Amber Heard is appealing the Johnny Depp defamation verdict. Last month, the 36-year-old actress’ legal team filed an appeal to the June verdict, in which jurors decided that Depp was defamed by Heard and that she “acted with actual malice” in doing so.
In new court docs obtained by ET, Heard, whose 2018 Washington Post op-ed about being the victim of domestic violence was at the center of Depp’s case, cites several reasons for her appeal, starting with the six-week trial’s Virginia location.
“Instead of suing Heard in California, where both parties lived and where Depp claimed to have suffered reputational harm, Depp sued in Virginia, a wholly inconvenient forum with no connection to Depp or any meaningful connection to his claims,” the docs read, adding that the location was allowed based on the “mistaken conclusion that Depp’s claims arose in Virginia because the Washington Post’s servers are located here.”
The actress claims in the docs that “the trial court also erred in overruling Heard’s demurrer,” in which she argued that her op-ed statements “are non-actionable expressions of opinion and are not reasonably capable of conveying the alleged defamatory implication.”
“That holding, if allowed to stand, undoubtedly will have a chilling effect on other women who wish to speak about abuse involving powerful men,” the docs read.
Heard also argues that “this case also should never have gone to trial because another court had already concluded that Depp abused Heard on multiple occasions.” That is in reference to the 2020 U.K. trial, in which a court ruled that The Sun was justified in its use of the phrase “wife beater” in a 2018 article about Depp’s relationship with Heard.
Once the Virginia trial did get underway, the docs claim that Depp “failed as a matter of law to meet his burden to prove actual malice,” because “he did not demonstrate that Heard was aware of and intended to communicate the alleged defamatory implication that he had abused her” and “he did not establish that Heard knew the alleged implication was false or subjectively entertained serious doubts about its truth.”
During the trial, the docs allege, there were also “numerous evidentiary errors that severely prejudiced Heard.” The docs additionally claim that “the jury instructions were missing a key requirement for establishing a defamation-by-implication claim.”
The docs then turn to Heard’s victory in the trial, in which she was awarded $2 million, as the jury found Depp liable after his attorney referred to Heard’s claims as a “hoax.” Depp has filed an appeal to that decision, arguing that he should not be held liable for comments made by his attorney.
“The resulting jury verdict against Heard on all of Depp’s claims cannot be reconciled with the jury verdict against Depp on Heard’s counterclaim,” the docs read. “… Accordingly, the verdict against Heard cannot stand.”
Depp, meanwhile, was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the latter of which was later reduced to $350,000 in accordance with the state’s statutory cap.
“The jury’s award to Depp of $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages (statutorily reduced to $350,000) clearly is excessive given the narrow time-frame for which Depp could recover,” the docs read.
Heard’s appeal has long been expected, as, in July, she filed paperwork alerting the court of an impending appeal.
“We believe the court made errors that prevented a just and fair verdict consistent with the First Amendment,” a spokesperson for Heard told ET at the time. “We are therefore appealing the verdict. While we realize today’s filing will ignite the Twitter bonfires, there are steps we need to take to ensure both fairness and justice.”
In response to the July filing, a spokesperson for Depp told ET, “The jury listened to the extensive evidence presented during the six-week trial and came to a clear and unanimous verdict that the defendant herself defamed Mr. Depp, in multiple instances. We remain confident in our case and that this verdict will stand.”
Last month, a source told ET that, since the trial, Heard has been living in Europe with her daughter, Oonagh.
“She feels like she gets more privacy while overseas, likes it there, and is more comfortable,” the source said. “She is treated well and can be more under the radar and just be with her daughter. [She is] really focused on being a mom and being there for her daughter. She wants to move on and prepare for her next chapter.”