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Will Amber Heard go to prison if Johnny Depp wins the trial?

Following the Memorial Day recess, the jury returns to consider its verdict after the court heard its final testimonies and closing arguments last week.

Actor Amber Heard gets into the car as she leaves the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse following her ex-husband Johnny Depp's defamation case against her, in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

On Friday 27 May we heard the legal teams of both parties deliver their closing arguments and with that the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard came to an end. All that is left to be done now is for the jury to return a verdict.

Financial settlements or prison sentence likely after Depp-Heard verdict?

The jury were sent away at the end of last week and given the Memorial Day weekend off before returning to meet again on Tuesday to continue deliberations. At stake is the reputation of both actors, though seemingly already in the gutter, as well as $50 million for Depp and $100 million for Heard.

If the jury find that Heard did defame Depp then she could be ordered to pay the full $50 million that he has sued her for. It is possible, however, that the jury could find in Depp’s favour but choose to award a higher or lower amount.

It is important to note that although the case is being heard in court, there are no criminal charges that are being, or can be, brought against either person. This is due to the case being a civil dispute and not a criminal case. There is no chance, therefore, that either Depp or Heard will go to prison.

Why is the nature of the Depp-heard case important?

To repeat, the case is not a criminal one, but instead is classed as a civil trial. This means that neither party are subjected to criminal charges. There can be no criminal convictions arising from the outcome of the trial.

Compared to criminal cases, civil suits also have a lower burden of evidence for proving the accusation. For example, in criminal cases it must be proved beyond unreasonable doubt that the accused intended to kill a specific person. However, in a civil case the jury must decide which person is correct in all likelihood.

This can give strange outcomes like in the OJ Simpson case where the former NFL star was acquitted of murder in the criminal case but ordered to pay millions in damages in the civil case.

When will we know who has won the case?

On Thursday 26 May both sides rested their cases as the final evidence and testimonies were put in front of the jury. It is not known how long it will take for the jury to make their decision, potentially just a few hours, but given the volume of evidence, experts have suggested it will be a few days.

Under normal circumstances the jury would have returned on Monday to deliberate but, as stated above, with Memorial Day celebrations taking precedence Tuesday will see them get back into the discussions. It is likely there will be an outcome by the end of the week.


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