Depp, Heard jury to return Wednesday to weigh Hollywood stars’ defamation claims By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Actor Johnny Depp gestures as he leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse following his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

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By Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) – Jurors in Virginia will resume deliberations on Wednesday in the multimillion-dollar defamation claims brought by actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the Hollywood stars who have accused each other of abuse before and during their two-year marriage.

The seven-person jury weighed the evidence for about seven hours on Tuesday without reaching a verdict.

Depp, the 58-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, sued Heard for $50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a newspaper opinion piece.

Heard, 36, countersued for $100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax.”

Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.

Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming “The Rum Diary” and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.

At the center of the legal case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in the Washington Post in which she made the statement about domestic abuse. The article did not mention Depp by name but his lawyer told jurors it was clear that Heard was referring to him.

During deliberations on Tuesday, jurors asked Judge Penney Azcarate if they should consider the entire article or just the headline. The headline said Heard “spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath.”

Azcarate said she would tell the jury that the headline was the statement they should consider to reach their verdict.

During six weeks of testimony, Heard’s attorneys argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered as free speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Throughout the case, jurors listened to recordings of the couple’s fights and saw graphic photos of Depp’s bloody finger. He said the top of the finger was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.

Heard denied injuring Depp’s finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a liquor bottle. She said she struck him only to defend herself or her sister.

Testimony was livestreamed widely on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple’s troubled relationship.

Once among Hollywood’s biggest stars, Depp said Heard’s allegations cost him “everything.” A new “Pirates” movie was put on hold and Depp was replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, a “Harry Potter” spinoff.

Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid that labeled him a “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.

Depp’s lawyers filed the U.S. case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant.

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