The UK Court of Appeal heard today why Johnny Depp’s legal team believe he should be granted a retrial in his libel case with The Sun publisher News Group Newspapers.
Central to their argument was ex-wife Amber Heard’s failure to pay a pledged $7M in charitable donations from her divorce settlement with Depp, which they described as a “manipulative lie” that “tipped the scales” when presented as evidence in the original case.
However, the actor will have to wait a little longer to find out if the appeal bid has been successful.
“We are not going to reach an immediate decision today but we will make it very shortly and it will be handed down in writing,” declared Lord Justice Underhill of the UK Court of Appeal at the end of a three-hour process.
The original verdict decreed that the description of Depp as a “wife beater” in a 2018 The Sun article, in relation to his relationship with Heard, was “substantially true”.
Andrew Caldecott QC, leading the appeal on behalf of Depp, centered his argument on the allegation which initially surfaced in January that Heard had falsely claimed her $7M divorce payout had been given to charity. During the original trial in the UK High Court, Heard stated that she donated the full amount to causes including L.A.’s Children Hospital Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, and this was cited by News Group’s lawyers as evidence that the actress could not be characterized as a “gold digger”.
Earlier this year, her U.S. lawyer admitted to Deadline that the donations had been “delayed”, but claimed that this was because of Depp’s legal action against the actress, which had cost her millions of dollars in legal fees.
Caldecott today stated that the donation had “tipped the scales from the very beginning” of the case and that Heard had made a “calculated and manipulative lie”. He claimed that the original court may have been unable to ascertain Heard’s credibility because it had been swayed by the idea of the $7M donation. He quoted Heard as saying, “I want him to pay but I don’t want to keep a dime of his money,” during the initial case.
In response, News Group’s representative Adam Wolanski enquired as to why Depp’s team had not questioned Heard on the charitable matter at trial, suggesting the information had been readily available prior to that point. Wolanski also said that Heard had not lied regarding the donations, claiming instead that she had made a number of payments and that the pledged donations would be fulfilled. He added that the “gold digger” argument was a “misogynistic trope”.
Depp’s team are looking to overturn the previous damning decision by Justice Andrew Nicol, which stated the actor “did assault Ms Heard” in reference to multiple allegations of domestic violence. Nicol had also warned that an appeal was unlikely to be successful.
Since the verdict, the actor was dropped from Warner Bros’ Fantastic Beasts franchise and replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.
Over in the U.S., Depp’s separate $50M defamation trial against Herd was recently delayed until April 11, 2022. The actress is also pursuing a $100M countersuit.