June 03, 2022
Written by: Ava Sekowski
 
After six weeks of testimony from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, a unanimous decision was made — Depp won. The jury sided with Depp on all three counts of defamation against Amber Heard, awarding him 15 million dollars. While many fans are thrilled with this outcome, the verdict has caused speculation about the impact this will have on the #MeToo movement and women coming forward to speak about their abusers. 
 
To understand the possible implications here's a breakdown of what happened. 

2011: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met on the set of the film The Rum Diary and began dating.

2015: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got married. 

2017: After a long process, the couple formally divorced. 

2018: Amber Heard wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post titled, "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change." It never mentioned Depp by name. 

2019: Johnny Depp filed a 50-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, claiming the article falsely implies she was physically and sexually abused by him. 

2020: Depp's case appears before the Royal Courts of Justice in London where after a sixteen-day trial, a judge finds the contents of the article to be “substantially true”. 

2021: Depp's appeal to the court was refused. 

2022: Johnny Depp’s 2019 defamation case against Amber Heard, delayed due to the pandemic, begins on April 11 at the Fairfax County District Court, in Virginia. On June 1st the jury finds in favor of Johnny Depp and says that the 2018 article in the Washington Post is defamatory. He is awarded compensatory damages of ten million dollars and five million dollars in punitive damages.

Now with the verdict out, The New York Times, Politico, The Washington Post, and other well-known sources have taken to write about the issues this case could bring about for women. The first issue is how domestic abuse was portrayed in this case. Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, and other social media sites made light of the serious issue of domestic violence. 

The second issue is freedom of expression. Some people might say that defamation isn't protected by the 1st Amendment, however, this is not entirely true. New York Times v. Sullivan was a landmark Supreme Court case involving freedom of defamation. What was found is that even if something is false, it can be published on matters of public interest. They wanted to set the bar high, so freedom of expression was not hindered, especially in newspapers. The problem with the Depp v. Heard case is that it could create a precedent for future defamation cases. This means you could be sued for an article that doesn’t name a person and speaks about them in the most general terms and it’s an issue that relates to the public interest. 

So, what do we think? Did Johnny Depp received the verdict he deserved? Or has this case set women and the #MeToo movement back years?