What Legal Experts Think of Amber Heard’s Chances on Appeal
Amber Read seems to be on in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Might 17, 2022. Credit history – Brendan Smialowski—Pool/AFP/Getty Photographs
A jury may perhaps have appear again with a victory for Johnny Depp in his defamation fit from ex-spouse Amber Heard, but the legal drama is significantly from over. Heard’s legal professionals have claimed that she will enchantment the decision, a method that will most likely consider yrs. TIME spoke to experts about what takes place next in the case, Heard’s possibilities of successful an charm, and how considerably this legal fight could go.
To start with, a bit of track record on the situation alone. Depp experienced sued Heard over a Washington Article op-ed released in 2018, in which Read known as herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard hardly ever named Depp as her abuser. Continue to, Depp claimed that the belief piece damage his occupation. Heard then countersued, professing that Depp’s legal professional Adam Waldman, as an agent of Depp, defamed her by calling her allegations “a hoax” in the Daily Mail.
Several legal industry experts doubted that Depp would gain the situation: The actor had misplaced a identical libel fit in the U.K. towards the tabloid The Solar in 2020. In that circumstance, a British judge wrote that he found The Sun’s statement that Depp was a “wife beater” to be “substantially accurate,” and that Depp had assaulted Read on at minimum 12 occasions. But the final result of that circumstance was decided by a judge, not a jury, nor was the trial televised, as the U.S. a single was.
In the U.S. circumstance, the jury handed down awards to the two Heard and Depp. They found that Listened to defamed Depp with “malicious” intent and awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Choose Penney Azcarate then lowered the punitive damages to Virginia’s statutory cap of $350,000. But the jury also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages on her countersuit. The verdict has still left several bewildered considering that awarding damages to Depp would propose that they believed the Pirates of the Caribbean star when he explained Read lied about the abuse she alleged, but awarding income to Heard contradictorily suggests they believed her promises of abuse have been not, in fact, “a hoax.”
Lawful professionals are divided on what Heard’s staff will—or should—do if they prepare to charm the case. The jury appeared to uncover Depp’s tale extra credible than Heard’s. And specialists agreed that appellate courts tend to be reluctant to reassess reliability judgments designed by juries, even if this jury’s summary seemed contradictory. “Anyone attractive has an uphill fight,” suggests Rebekah Sullivan, a Washington, D.C., attorney who focuses on relatives law. Most probable, the attorneys who spoke to TIME claimed, Heard’s workforce will argue some lawful error was manufactured throughout demo and will try out to overturn the verdict on the basis that the jury was motivated by points they saw and heard outside the courtroom.
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Regardless of what Heard’s team decides, an appeals courtroom will not hand down a ruling at any time soon. “It’s a extended, high priced method,” suggests David Ring, a Los Angeles civil demo law firm. He and other industry experts estimated the charm would take two many years minimum. Several lawyers who spoke with TIME speculated it will expense Heard hundreds of 1000’s of dollars in addition to the probably thousands and thousands she’s by now put in in authorized expenses. “But when you’re going through a $15 million judgment,” suggests Ring, “you certainly have to possibly pursue that.”
Before the appeals method even begins, gurus say it is most likely that Listened to (or her insurance policy company) will have to place up some kind of bond that exhibits she has or can elevate the money that she owes Depp. Given that Heard and her attorneys have stated this trial has been a monetary burden for the actor, Heard’s ability to post the bond is not guaranteed.
Even now, if she does carry on, her workforce may have a improved chance in entrance of an appeals court docket than the jury of 5 guys and two ladies who awarded Depp damages. The trial was televised dwell, jurors have been not sequestered, and movies and memes of Depp and Listened to on the witness stand, including overwhelmingly professional-Depp commentary, have been inescapable on social media platforms like TikTok. “I would expect the appellate part of the case, wherever the audience is judges, to aim more on lawful arguments and a good deal a lot less on the theatrics that we noticed in the trial wherever the viewers was a jury,” suggests Sullivan.
Ring agreed: “It was a spectacle,” he claimed of the authentic trial.
Read through Far more: Why You are Seeing So Many Johnny Depp Defenders on TikTok
On attractiveness, there would be no cameras and no option for Heard’s testimony to be picked apart, edited, and misconstrued on social media. 3 appellate judges in the Virginia Court docket of Appeals would choose the circumstance largely by sifting by way of files written by attorneys for possibly aspect. Dependent on the outcome, the scenario could then be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which has the discretion to just take the scenario or refuse to hear it, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court docket, which has the same discretion.
In accordance to industry experts, there are a number of arguments Heard’s group could make. Her attorney Elaine Bredehoft manufactured comments right after the demo that would look to advise that she will aim on proof. She has prompt that some parts of proof Depp was capable to introduce were “prejudicial” although specified proof from Heard’s staff was “suppressed” at demo, which include proof that was permitted in the U.K. demo but not the U.S. 1.
“This demo judge enable in a large amount of evidence in this circumstance. I mean, a good deal,” says Ring. “I think items went type of considerably afield from what the real challenges were…So which is the basis for an attractiveness, even though not necessarily a good basis for appeal.” He provides that evidentiary rulings are rarely the basis used by an appellate courtroom to overturn a jury verdict.
Mary Anne Franks, a professor at University of Miami Faculty of Law who focuses on civil rights, states that Heard’s group may obstacle the judge’s conclusion to let the demo to be stay-streamed, “a particularly unconventional decision offered 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.”
Go through Much more: Depp v. Read Reminds Us That the Authorized Technique Is Continue to Stacked From Survivors
Azcarate did remind the jury in excess of and more than yet again to not watch news about the trial at evening. But even logging onto Instagram or Twitter or TikTok might have led jurors to memes about the scenario, which include unfounded allegations that Heard faked bruises and persuaded witnesses to lie.
“I really consider which is a quite great argument,” claims Sullivan. “What was so extraordinary about this demo is the social media and information protection of it, sort of a circus of community viewpoint. With this situation, you have your jury likely dwelling, their family members have certainly been adhering to this. They see the TikToks and the tweets. And the unsequestered jury is being exposed to issues that were not admissible in the demo. So to the extent that Heard’s lawyers can argue they had been affected by exterior components that weren’t admitted in demo, that in fact has a quite substantial likelihood of success, in my opinion.”
But Ring believes that argument would be “a loser” on enchantment due to the fact, he says, the concept of sequestering juries has fallen out of favor in modern courtrooms. “It’s just not realistic to sequester juries for 6 weeks with no their telephones anymore,” he claims. Heard’s workforce can, nonetheless, 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 night,’ Okay, now you have got a foundation for enchantment. But I really do not believe anyone’s likely to acknowledge to that if it transpired.”
A lot of legal commentators have questioned irrespective of whether Heard’s 2018 op-ed basically rises to the stage of defamation looking at the certain text in the piece. “Given that the op-ed hardly ever mentions Depp’s identify and is mainly devoted to the broader topic of the difficulties struggling with women who converse out from abuse, it strains credulity to argue that the op-ed harmed Depp in any meaningful way,” says Franks. “And specifically in any way associated to his job, which was now struggling owing to very well-documented behavioral problems.” In simple fact, Franks points out, Heard did not produce the headline for the piece, just one of the statements at situation. She basically retweeted it.
Sullivan also imagined Heard’s group could target on the headline when they attraction. Defamation—or the act of harming someone’s very good name with a false statement—is, essentially, an exception to the Initially Modification proper of flexibility of speech. But if individuals who basically retweet news stories can be held dependable for defamation if the post is inaccurate, that may possibly present main First Modification troubles for thousands and thousands of Twitter consumers. Sullivan reported that it is achievable Heard’s legal professionals could depart open the selection to choose the situation to the Supreme Courtroom by concentrating on this Very first Amendment difficulty. “They will be positive to incorporate a Very first Amendment declare if they want to acquire this all the way,” she states.
While legal industry experts had been divided on no matter if Heard stands a opportunity in opposition to Depp if she appeals her situation, they agree it may possibly be value the hazard for Read. “In no way, shape, or sort,” says Ring, “is this a slam-dunk winner for Johnny Depp on appeal.”