No verdict in Depp, heard libel cases as jury wraps up day’s deliberations

No verdict in Depp, heard libel cases as jury wraps up day’s deliberations

May 31 (Reuters) – Jurors considering opposing lawsuits by actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard deliberated for hours on Tuesday without reaching a verdict in the multimillion-dollar libel fight that aired troubling details about their marriage trouble.

The seven-person jury is expected to resume discussions Wednesday morning in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia.

Depp, the 58-year-old ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star, has sued Heard for $50 million and claimed she defamed him when she called herself a ‘public figure representing domestic violence ” in an opinion piece.

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Heard, 36, has filed a countersuit for $100 million, claiming Depp smeared him when his lawyer called his accusations a “hoax”.

Depp denied hitting Heard or a woman and said it was she who became violent in their relationship.

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

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

During deliberations on Tuesday, the seven-person jury asked Judge Penney Azcarate whether to consider the entire article or just the headline. The headline said Heard “spoke out against sexual violence — and faced the wrath of our culture.”

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

During six weeks of testimony, lawyers for Heard argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered by free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

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 his finger was severed when Heard threw a bottle of vodka at him in 2015.

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

The testimony was widely streamed live on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple’s rocky relationship.

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

Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid which called him a “wife beater”. A High Court judge in London ruled that he assaulted Heard on several occasions.

Depp’s attorneys filed the US case in Fairfax County, Va., because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not accused.

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Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Mark Porter and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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