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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial: Summary and timeline

Although their marriage lasted a matter of months, Depp and Heard's relationship spanned more than a decade.
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.NBC News / Getty Pool

The defamation case brought by actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard came to an end on Wednesday after a seven-person jury unanimously ruled in favor of Depp.

But what preceded the case? Depp and Heard's relationship began more than a decade ago, and eventually devolved into what appears to have been a toxic marriage.

The couple split in 2016. They battled in court over an op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described surviving domestic violence -- without mentioning Depp by name.

Depp sued for $50 million in damages. The jury unanimously found that Heard could not substantiate her allegations against Depp and that she knew her claims of abuse were false when she published her 2018 essay. The jury determined that Heard acted with actual malice when writing her op-ed. The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit.

Heard had countersued for $100 million and said she was only ever violent with Depp in self-defense or defense of her younger sister. Heard’s countersuit centered around three statements made by Depp’s former attorney Adam Waldman in 2020 to the Daily Mail, in which he described Heard’s allegations of abuse as a “hoax.”

The jury found that Depp, through Waldman, defamed Heard on one count. The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages, but $0 in punitive damages.

Here's a timeline of Depp and Heard's relationship leading up to the court case.

2009

Depp and Heard meet during the filming of "The Rum Diary," a film based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Depp played Paul Kemp, a journalist who moves to Puerto Rico and becomes obsessed with Chenault, played by Heard, who is engaged to a businessman.

2012

Depp and Heard begin dating, according to court documents from Heard. The same year, Depp and long-term partner Vanessa Paradis end their 14-year relationship.

2014

Heard is spotted wearing an engagement ring, and Depp appears to confirm the engagement later in interviews.

Eventually, the engagement is confirmed in The Daily Mail.

2015

Heard and Depp get married in a private ceremony. The couple comes under fire for sneaking their dogs, Pistol and Boo, into Australia.

The pair later release a somber apology video.

Heard is eventually charged with two counts of illegally importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and one count of producing a false document.

2016

In May, Heard files for divorce and is granted a temporary restraining order against him.

Heard claims that Depp had thrown a phone at her, leaving her bruised.

“During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny Depp has been verbally and physically abusive to me," Heard says in a sworn declaration. “He has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is exceptionally scary for me.” She writes she was living "in fear that Johnny will return to [our house] unannounced to terrorize me, physically and emotionally.”

A judge rejects Heard’s request that Depp attend a year’s worth of anger management classes and refused to extend the protective order to the couple’s dogs.

Police do not press charges against Depp, who also denied attacking the actress.

Later, in a joint statement, the couple announce they have settled their divorce.

“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement reads, adding that Heard would be donating any proceeds from the settlement to charity.

2017

The couple's divorce is finalized.

2018

Heard writes the op-ed for The Washington Post at the heart of the defamation lawsuit. In the op-ed, she writes: "I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out."

Heard's article mentions her experience with abuse from her childhood to adulthood. It does not include Depp's name.

At the crux of the article, Heard asks for support for women experiencing domestic violence.

"We have an opening now to bolster and build institutions protective of women. For starters, Congress can reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act," she writes.

2019

Depp sues Heard for defamation, claiming the Post article was a ruse for Heard to gin up positive press for herself. Depp also claims she is not the victim of domestic violence but instead the perpetrator.

Depp seeks $50 million in damages.

2020

Audio of Heard allegedly saying she hit Depp is published by The Daily Mail.

Later, a libel trial is held in the United Kingdom over the British newspaper "The Sun" calling Depp a "wife-beater." Depp sues both executive editor Dan Wootton and The Sun's parent company News Group Newspapers.

Depp's ex-partner Paradis defends Depp by submitting a statement saying the actor "is the farthest thing" from a violent person.

Depp brings forward claims that Heard had affairs with businessman Elon Musk and actor James Franco. He also claims Heard put her own fecal matter in their bed and was physically violent toward him.

In November, a judge sides with The Sun.

"Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court," the newspaper says in a statement.

After the ruling, Depp posts a statement on Instagram saying he had been asked to exit the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise.

"I wish to let you know that I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and I have respected and agreed to that request," he writes in the post.

2021

Heard countersues Depp for $100 million.

2022

On April 11, the weekslong defamation trial kicks off, with Heard and Depp appearing in court in Fairfax County, Virginia.

In the defense's opening statement, attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn reads the entirety of Heard's Post op-ed to the jury, and tells them that the actor exercised her right to free speech.

On April 19, Depp takes the stand and testifies over the course of four days. Attorneys for Depp lay out evidence of Heard's alleged abuse, while Heard's lawyers focus on Depp's past drug and alcohol use, text messages and recordings, claiming Depp perpetrated the violence.

While on the stand, Depp claims that Heard would instigate arguments and escalate their feuds. At the end of his four-day testimony, when asked what he had lost due to Heard's op-ed in the Post, Depp says, "Nothing less than everything.”

At the start of May, Heard fires her crisis public relations firm Precision Strategies. Heard reportedly had been frustrated by the negative coverage she'd received following Depp's testimony. Heard's new team is led by David Shane.

During the first day of her testimony on May 4, Heard paints a picture of a man who oscillated between active addiction and sobriety, which she said made it hard to continue the relationship.

Heard alleges that while on a vacation with Depp in May 2013, he did a "cavity search" on her while looking for his cocaine. She describes other instances of alleged abuse, including the time Depp allegedly first hit her.

On May 24, Heard's team rests its case. Depp's team asks Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate to dismiss Heard's countersuit, which was unsuccessful.

On May 25, Depp returns to the stand. “It’s insane to hear heinous accusations of violence, sexual violence, that she’s attributed to me, that she’s accused me of,” Depp says, when asked about what it had been like to listen to Heard’s testimony. “I don’t think anyone enjoys having to split themselves open and tell the truth, but there are times when one simply has to because it’s gotten out of control. Horrible. Ridiculous. Humiliating. Ludicrous. Painful. Savage. Unimaginably brutal. Cruel. Um, and all false. All false.”

Heard also returns to the stand on May 26 before closing arguments. She says she has been inundated with death threats since the start of the trial.

“Protecting the secret that I did, for as long as I did, has taken enough of my voice,” Heard says. “Johnny has taken enough of my voice and the right to tell my story. I have the right to say what happened ... I have the right as an American to talk about what happened to me. To own my story and my truth.”

On May 27, the jury hears closing arguments and begins deliberating.

The jury, comprised of seven members and two alternates, returns to deliberations on May 31 after the Memorial Day holiday.

On June 1, the jury reaches a verdict. The jury unanimously finds that Heard defamed Depp, awarding him $5 million in punitive damages and $10 million in compensatory damages.

The jury also awards Heard $2 million in compensatory damages in her counterclaim but nothing in punitive damages.

Following the verdict, Depp says "the jury gave me my life back."

“From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome," his statement reads. "Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."

Heard says she she is "heartbroken" by the decision.

"I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women," her statement reads. "It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline for help at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or go to www.thehotline.org for more. States often have domestic violence hotlines, as well.