Judge Denies Amber Heard’s Johnny Depp Mistrial Request

FALLS CHURCH, Virginia. (AP) — A Virginia judge on Wednesday rejected actress Amber Heard’s attempt to overturn the court’s ruling. A $10 million court awarded her a judgment in favor of her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.

Depp won a libel suit against Heard last month in a high-profile civil suit. Hurd won a $2 million lesser judgment in a counterclaim she filed against Depp.

Earlier this month, Hurd filed a motion for overturn Depp’s sentence, or declare a mistrial. Her lawyers cited a variety of factors, including an apparent case of mistaken identity one of the jurors.

In a written ruling, Judge Penny Azkarat dismissed all of Hurd’s claims and stated that the jury issue was irrelevant and that Hurd could not prove that she was biased.

“The juror was checked, sat for all the jurors, deliberated and delivered a verdict. The only evidence before this court is that this juror and all jurors followed their oaths, instructions and orders of the court. This trial is bound by the competent decision of the jury,” Azkarate wrote.

Depp is suing for $50 million in Fairfax County after Heard wrote a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post about domestic violence in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic violence.” Depp was never mentioned by name in the article, but his lawyers said that several passages in the article obliquely slandered him, referring to highly publicized allegations of violence she made in 2016 when she filed for divorce.

Depp and Hurd were married for two years.
Depp and Hurd were married for two years.

Heard then countersued for $100 million, also for defamation. By the time the case went to trial, her counterclaim had been reduced to several statements by one of Depp’s lawyers, who called Heard’s abuse allegations a hoax.

The jury awarded Depp $15 million and Heard $2 million in her counterclaim. The $15 million judgment was reduced to $10.35 million as Virginia law limits punitive damages to $350,000.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the judge did not explain why Hurd rejected other claims.

Among other things, Hurd argued that the $10 million verdict was not supported by the facts and seemed to demonstrate that the jury failed to focus on the implications of the 2018 article – as they should have done – and instead simply looked broadly for reputational damage. Depp as a result of alleged abuse.

Hurd’s lawyers also argued that the sentences to Depp on the one hand, and Hurd on the other, are fundamentally meaningless.

“The dueling jury verdicts are inconsistent and intransigent,” wrote her lawyers Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn.

Heard’s lawyers also appealed the verdict on the grounds that one of the seven jurors who decided the case was never called to serve as a jury. According to court documents, the 77-year-old resident of the county received a subpoena to appear in a jury trial. But the man’s son, who bears the same name and lives at the same address, answered the call and served in his place.

Hurd’s lawyers argued that Virginia law is strict on jurors’ identity, and a misidentification case is grounds for a mistrial. They offered no evidence that the 52-year-old son, listed only as juror #15 in court documents, purposefully or slyly tried to replace his father, but they argue that the possibility cannot be discounted.

“The court cannot assume, as Mr. Depp asks him, that Juror 15’s apparently improper service was an innocent mistake. This could be a deliberate attempt to enter the jury in a high-profile case, ”wrote Hurd’s lawyers.

Heard still has the opportunity to appeal the verdict to the Virginia Court of Appeals. The questions presented to the appeals court may well be different from those rejected by Azcarate on Wednesday.

In a separate order, the judge ordered dozens of court documents to be opened, including requests for independent medical examinations of both Depp and Heard. Several documents will remain sealed, mainly because they contain personal contact information or personal medical information.

“In this matter, both sides sued each other, thereby opening themselves to the public forum of jury trial. Court records are public information,” Azkarat wrote.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Depp was suing for $25 million and Heard’s counterclaim was for $50 million. ___

Lavoie reported from Richmond.