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But Johnny Depp, Amber Heard defamation battle has finally come to an end. Today, jurors found that both stars were liable in some way for defaming the other, but they primarily sided with Johnny Depp, awarding him a total of $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Although there might be some caps in terms of what they’re actually able to extend.
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Now, while Hurt was awarded $2 million, none of that was actually punitive. The jury sided with her on one of the three counts, finding that one of Depp’s lawyers actually defamed her. The verdict caps a seven week trial that was full of lurid details and drama. That all started, of course, after Depp sued his ex-wife over a 2018 op ed that identified her as a domestic abuse survivor.
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So how did jurors sort through the weeks of really dirty laundry and get to the heart of each case to reach this verdict? Joining me now is Ken Turkel, an attorney who specializes in celebrity defamation cases. Well, Ken, here we are. We’ve been waiting for this moment to find out what the jury might actually find. First of all, were you surprised by the verdict in favor of Johnny Depp and also a liability in for a film by the attorney of Johnny Depp for Amber Heard?
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I’m not sure anything could really surprised me in this case. It was it was just not conventional in so many ways. Was I surprised? I never read much into the social media, into the buzz around these trials because I’ve done them and I know what ultimately means nothing. All that means anything is what the jury thinks. What would, I guess would surprise me?
00:01:38:20 – 00:01:57:27
These are very much zero sum games, Laura. You don’t really see compromise verdicts. You don’t see a liability verdict with 50,000, 100,000. So the idea that there’s an eight figure verdict there doesn’t surprise me, given the way the evidence came in and what it seemed like the vibe was in the courtroom. That part.
00:01:58:05 – 00:02:14:02
Was. I do I do want to walk. I want to hear your answer. But I also want to walk through because, you know, we got the word defamation on the screen right now. And you and I have talked about the fact that most of this trial did not follow the sort of flowchart one would go through when you’re talking about a defamation trial.
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The idea of, here, here’s what you got to prove. So I want to walk through a little bit the elements of what you had to prove in this case, because as you heard the jury, the jury’s verdict being read, they marched through these questions and had to answer yes. And so walk me through in terms of what the take is, the idea of the question was, was it made or a statement?
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Was it made or published by Hurd? Was it about Johnny Depp? Was it false? Was there a defamatory implication about Johnny Depp? Was there a defamatory implication by someone who saw it, who was not Johnny Depp? And did they prove these things about actual malice? Walk me through in terms of how this how this was laid, the crux of what the jury had to look for.
00:02:55:04 – 00:03:16:04
And so some of these elements, as we talked about, one of the earlier parents said this sounded more like a he said she said almost domestic violence, you know, counter-accusations. But it boils down to the statements made in this op ed and the statements were set forth in each part of the verdict form with the elements you just read.
00:03:16:22 – 00:03:38:18
Now, when you look at these statements, one of the elements is, was a statement false? Right. Or is one of the things you have to prove is that it’s capable of being proven false. It’s a provably false statement. Now, when you look at some of these statements and things like, I incurred the wrath of a nation for standing up to a powerful man, etc., I am still questioning how that’s provably false.
00:03:38:26 – 00:04:00:00
And you really parse these statements out. Divide them up, and you can literally split a sentence to figure out which part is true and provably false, etc.. So as you go through these, obviously all the evidence of all the incidences that came in, the jury wasn’t convinced that he ever acted with any sort of physical violence towards her.
00:04:00:09 – 00:04:26:13
And therefore, these statements that were implicitly directed at him were therefore false. The publishing, the writer is considered a publisher under the law, as is the platform on which they publish. And so the things that jump out in my mind when you talk about defamation, by implication, and we’re not saying true false, we’re saying in the totality they’ve read this and this is what it’s implying.
00:04:26:22 – 00:04:33:25
So the jury instructions that led to these are going to be a lot more complex, these elements sound. And then you have all the First Amendment defenses.
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But you take a stand and then I’ll go ahead. Excuse me. Let’s take with.
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You. Yeah, take it. They believed him, not her. The actual malice is even at a higher standard of proof, not preponderance of the evidence, but clear and convincing evidence. That is, she did it with knowing falsely. She knew it was false or recklessly disregarded. Truth and falsity that could follow from this story. They very much believed him. But then you have the counterclaim verdicts.
00:05:03:08 – 00:05:26:17
You’re right. And on that counterclaim, they did find that the attorney who was speaking on behalf of John Johnny Depp, they found, did, in fact defame Amber Heard on one of the statements that was made. And he was she was obviously awarded some damages there. But this is a it was a really complex trial in the sense that they strayed so far away from where the meat and potatoes of how you prove these cases of defamation.
00:05:26:28 – 00:05:43:08
And so I’ll be curious, as you are, I know about what happens now and the impact. She certainly believes that the impact going forward will be a devastating one on women victims going forward and any victim of domestic violence. We’ll talk more about the fallout and the repercussions from there. CANTOR Carol, thank you so much.
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Thank you, Laura.
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We’re turning back to Tulsa.