It turned out that jurors in the explosives trial will have to consider more than 40 important questions when reaching a verdict.
The jurors deciding the outcome of the epic trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard returned to their deliberations on Tuesday following Memorial Day celebrations in the US.
But it may take some time for them to reach a verdict, as documents from the court show the seven men and women will have to ponder at least 42 separate questions before they can make a decision.
Of the 42 “special sentencing” questions, 24 pertain to Depp v. Heard and the remaining 18 pertain to Heard v. Depp.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million (AU$67 million) for implying he was abusive towards her in 2018. Washington Post ed. He claims her allegations are false and cost him lucrative movie roles.
Heard counter-sued, seeking US$100 million (AU$134 million) and alleging that she had been subjected to “unrestrained physical abuse and abuse” at his hands, but was defamed when allegations were made that she had fabricated the charges.
Closing arguments on both sides ended Friday at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia, when jurors retired around 2:00 pm to begin debating the case.
The verdict is expected this week. But the court document seen daily mailshows that they have to consider a huge number of details.
The 10-page special form of the verdict covers a number of issues, mainly the details of the defamation charges, as well as the amount of compensation to be paid to the winning party.
Questions about the Depp case
The first pages are devoted to Depp’s accusations against Ms. Heard. The original question is centered on the title of the article: “I spoke out against sexual abuse—and faced the wrath of our culture. This must change.”
He asks the jury if Depp proved all the elements of his libel charges.
If the juror thinks this is the case, there are seven more questions that go into the details of that view.
So the form asks the jurors if they think the headline was libel and if that libel was intentional on Hurd’s part.
He also asks if Depp has proven “real malice”. This is an American legal term meaning that the statement was made with a deliberate and reckless disregard for the truth.
In the ensuing set of questions, the jurors are asked to ponder one more line from Hurd’s Washington Post article—perhaps the most pivotal line in the entire article.
“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic violence and felt the full force of our culture’s anger at women who speak up.”
Depp’s legal team argued that while Pirates of the Caribbean the star may not have been named in that line – or indeed in the article at all – the conclusion was that Hurd meant it.
The jury is again asked if the line can be proven to be defamatory, and if so, why.
There are further questions on other excerpts from Hurd’s article. Finally, if the jury believes that Heard slandered Depp, they will be asked how much punitive and compensatory damages should be awarded to the star.
If the jury does not believe Depp was slandered, Heard wins and no damages are paid.
Questions about the Hurd case
The second part of the form is about Heard’s counterclaim against Depp.
which relies on daily mail An April 2020 article citing Depp’s then-lawyer Adam Waldman as saying that Heard made “false” sexual assault allegations against Depp that contained “false” facts.
Heard’s legal team said that while Depp may not have made such comments directly, Mr. Waldman was in fact acting on the star’s instructions. Depp denies this claim.
The jury is being asked if Heard has proven all the elements of her defamation case against Depp. If the juror says yes, they need to expand on the questions, including whether Mr. Waldman was Depp’s “agent”.
The jury is also being asked to debate whether the comments were made with “real malicious intent.”
As with Depp, the jury is being asked to consider how much compensation Heard should receive if they find in her favor.
On Friday, Heard’s lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn reminded jurors that the burden of proof is on Depp and that he must show that every single case of abuse that Heard accuses him of was false.
“If Amber was abused by Mr. Depp even once, then she won,” Rottenborn said.
“We’re not just talking about physical abuse, we’re talking about emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse.
“It’s not about whose wife is better,” he added.
“It’s not about whether you think Ms. Heard abused Mr. Depp.
“If you think they both insulted each other… then Amber wins.”
Depp’s Camilla Vasquez said Heard’s claims were “false” and “defamatory” and that she put on a “performance” in court to play “the role of her life as a heroic survivor of brutal abuse.”
“She told you what she thinks you need to hear to find this man guilty of domestic violence and a rapist,” Ms. Vasquez said.
Depp’s team stated that the evidence of abuse presented by Heard’s team was inconsequential or possibly manipulated. And the lawyers of the star asked why there are no medical documents if the abuse is repeated one after another.
Ms. Vasquez also said that “no woman” before Heard had ever claimed that Depp was abusive.
One of Depp’s other lawyers went for the jugular.
“Now you’ve found out the real Amber Heard: it’s scary,” Benjamin Chu told jurors.