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02nd Jun 2022

Why Johnny Depp won his defamation case against Amber Heard in US but lost in the UK

April Curtin

Amber Heards lawyers not to call Depp back to the stand

Depp prevailed in the US trial despite losing against The Sun back in 2020

Johnny Depp won his defamation case against Amber Heard but lost in the UK for “one simple reason,” a legal expert has claimed.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor successfully won the case against his ex-wife, it was announced yesterday. The jury came to a unanimous conclusion that Heard, also a Hollywood actor, had defamed Depp in her op-ed published in the Washington Post back in 2018.

Depp was awarded $15 million. But the jury also decided that, through his lawyer Adam Waldman, Depp defamed Heard on one of three counts in her countersuit against Depp. Heard was therefore awarded $2 million.

Money aside, the lengthy trial in Virginia ended with the jury primarily siding with Depp, despite the fact he lost his 2020 UK libel case against The Sun newspaper in which the publication had called him a “wife beater”.

The reason for this, according to legal experts at least, is that the verdict in the UK was decided by a judge, while in the US case, it was decided by a jury.

“The answer is simple,” George Freeman, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center told Washington Post, “It was up to the jury.”

When it comes to the strategy used to convince the jury, international media lawyer Mark Stephens said Depp’s legal team in the US used a strategy called DARVO – Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. This meant Depp became the victim and Heard the abuser.

“We find that DARVO works very well with juries but almost never works with judges, who are trained to look at evidence,” Stephens said.

Heard was not named in the British case but did testify as a witness called by The Sun. The UK judge ruled the allegations against Depp were “substantially true”.

Meanwhile, Stephen’s said that even though Depp’s team had a much higher standard to cross in the recent case, “that didn’t impact the outcome because essentially what you have got is a jury believing evidence that a British judge did not accept, so that’s where the difference lies here. Unusually, not in the different legal frameworks.”

That may prove why Depp lost in the UK – despite the fact he didn’t have to prove his wife beater allegation was false. Under UK law, the responsibility lay with The Sun to prove Depp was a wife beater.

Lee Berlik, a Virginia-based attorney who specializes in defamation law and business litigation, said: “If Depp had filed that same case here in the U.S., he would have the burden of persuading the jury that the accusation was false.

He added: “It is remarkable that a judge in the U.K. found that the Sun had proven 12 separate acts of ‘wife beating’ by Depp, but in Virginia a jury essentially found zero acts of domestic abuse and that Ms. Heard’s claims to the contrary were basically a ‘hoax.'”

Depp was pictured out with Sam Fender in Newcastle on the night the verdict was announced – an ending which no one could’ve seen coming. Meanwhile, Amber Heard has already announced plans to appeal the verdict of the trial.

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