By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Jurors considering opposing lawsuits brought by Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are set to meet Tuesday to continue deliberating on whether either actor was defamed and deserves millions of dollars in damages.
Depp, the 58-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, sued ex-wife Heard in Virginia 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.”
The seven-person jury deliberated for about two hours Friday before adjourning for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
At the center of the legal case is the 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.
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.
Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming “The Rum Diary” and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.
Over six weeks of proceedings, 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.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Daniel Wallis)