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Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial: possible scenarios once the jury gives its verdict

The world has watched for weeks as the ugly relationship between the Hollywood former married couple has been played out ahead of their fate being decided.

Update:
Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial: possible scenarios once the jury gives its verdict
POOLREUTERS

The defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has grabbed public attention for almost two months and could provide a valuable precedent for victims of domestic abuse. On Friday 27 May, lawyers for both parties made their closing arguments, appealing to the jury to find in their client favour.

The judge then sent away the members of the jurors to deliberate, but that would quickly be interrupted with a three-day recess for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, with them returning to continue on Tuesday 31 May. It is unclear exactly how long this process will take, possible just a few hours, or it could be that we don’t have a verdict until later in the week.

For those watching on, the question of potential consequences for either actor is front and centre.

What happens if Johnny Depp loses case?

Although there have been many sides to this trial, accusations being flung in both directions, it is primarily about Depp suing Heard, demanding a payment of $50 million for loss of earnings. This came about after his ex-wife authored an article in The Washington Post in 2018, where she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Despite not naming Depp personally, there was little doubt as to who she was referring to and his legal team have claimed that he lost a significant amount of work and income on the back of this.

If the jury’s decision this week is to dismiss his civil claim then Depp will not receive the money he is looking for. It would also mean that Heard would not be liable to pay his legal fees, another hefty sum, no doubt. Then again, the jury could decide that Depp is indeed entitled to some payout for loss of earnings due to Heard’s accusations, but somewhere well south of the $50 million demanded.

What can Depp do if he loses?

If he were to lose this civil court case in Virginia, Depp has the option to lodge an appeal against the decision, although this would only be likely to come about if significant new evidence or testimony emerged.

The bigger issue for Depp would be the counter-claim that has been lodged by Heard, one that demands $100 million from him alleging that he defamed her by bringing this trial. Depp’s legal team has described her claims as “fake” and a “sexual violence hoax”.

Could either Depp or Heard face criminal charges?

The answer to this question is a simple ‘no’. Although the trial is being heard in the Fairfax courtroom, as mentioned above, this is a civil case, not a criminal case. This means that neither Depp nor Heard are subjected to criminal charges, so definitely no prison time. No criminal convictions can arise from the outcome of the trial.

What is the difference between a civil and criminal case?

Civil suits have a lower burden of evidence for proving the accusation, when compared to criminal cases. Whereas in a criminal cases it must be proved beyond unreasonable doubt that the accused, for example, intended to kill someone, the jury in a civil case has to decide which person is correct in all likelihood.

What next for Depp and Heard?

Although there could be significant damages to be paid out, the two actors are likely to see their fate decided in the court of public opinion. Already there have been very clear shows of support on each side, and some of these views will be unchanged no matter what the jury decides.

Over the coming months and years we will see how this plays out.

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