”
Representatives for Depp and Heard declined to comment.
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and has been reproduced with permission.
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