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Jury sides with Depp on lawsuit

This combination of two separate photos shows actor Johnny Depp, left, and Amber Heard in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., Monday, May 23, 2022. Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a

A jury has reached a verdict in the long-running and very public lawsuit between Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

A jury has ruled in favour of Johnny Depp in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.

The jury also found in favour of Heard, who said she was defamed by Depp's lawyer when he called her abuse allegations a hoax.

Jury members found Depp should be awarded $US10.35 million ($A14 million) million in damages, while Heard should receive $US2 million.

The verdicts bring an end to a televised trial that Depp had hoped would help restore his reputation, though it turned into a spectacle of a vicious marriage.

Throughout the trial, fans -- overwhelmingly on Depp's side -- lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats. Spectators who couldn't get in gathered on the street to cheer Depp and jeer Heard whenever either appeared outside.

Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

While the case was ostensibly about libel, most of the testimony focused on whether Heard had been physically and sexually abused, as she claimed. Heard enumerated more than a dozen alleged assaults, including a fight in Australia -- where Depp was shooting a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel -- in which Depp lost the tip of his middle finger and Heard said she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle.

Depp said he never hit Heard and that she was the abuser, though Heard's attorneys highlighted years-old text messages Depp sent apologising to Heard for his behavior as well as profane texts he sent to a friend in which Depp said he wanted to kill Heard and defile her dead body.

In some ways, the trial was a replay of a lawsuit Depp filed in the United Kingdom against a British tabloid after he was described as a "wife beater." The judge in that case ruled in the newspaper's favour after finding that Heard was telling the truth in her descriptions of abuse.

In the Virginia case, Depp had to prove not only that he never assaulted Heard, but that Heard's article, which focused primarily on public policy related to domestic violence, defamed him. He also had to prove that Heard wrote the article with actual malice. And to claim damages he had to prove that her article caused the damage to his reputation as opposed to any number of articles before and after Heard's piece that detailed the allegations against him.

Depp, in his final testimony to the jury, said the trial gave him a chance to clear his name in a way that he the UK trial never allowed.

"No matter what happens, I did get here and I did tell the truth and I have spoken up for what I've been carrying on my back, reluctantly, for six years." Depp said.

Heard, on the other hand, said the trial has been an ordeal inflicted by an orchestrated smear campaign led by Depp.

"Johnny promised me -- promised me -- that he'd ruin my life, that he'd ruin my career. He'd take my life from me," Heard said in her final testimony.

© AP 2022