Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Settle Defamation Claims

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have finally settled their defamation claims. This comes 6 months after the highly publicized and contentious trial between the ex-spouses. In a letter posted to Instagram, Heard expressed disappointment in America’s legal system and said she’s ready to “emancipate” herself so she can heal.

Heard Agreed to Pay Depp $1 Million Instead of $15 Million

Amber Heard has agreed to pay Johnny Depp $1 million as part of their defamation settlement. This is a substantially smaller sum than was originally ordered by the court system. A jury ruled in favor of both actors on June 1st but ordered that Heard pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Depp was to pay Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages.

A source close to Depp claims that he will donate the $1 million settlement to charity.

Depp was suing Heard for defamation after she wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2018. In her op-ed, she spoke about previously speaking out about domestic and sexual abuse and being publicly shamed as a result. She did not mention Depp by name, but he claimed that it was obvious. Depp claimed to lose work due to Heard’s article.

However, Depp and Heard also attended a trial in the UK. That was while Depp tried to sue a tabloid for defamation when it referred to him as a “wife beater.” That judge ruled in favor of the tabloid after listening to Depp and Heard’s testimonies and looking at the evidence. The 2020 ruling determined that Depp was indeed violent towards Heard in at least 12 of 14 mentioned occasions.

But the 2022 US-based trial was completely different.

The Depp-Heard Defamation Trial Triggered Endless Online Hate, Death Threats Toward Amber

The verdict was interpreted by a largely pro-Depp worldwide audience to signal a victory for the ex-husband. This followed what seemed to be an endless cycle of online harassment and death threats cast upon Heard in the midst of their legal proceedings. Memes and online commentary attempted to paint the Aquaman actress as the abuser. Heard brought up the online abuse she was receiving during the trial. Not only were Depp’s supporters threatening her life, but they also were threatening to kill her infant.

Feminist groups have condemned society’s treatment of Amber Heard. An open letter signed by organizations like the Center for Judicial Excellence, National Women’s Law Center, and the Women’s March Foundation criticized the use of defamation lawsuits as a form of censorship against survivors of abuse. Over 75 organizations and 130 individuals who identify as supporters of Amber Heard and survivors of domestic abuse, including Gloria Steinem, signed the letter.

“We have grave concerns about the rising misuse of defamation suits to threaten and silence survivors,” the letter read.

The letter also mentioned “the vilification of Ms. Heard and ongoing online harassment of her and those who have voiced support for her.” It called the harassment “unprecedented in both vitriol and scale.”

An Open Letter Supporting Amber Heard Condemns Misuse of Legal System to Silence Abuse Survivors

Kat Tenbarge, a digital tech and culture reporter, told NBC that the timing of this letter was important. It may have been linked to the fact that Heard’s supporters were also attacked online.  

“Some of these people who signed this letter were among those few voices who were speaking out on social media,” said Tenbarge. “And at the time, there was such an overwhelming support for Johnny Depp that a lot of the people speaking out in support of Amber Heard or to counter that narrative were met with online harassment, silencing, and intense criticism that lasted for months.”

Tenbarge added that, while many of the groups who signed the letter have sided with Heard this whole time, it wasn’t until now that they felt they could safely speak out. Strength in numbers and timing was important.

Monetization of Vitriolic Online Content May Have Fueled, Promoted Disinformation & Bigotry

The open letter specifically mentions how the monetization of social media can affect viral content.

“Much of this harassment was fueled by disinformation, misogyny, biphobia, and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment. The same disinformation and victim-blaming tropes are now being used against others who have alleged abuse,” the letter continued.

Emotionally charged content often receives more clicks, which in turn brings in more revenue. Scholars have discussed this cycle of monetized negative feedback cycles in terms of justice for years. Bots and trolls can essentially weaponize what is known as “emotional contagion.” This manipulates public sentiment, worsened by digital enclaves and echo chambers. The end effect is that hate and harassment dominate content delivery online.

“In our opinion, the Depp v. Heard verdict and continued discourse around it indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of intimate partner and sexual violence and how survivors respond to it,” the letter continued. “The damaging consequences of the spread of this misinformation are incalculable.”

Amber Heard Feels Her US Trial Was Unfair, Unjust

For Amber Heard’s part, she expressed her reasoning for moving on as essential to her healing. In her post to Instagram, Heard wrote that she has “made no admission.” She said she’s not making “an act of concession.” Rather, she tied in her experiences to a larger issue that many women face.

“I make this decision having lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder,” Heard wrote. “When I stood before a judge in the UK, I was vindicated by a robust, impartial, and fair system, where I was protected from having to give the worst moments of my testimony in front of the world’s media, and where the court found that I was subjected to domestic and sexual violence.”

Heard juxtaposed her UK experience to that of the recent US trial.

Exorbitant Cost of US Legal System Factored Into Heard’s Decision to Accept Depp Settlement

“I exhausted almost all my resources in advance of and during a trial in which I was subjected to a courtroom in which abundant, direct evidence in which corroborated my testimony was excluded and in which popularity and power mattered more than reason and due process,” she continued.

Heard then said that she does not want to “re-live” the experience. She noted the exorbitant costs of defending herself and the online harassment and humiliation she’s experienced. This factored into her decision to accept the $1 million settlement.

“I cannot afford to risk an impossible bill — one that is not just financial, but also psychological, physical, and emotional,” she wrote. “Women shouldn’t have to face abuse or bankruptcy for speaking her truth, but unfortunately it is not uncommon.”

Heard Intends to Move On, Refocus, Heal

Heard wrote that she will continue to put her energy “in realms where [she feels] seen, heard, and believed,” where she “can effect change.” Her post concluded with gratitude towards her supporters and appellate and trial teams.

Heard was reported to sell her California home and move to Europe with her daughter in recent months. She recently appeared to unhide several posts from her Instagram account, which were absent from her feed in recent months. Many of those posts show Heard with her daughter and living life in a variety of beautiful locations.

Amber Heard is doing what she can to move on and heal from what has been a years-long battle with Johnny Depp. That battle wasn’t just with her ex, but with online hate. And as they say, the only thing that can truly combat hate is love.

Read More: Helena Bonham Carter Says Johnny Depp Was ‘Vindicated’ After Messy Amber Heard Trial

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  1. this is a case that has received quite a lot of attention, not to mention that this case has been around for a long time and recently everyone could see during the trial and the results, it is very unfortunate that the cancel culture kills one’s career and life

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