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Johnny Depp Vs. Amber Heard Trial Outcomes
Johnny C. Depp, II Vs. Amber Laura Heard’s recently concluded trial was a civil defamation case filed by plaintiff Johnny Depp alleging three counts of defamation against the defendant Amber Heard. Each claim was worth $50 million in damages. Similarly, Heard filed a counterclaim against Depp worth $100 million.
Six weeks after hearing each party’s depositions and revelations of personal details, the jury deliberated for thirteen hours and gave the following outcomes:
- Amber Heard was found liable for three counts of defamation, including falsely accusing Depp of sexual violence and domestic abuse.
- Johnny Depp was found liable for one of the three defamation accusations for comments his lawyer made, claiming that Amber had roughed up her penthouse as part of a hoax against Depp.
- Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages (this amount is the maximum offered in a Virginia civil court).
- Heard was awarded $2 million as compensatory damages.
The verdict was a victorious outcome for Depp, who said that the jury gave him his life back. On the other hand, Amber publicly said she was disappointed that the considerable evidence she provided was insufficient to prove her case. As a result, her lawyer stated that they planned to appeal.
This multi-million dollar lawsuit was a civil trial case that proceeded in Fairfax County, Virginia. Today, we will use it as a guide to help you understand what a civil trial entails and how appeals work.
What is a Civil Trial?
A civil trial is a legal proceeding between two parties initiated by one party (plaintiff) to compel the other party (defendant) to be liable for a non-criminal dispute. Civil courts have different jurisdictions and laws, depending on the state the plaintiff files the lawsuit.
In Depp Vs. Heard matter, Depp filed the case in Virginia—where the defamatory article that Heard wrote was published), as opposed to California, where the alleged abuse occurred. This decision was strategic because Virginia has flexible anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Public Participation) laws.
Virginia’s anti-SLAPP law does not allow the defendant to petition the court for protection against intimidation and silencing of free speech at the initial stages of the case—Heard claimed that the lawsuit against her was partly due to this reason.
The Sorenson Law Firm exhaustively understands civil trial laws for the state of Arizona. Our experienced Tempe attorneys will take advantage of every clause to help you win your civil case.
How a Civil Trial Works
Before a case reaches the court for trial, the parties must try to resolve the matter out of court. When they fail to agree, they start the pre-trial discovery process, followed by a jury selection process, eventually leading to a judge and jury hearing the case. The following is the court proceeding process:
- Opening statements
- Plaintiff presents evidence
- Direct and cross-examination of witnesses
- Motion for direct verdict or dismissal motion
- Defendant presents evidence
- Plaintiff’s rebuttal
- Final motions from both parties
- Closing arguments for both parties
Next, the judge directs how the jury will render a verdict. In civil trials, juries do not need to reach a unanimous decision. The specific numbers to give a conclusive verdict vary from state to state. Notably, the jurists in Depp vs. Heard case reached a unanimous verdict.
How Appeals Work
In civil cases, both parties can appeal if they disagree with the trial outcome. The appellant must prepare a brief showing that the trial court made a legal error that negatively affected the trial outcome. Three judges often hear appeals and make a judgment based on the written record from the previous trial court. The court of appeal does not admit new evidence but can permit each party fifteen minutes of oral arguments.
Civil Trial Appeals Process Amber Heard Has to Follow
After the trial concluded, Heard’s attorney said they planned to appeal. For the appeal to succeed, the legal team must prove the judge made a serious error that rendered the trial unfair to her position. The following is the appeal process Amber will go through before the higher court grants an appeal:
- File a notice of appeal.
- Submit the portions of records to the trial court clerk to forward to the appellant court for review.
- Amber’s lawyers write a brief outlining the legal arguments they rely on for a reversal of the verdict.
- Depp’s side will be allowed to file an answering brief.
- Amber’s lawyers can respond to Depp’s brief.
- The appeal court decides on whether the case will proceed.
If the case proceeds, the appellate judges will review the trial court judge’s actions and rulings throughout the case. If they find that the judge erroneously excluded evidence that may have affected the trial’s outcome, the judges may overturn the verdict and a new trial ordered.
The Sorenson Law Firm has experienced appellate attorneys who can maximize your chances of receiving a favorable outcome in your appeal case. We provide a wealth of experience in preparing a compelling appeal brief and giving powerful oral arguments. Book your free consultation today.