Heard filed a request earlier this month asking for the decision against Depp to be overturned or for a mistrial to be declared. Her attorneys highlighted a number of circumstances, including what appeared to be an identification confusion involving one of the jurors. Judge Penney Azcarate disregarded all of Heard’s arguments in a written ruling, stating that the jury issue in particular was unimportant and that Heard had failed to establish her bias.
“The juror was screened, served on the jury as a whole, deliberated, and rendered a decision. The fact that this juror and all other jurors adhered to their oaths, the Court’s instructions, and its orders is the only evidence in front of the court. The jury’s competent decision is binding on this Court, according to Azcarate.
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After Heard published an opinion article about domestic abuse in The Washington Post in2018 and referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” Depp filed a $50 million lawsuit in Fairfax County. Although Depp was never specifically mentioned in the piece, according to his attorneys, several passages that made reference to the widely reported abuse claims she made in 2016 as she filed for divorce impliedly defamed him.
Heard subsequently submitted a counterclaim for $100 million, also alleging slander. By the time the matter went to trial, her counterclaim had been reduced to a few quotes from one of Depp’s attorneys who dismissed Heard’s allegations of abuse as a fabrication. In response to Heard’s counterclaim, the jury gave Depp $15 million and Heard $2 million. Due to Virginia law’s $350,000 cap on punitive damages, the $15 million verdict was lowered to $10.35 million. In the judgement from Wednesday, the judge did not provide a justification for dismissing Heard’s additional claims.
Heard claimed, among other things, that the $10 million verdict is not supported by the evidence and appears to show that the jurors failed to concentrate on the consequences of the 2018 op-ed piece, as they were supposed to, and instead just took a broad view of the harm to Depp’s reputation caused by the alleged abuse. The verdicts for Depp and Heard are fundamentally illogical, according to Heard’s legal representatives. Her attorneys, Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn, claimed that the jury’s conflicting judgments were “duelling and irreconcilable.”
On the grounds that one of the seven jurors who deliberated the case was never called for jury duty, Heard’s attorneys also contested the verdict. A 77-year-old county resident received a jury summons, according to court documents. However, the man’s son, who goes by the same name and resides at the same address, answered the summons and took his place.
Virginia law is rigorous regarding jury identification, according to Heard’s attorneys, and an instance of mistaken identity is cause for a mistrial. They claim there is no reason to rule out the likelihood that the 52-year-old son, who is only known as Juror #15 in court documents, intentionally or subtly tried to take the position of his father. “The Court cannot presume, as Mr. Depp requests, that the obviously unlawful service of Juror 15 was a simple oversight. According to Heard’s attorneys, it might have been a premeditated attempt to get selected for a prominent case’s jury.
Heard can still challenge the judgement in front of the Virginia Court of Appeals. The arguments made before the appellate court might not be the same arguments that Azcarate rejected on Wednesday. The judge also mandated the unsealing of other court records, including requests for Depp and Heard to undergo independent medical exams. A small number of documents will be kept under seal, usually because they include people’s contact information or health information. “In this case, both parties filed lawsuits against one another, exposing themselves to the open courtroom of a jury trial. Public information includes court records, according to Azcarate.