What exactly did the jury consider in Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard?

After a six-week trial, a jury deliberated for hours on May 31 but failed to reach a verdict in the multimillion-dollar defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

The jury is expected to continue its deliberations in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia on Tuesday (local time).

The trial featured lurid testimony that contained clear details about the movie star’s brief and explosive marriage.

Here’s what the jury needs to decide.

What does a jury need to consider?

At the heart of the lawsuit is a December 2018 Washington Post opinion piece by Ms. Heard in which she made a statement about domestic abuse.

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

Mr. Depp has filed a $50 million ($70 million) defamation lawsuit against Ms. Hurd, claiming the column she wrote damaged his reputation and career.

In return, Ms. Hurd countersued Mr. Depp for $100 million ($140 million).

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

The jury verdict provides jurors with instructions on how to determine this, including asking whether statements about Mr Depp are false or defamatory.

Since Mr Depp is a public figure, Ms Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if the jury finds her actions were of “genuine malice”, meaning:

  • Either she knows what she wrote is fake, or,
  • She acted recklessly and ignored the truth.
Photo of Amber Heard leaving the Fairfax County Courthouse surrounded by police and reporters.
Ms Heard can only be found guilty of defamation if a jury finds her actions were of “genuine malice”.(Associated Press: Craig Hudson)

Ms Hurd’s lawyers told the jury that Mr Depp’s defamation suit would fail if Ms Hurd suffered even one incident of abuse.

What questions did the jury ask?

During the deliberations, the jury asked Judge Penney Azcarate whether it should consider the entire article or just the title.

The caption said Ms Heard had “spoken against sexual violence – and confronted the anger of our culture”.

Meanwhile, the judge said she would tell the jury that the headline was a statement they should consider making a verdict.

Ms. Heard’s lawyers argued that she was telling the truth and that her speech was covered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as free speech.

Lawyers for Mr. Depp filed their U.S. case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post was printed there. Newspapers are not defendants.

Depp makes surprise appearance on stage with Jeff Baker while awaiting sentencing

On May 30, Mr Depp made an unscheduled appearance on stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall while awaiting a verdict in his defamation trial in the US.

Mr. Depp joined British rock guitarist Jeff Beck on stage for 20 minutes before returning to the encore.

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“There was a knock on my locker room door about five years ago, and we’ve been laughing ever since,” Baker said.

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abuse allegations

Throughout the trial, jurors listened to tapes of the couple’s fight and saw images of Mr Depp’s injuries.