George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley said Wednesday that despite a verdict that clearly favored actor Johnny Depp, actress Amber Heard was not the only “loser” to emerge from their six-week defamation trial.
Turley, who served as an expert witness during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, argued that in light of the jury’s verdict, the American Civil Liberties Union took a hit as well.
The jury declared Heard guilty of clearly and intentionally defaming Depp when she wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post claiming that she was a victim of domestic violence — and Turley argued that because the ACLU was party to the op-ed, the organization also shared in some of the judgment.
“Depp walks away with a far greater victory in the rejection of Heard’s allegations. Another loser in this case is the ACLU, which helped write the defamatory column. This will magnify criticism of the role of the ACLU,” he explained.
Depp walks away with a far greater victory in the rejection of Heard's allegations. Another loser in this case is the ACLU, which helped write the defamatory column. This will magnify criticism of the role of the ACLU.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) June 1, 2022
“Depp was only found guilty for the statement of his agent. The jury also rejected any punitive award for that agent. With the reduction, Depp can walk with $10,3000,000,” Turley continued, noting that the court could still consider a reduction of the amount awarded by the jury.
“Even if Heard’s award stands, that still means that Heard is hit with an $8,300,000. Even though the punitive award was statutorily reduced, it showed that the jury not only disbelieved Heard but sought to impose added penalties in light of her conduct,” he added.
Turley went on to note that punitive damages were usually based on whether a jury saw credibility or culpability in the person on the stand, adding, “Here the jury clearly saw little credibility in Heard and an abundance of culpability.”
He concluded by saying that punitive damages were actually a lot less common than most people believed, and were only awarded in “around one percent of cases.”
Depp responded to the verdict by saying in a statement, “Six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.”
“False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me. It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career,” he added.
Heard also responded to the verdict, claiming that it had implications for other women and for freedom of speech. “It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously. … I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly.”