What Legal Experts Think of Amber Heard’s Chances on Appeal8 min read
Amber Listened to seems on in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Could 17, 2022. Credit score – Brendan Smialowski—Pool/AFP/Getty Illustrations or photos
A jury might have come back with a victory for Johnny Depp in his defamation fit towards ex-spouse Amber Listened to, but the lawful drama is significantly from about. Heard’s lawyers have explained that she will attractiveness the determination, a process that will probable consider several years. TIME spoke to professionals about what takes place subsequent in the circumstance, Heard’s likelihood of successful an attractiveness, and how significantly this lawful battle could go.
1st, a little bit of track record on the circumstance itself. Depp had sued Heard over a Washington Submit op-ed printed in 2018, in which Listened to identified as herself a “public figure symbolizing domestic abuse.” Heard under no circumstances named Depp as her abuser. Still, Depp claimed that the impression piece harm his profession. Read then countersued, proclaiming that Depp’s legal professional Adam Waldman, as an agent of Depp, defamed her by calling her allegations “a hoax” in the Day by day Mail.
Lots of legal industry experts doubted that Depp would win the scenario: The actor experienced dropped a related libel fit in the U.K. towards the tabloid The Sunlight in 2020. In that scenario, a British judge wrote that he located The Sun’s assertion that Depp was a “wife beater” to be “substantially accurate,” and that Depp experienced assaulted Listened to on at least 12 events. But the final result of that situation was made the decision by a choose, not a jury, nor was the demo televised, as the U.S. a person was.
In the U.S. case, the jury handed down awards to both Read and Depp. They identified that Listened to defamed Depp with “malicious” intent and awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Decide Penney Azcarate then lowered the punitive damages to Virginia’s statutory cap of $350,000. But the jury also awarded Read $2 million in compensatory damages on her countersuit. The verdict has left several confused because awarding damages to Depp would propose that they believed the Pirates of the Caribbean star when he claimed Listened to lied about the abuse she alleged, but awarding money to Heard contradictorily suggests they thought her promises of abuse have been not, in point, “a hoax.”
Legal gurus are divided on what Heard’s crew will—or should—do if they strategy to enchantment the case. The jury appeared to obtain Depp’s story much more credible than Heard’s. And gurus agreed that appellate courts are inclined to be reluctant to reassess believability judgments produced by juries, even if this jury’s conclusion appeared contradictory. “Anyone desirable has an uphill struggle,” claims Rebekah Sullivan, a Washington, D.C., legal professional who focuses on spouse and children law. Most most likely, the legal professionals who spoke to TIME reported, Heard’s crew will argue some lawful mistake was manufactured during demo and will try out to overturn the verdict on the basis that the jury was motivated by items they observed and read exterior the courtroom.
Examine Far more: The Depp-Heard Trial Perpetuates the Fantasy of the Perfect Victim
No matter what Heard’s group decides, an appeals courtroom won’t hand down a ruling anytime quickly. “It’s a prolonged, high priced method,” suggests David Ring, a Los Angeles civil demo lawyer. He and other experts approximated the attraction would choose two years minimum amount. Numerous attorneys who spoke with TIME speculated it will cost Heard hundreds of thousands of bucks in addition to the probably hundreds of thousands she’s now invested in authorized costs. “But when you are going through a $15 million judgment,” says Ring, “you surely have to most likely go after that.”
Just before the appeals approach even commences, specialists say it’s very likely that Listened to (or her insurance policy company) will have to set up some sort of bond that reveals she has or can elevate the money that she owes Depp. Provided that Heard and her lawyers have said this demo has been a economical stress for the actor, Heard’s skill to post the bond is not confirmed.
Still, if she does commence, her team may have a much better opportunity in entrance of an appeals court than the jury of 5 adult men and two women who awarded Depp damages. The trial was televised live, jurors were not sequestered, and movies and memes of Depp and Heard on the witness stand, together with overwhelmingly pro-Depp commentary, were being inescapable on social media platforms like TikTok. “I would assume the appellate part of the circumstance, in which the viewers is judges, to focus additional on lawful arguments and a ton much less on the theatrics that we saw in the trial where the audience was a jury,” says Sullivan.
Ring agreed: “It was a spectacle,” he explained of the original trial.
Study Additional: Why You’re Seeing So Numerous Johnny Depp Defenders on TikTok
On enchantment, there would be no cameras and no opportunity for Heard’s testimony to be picked apart, edited, and misconstrued on social media. A few appellate judges in the Virginia Courtroom of Appeals would make your mind up the circumstance largely by sifting via files penned by lawyers for possibly facet. Dependent on the final result, the circumstance could then be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court docket, which has the discretion to just take the scenario or refuse to listen to it, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court docket, which has the identical discretion.
In accordance to professionals, there are a quantity of arguments Heard’s team could make. Her attorney Elaine Bredehoft manufactured remarks right after the trial that would seem to be to suggest that she will aim on proof. She has suggested that some parts of evidence Depp was ready to introduce were “prejudicial” even though selected proof from Heard’s group was “suppressed” at demo, including evidence that was permitted in the U.K. demo but not the U.S. a person.
“This trial judge let in a good deal of proof in this case. I necessarily mean, a great deal,” states Ring. “I consider factors went sort of far afield from what the actual problems were…So that is the foundation for an attractiveness, even though not always a fantastic foundation for charm.” He adds that evidentiary rulings are almost never the foundation utilized by an appellate court docket to overturn a jury verdict.
Mary Anne Franks, a professor at University of Miami Faculty of Regulation who focuses on civil legal rights, states that Heard’s staff might obstacle the judge’s conclusion to allow the demo to be dwell-streamed, “a specifically abnormal choice given that the situation involved allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence,” as perfectly as the judge’s conclusion not to sequester the jury which resulted in “a trial by social media.”
Study Much more: Depp v. Read Reminds Us That the Legal Program Is Nonetheless Stacked Against Survivors
Azcarate did remind the jury over and over yet again to not view information about the trial at evening. But even logging onto Instagram or Twitter or TikTok could possibly have led jurors to memes about the scenario, such as unfounded allegations that Read faked bruises and persuaded witnesses to lie.
“I really feel that’s a very good argument,” says Sullivan. “What was so amazing about this trial is the social media and information coverage of it, type of a circus of community feeling. With this circumstance, you have your jury heading property, their households have unquestionably been pursuing this. They see the TikToks and the tweets. And the unsequestered jury is currently being uncovered to things that had been not admissible in the demo. So to the extent that Heard’s attorneys can argue they were being influenced by outside variables that weren’t admitted in demo, that basically has a rather substantial chance of achievements, in my view.”
But Ring thinks that argument would be “a loser” on appeal due to the fact, he suggests, the plan of sequestering juries has fallen out of favor in modern courtrooms. “It’s just not realistic to sequester juries for six months with no their telephones anymore,” he suggests. Heard’s workforce can, having said that, job interview the jurors from the demo about why they dominated the way that they did. “If they interviewed them and the jurors say, ‘We followed TMZ each and every evening,’ Okay, now you have obtained a foundation for enchantment. But I don’t imagine anyone’s likely to admit to that if it occurred.”
Several legal commentators have questioned whether Heard’s 2018 op-ed basically rises to the degree of defamation contemplating the distinct words in the piece. “Given that the op-ed hardly ever mentions Depp’s title and is mainly devoted to the broader topic of the troubles facing ladies who communicate out from abuse, it strains credulity to argue that the op-ed harmed Depp in any meaningful way,” claims Franks. “And in particular in any way related to his occupation, which was now having difficulties owing to well-documented behavioral concerns.” In reality, Franks details out, Read did not publish the headline for the piece, a single of the statements at concern. She merely retweeted it.
Sullivan also imagined Heard’s staff could emphasis on the headline when they attractiveness. Defamation—or the act of detrimental someone’s fantastic standing with a fake statement—is, essentially, an exception to the Very first Amendment correct of flexibility of speech. But if people today who merely retweet information stories can be held liable for defamation if the write-up is inaccurate, that may possibly current significant Very first Modification troubles for tens of millions of Twitter users. Sullivan said that it is possible Heard’s legal professionals could leave open up the possibility to choose the scenario to the Supreme Court docket by focusing on this Very first Amendment challenge. “They will be certain to incorporate a Initially Amendment claim if they want to take this all the way,” she suggests.
Though lawful specialists were being divided on whether Heard stands a chance against Depp if she appeals her situation, they concur it may perhaps be truly worth the chance for Heard. “In no way, condition, or kind,” says Ring, “is this a slam-dunk winner for Johnny Depp on attractiveness.”