AAfter Johnny Depp prevailed in his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, her attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, announced that her client was “desperate” to appeal.
The jury of five men and two women announced Wednesday (June 1) that Ms Heard made three statements defaming Mr Depp. The jury also found that Ms. Heard was defamed by one of three statements in her counterclaim.
The Independent spoke to three attorneys about Ms Heard’s possible reasons for an appeal or even a new trial: Lisa Bloom of The Bloom Firm, whose clients included Janice Dickinson, Mischa Barton and several of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims; Jesse Weber, anchor and attorney for the Law & Crime Network, who covered the trial from the courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia; and Mitra Ahouraian, a Beverly Hills entertainment attorney representing actors, directors, producers and musicians.
The wording of Amber Heard’s comment
Ms Bloom saw several contestable issues in the Depp v. Heard judgment, starting with the wording of the 2018 judgment Washington Post Comment from which Mr Depp’s defamation lawsuits stemmed.
“Because of the First Amendment, the exact words [of a given statement] are under close scrutiny,” she said. “Here, Amber Heard just said that she was a public figure who represents domestic violence. From my point of view, this means that if she was a victim of domestic violence even once, the statement is true and the case is closed. She didn’t have to win that she was the victim of multiple incidents or even significant incidents. Just some kind of domestic violence.”
Ms Bloom highlighted the fact that Ms Heard “never named” Mr Depp in the comment, meaning that “the Court of Appeals could say the comment was not specific enough to override her First Amendment rights”.
One of the three statements in Mr Depp’s lawsuit is the headline of the comment, which Ms Bloom says is another potential problem.
“[Ms Heard she was found to have defamed him based on a headline she didn’t write, just retweeted,” she said. “If this ruling is upheld, it would cause major First Amendment problems for the millions of tweeps who write RT articles all day long. Should they be held liable for defamation if the article is inaccurate?”
Ms Bloom also saw potential problems in the way juries awarded damages: after initially announcing they had a verdict, they were turned back as they appeared to have failed to award some or all of the damages required. They returned shortly after, having awarded Mr Depp $15 million and Ms Heard $2 million. (Judge Penney Azcarate adjusted Mr. Depp’s award to a state ceiling; he was actually awarded $10.35 million.)
The timing of which damages were awarded appears to be “very lax” to Ms Bloom and is an issue she would raise on appeal.
Possible evidence problems
Mr. Weber referred to statements made by Ms. Bredehoft in post-trial interviews to outline possible strategies for Ms. Heard’s legal team.
“The arguments on appeal focus on what Heard believes were wrong legal decisions by the judge. That’s why it’s so important to raise objections and motions during the process to get those issues up for appeal,” he said.
“Based on Elaine Bredehoft’s comments after the verdict, it appears that they will focus on evidence that was ‘suppressed’ during the trial, such as medical records, and potentially derive adverse evidence from it [Mr Depp] could be introduced. It seems too [Ms Heard’s team] took issue with the fact that the UK judgment, in which a judge found several cases of abuse, by [Mr Depp]could not be presented to the jury.”
Mr Depp sued The sun‘s publisher in 2018 about a headline that had called him a “wife beater”. A judge ruled against him in the UK case in 2020.
Ms. Heard’s attorneys “could also argue that there were problems with the jury briefings/jury form,” added Mr. Weber.
Ms Ahouraian stressed the fact that “an appellate judge does not review the facts or challenge the jury’s verdict”.
“An appellate judge examines whether there has been an error of law that led to an unfair decision, for example where the judge made a serious error such as: B. excluding relevant evidence,” she said.
“[Ms Heard]Attorneys at allege that relevant evidence that could have influenced the outcome of the case has been excluded. Some of this evidence made it into the British trial of The sunthe [Mr Depp] lost and didn’t make it into that process, which makes their point understandable, but of course the laws there are different.”
A “contradictory” verdict
In conversation with BBC NewsnightMs Bloom described the verdict in Depp v. Heard as “inconsistent” as the jury found that both Mr Depp and Ms Heard were defamed.
The jury found that Mr Depp was defamed in Ms Heard’s comment, in which she described herself as “a public figure who depicts domestic violence,” but also noted that Ms Heard, in a statement by Adam Waldman (a former lawyer for Mr Depp) was defamed. to label some of Ms Heard’s allegations as “hoaxes”.
“How is it that Amber Heard was defamed when Johnny Depp’s lawyer said her allegations were a hoax, and yet Johnny Depp was also defamed when she said she was a domestic violence advocate?” asked Ms Bloom on the programme . “I think that’s inconsistent and you can’t make an inconsistent judgment.”
Mr. Weber expressed doubts as to whether this could be a valid reason for an appeal because “usually appeals are not about the decision of the jury itself”.
He also pointed to the specific testimony that the jury found to be defamation of Ms. Heard. It was a statement in which Mr. Waldman said, “It was quite simply an ambush, a hoax. They tricked Mr. Depp by calling the police, but the first attempt didn’t work. Officers came to the penthouses, were thoroughly searched and questioned, and left after finding no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled some wine and roughed up the place, cleared up their stories under the guidance of an attorney and publicist, and then made a second call to 911.”
For Mr. Weber, the verdict is not necessarily contradictory. “The jury basically said we don’t believe it [Ms Heard] told the truth about her experience with Johnny Depp, which was being an abuse survivor, but we believe that too [Mr Depp]The attorney for , who acted as his agent, went too far and made false claims [Ms Heard] and her friends staged the scene of an alleged attack,” he said. “They couldn’t believe Heard wasn’t actually hit in the face with a cell phone like she claimed in May 2016, but they couldn’t believe either that her friends helped stage a hoax cover-up attack.”
The jury was not seized during the seven-week trial. They have been ordered not to research the case or engage in outside investigation, but the length of the trial, coupled with the fact that it was televised and debated overwhelmingly online, has raised questions about the possible isolation of the jury could have stayed any content related to the study.
“[Ms Heard’s team] might even try to show that since it wasn’t seized, the jury was exposed to all the Depp fans and media scrutiny and that skewed the verdict,” Weber said, adding that this “will be a big problem for [Ms Heard]’s team on appeal”.
“On the one hand, I’m sure you can ask how they couldn’t have been exposed and tainted by the media coverage, the masses and social media,” Mr. Weber said. “On the other hand, that’s a guess. They were instructed not to look at any outside material or look at anything about the process. Unless a juror conducts an interview and says something, or unless [Ms Heard]The team at can present evidence of jury misconduct, for now this is a speculative argument and unlikely to succeed.”
Ms Ahouraian highlighted the judge’s decision not to seize the jury.
“It makes sense that in a high-profile case like this, the jury would be seized and not just ‘briefed’ not to go on the internet or talk to anyone about the case,” she said. “That’s not realistic in a case like this: people go home to their families and the case is everywhere. When in doubt, I’m sure some information has surfaced if someone checked their email or something seemingly innocuous.”
While Ms Ahouraian acknowledged that possibility and the fact that it “could have greatly influenced the outcome and rendered the trial unfair,” she is unsure that doing so would constitute an error of law, “as I don’t know if anyone has the extent could have predicted the attention on social media and the vitriol people are focused on [Ms Heard].”
“However, if a juror actually looked online and actually heard or saw something despite the judge’s order, that could be grounds for a mistrial,” she added.
Ms Bloom suggested potential jury problems could result in an appearance or even a new trial, but acknowledged similar difficulties.
“She would have to prove that interference, which would be a challenge,” she said. “Maybe a juror will talk about it in a press interview. I will pay attention to that. Stay tuned!”