A photo of Amber Heard hugging her attorney Elaine Bredehoft next to a photo of Johnny Depp waving to supporters from a car

What is the jury considering in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial?

After a six-week trial, a jury deliberated for hours on May 31 without reaching a verdict in the multi-million dollar defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

The jury is expected to resume hearings Tuesday (local time) in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia.

This lawsuit featured grim testimony with explicit details about the movie stars’ short and explosive marriage.

Here’s what the jury will have to decide.

What should the jury consider?

At the center of the court case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Ms Heard in The Washington Post, in which she made a statement about domestic violence.

The article did not mention Mr Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear Ms Heard was referring to him.

Mr. Depp has filed a $50 million ($70 million) defamation lawsuit against Ms. Heard, alleging the op-ed she wrote damaged her reputation and career.

In return, Ms. Heard is counter-suing Mr. Depp for $100 million ($140 million).

A seven-member jury must decide whether two passages and the title of the article are defamatory.

The jury verdict form gives jurors instructions on how to determine this, including asking whether statements about Mr. Depp were false and had a defamatory implication about him.

Because Mr. Depp is a public figure, Ms. Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if the jury decides that she acted with “actual malice”, meaning that:

  • either she knew what she was writing was wrong, or,
  • she acted with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Ms Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if the jury decides she acted with “actual malice”.(PA: Craig Hudson)

Lawyers for Ms Heard told the jury that Mr Depp’s libel claim must fail if Ms Heard suffered even one incident of abuse.

What questions did the jury ask?

During deliberations, the jury asked Judge Penney Azcarate whether to consider the entire article or just the headline.

The headline said Ms Heard “spoke out against sexual violence – and faced the wrath of our culture”.

Meanwhile, the judge said she would tell the jury that the headline was the statement they should consider in reaching their verdict.

Lawyers for Ms Heard argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered by freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US constitution.

Mr. Depp’s attorneys filed their U.S. case in Fairfax County, Va., because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not accused.

Depp makes a surprise appearance on stage with Jeff Beck while awaiting the verdict

Awaiting the verdict of his libel trial in the United States, Mr Depp made an unscheduled appearance on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London on May 30.

Sharing the stage with English rock guitarist Jeff Beck, Mr Depp was on stage for a total of 20 minutes, returning once again for the encore.


Beck introduced it as follows: “Someone who came knocking on my dressing room door about five years ago and we haven’t stopped laughing since.”


Abuse allegations

Throughout the trial, jurors listened to recordings of the couple’s fights and saw graphic photos of Mr Depp’s injuries.

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