While Heard’s attorney has called the verdict a setback for the MeToo era, Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez doesn’t think it will have an impact.
“We’re here to talk about the case that we tried, right? We encourage all victims to come forward, have their day in court, which is exactly what happened in this case,” she said in an interview with Today co-host Savannah Guthrie.
The jury awarded Depp $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages after it found that Heard was liable for defamation when she authored a 2018 Washington Post op ed in which she identified herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The judge in the case, Penney Azcarate, quickly reduced the amount of punitive damages to the maximum $350,000 allowed in Virginia.
In a sign of how much import news media outlets are placing on the case, which has drawn huge online and social media interest, Vasquez and Chew were interviewed by both morning news shows that ran just about at the same time, with GMA’s sitdown with George Stephanopoulos getting a start at 7:31 AM ET, and the sitdown with Today’s Guthrie starting at 7:34 AM ET.
Guthrie’s interview was live, and she also asked Vasquez and Chew whether they feel confident if the verdict, as expected, gets appealed by Heard. Her attorney Elaine Bredehoft, interviewed by Guthrie last week, indicated that is likely.
“We feel very confident that there are no errors that would justify any kind of successful appeal,” Chew said.
The jury also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages in her countersuit, but no punitive damages. The jury sided with Heard in one of her claims, that Depp’s attorney falsely contended that she and her friends staged the couple’s downtown Los Angeles penthouse to make it look like it was trashed when police arrived.
But Vasquez said that the verdict in Depp’s case was “overwhelmingly positive” and “it was unanimous. There were seven people that decided he was defamed.”
Chew also criticized Bredehoft for comments she made last week, in which she said that the jury was not allowed to see and hear evidence, such as therapists’ notes, that would have bolstered Heard’s claims.
“I think it was very disappointing to hear that and to hear her impugn the character of the jury,” Chew said. “The evidence that came in should [have] come in, and the judge was very fair to both sides.”
Bredehoft also noted Heard’s team was not allowed to bring into evidence a UK court’s ruling against Depp in his defamation lawsuit against The Sun, which had referred to him as a “wife beater.”
“That was a different process, right?” Vasquez said. “And also Mr. Depp and Miss Heard in this case were parties, they had different disclosure obligations. We disagree. The overwhelming evidence that was presented in this case in Virginia, far exceeded what was presented in the UK, and we believe the jury got it right.”
The trial also saw intense social media interest, with users overwhelmingly in favor of Depp. Bredehoft even suggested that it was likely that jurors saw some of their postings. “There’s no way they couldn’t have been influenced by it, and it was horrible. It really, really was lopsided,” Bredehoft said.
Chew said on Today, “I don’t think that there’s any reason to believe that the jurors violated their oath. And again, that suggestion was disappointing to hear.”
The jury, Vasquez said, was “admonished every single night. And they had a tremendous amount of respect I think for the court and the process and they were doing the best that they could.”
Chew said that his sense was that the jury’s verdict “had a lot to do with accountability, that Johnny owned his issues. He was very candid about his alcohol and drug issues. He was candidate about some unfortunate texts that he wrote, and I think it was a sharp contrast to Miss Heard, who …the jury may have perceived that she didn’t take accountability for anything.”
Guthrie also asked the attorneys what Depp’s reaction was upon hearing the verdict.
“I think just an overwhelming sense of relief,” Vasquez said. “I was speaking with another friend of ours, a mutual friend of Johnny’s and ours, and he said, ‘I haven’t seen Johnny smile like that in six years.'”
In the GMA interview, Chew said that Depp was “over the moon. It was like the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders and I feel that finally after six years he’s gotten his life back.”
Vasquez said that in cross-examination, “something that we focused on, I focused on, was using her words against her. …Every question that was asked was tied to something she had said previously.”
Stephanopoulos noted that Depp’s team had said that the goal was “not to impoverish Miss Heard.” He asked whether there was a possibility of a settlement where Heard forgoes an appeal and Depp waives any monetary damages.
Chew would not discuss attorney client communications, but said, “this was never about money for Mr. Depp. This was about restoring his reputation and he’s done that.” Chew also said that it was “premature” to say whether Depp would appeal the jury’s verdict in favor of Heard on one of her counterclaims.