Johnny Depp Has Lost His Sensational Libel Case (Involving Amber Heard) Against A British Tabloid

The dramatic ride for The Rum Diary co-stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who divorced four years ago (after one year of marriage), has taken another turn, and the results aren’t in Depp’s favor. The duo became embroiled in a lawsuit (filed by Depp) against British tabloid The Sun, against whom Depp sought “to clear his reputation” from potentially irreparable harm, which he alleged would be the case after a April 2018 article labeled him as a “wife-beater.” The proceedings contained three weeks of mud-slinging from both sides in a trial full of wild revelations — including “porky pies,” poo in the bed, an ice cream debacle, and alleged animal abuse — and it now appears that Depp’s desired results still evade him. And it actually turned into a really bad look from Depp’s perspective, given the U.K. approach to libel trials (more on that soon).

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Depp has not been defamed by the “wife beater” article from The Sun because a judge found that Heard’s account of physical assault by her then-husband was “substantially true.” As a result, Depp’s request for “vindication” (he did not seek an monetary award) will not be satisfied. The U.K. judge dismissed his claim in Depp v. News Group Newspapers, and in doing so, the judge referenced the word “monster” on multiple occasions with this conclusion:

“That expression was not a figment of Ms Heard’s imagination. I accept her evidence that Mr Depp used the term to refer to that part of his personality when, affected by drink and/or drugs he would do things which he would not otherwise do and of which he might have no recollection afterwards.”

Here’s a legal-jargon-heavy chunk of the opinion:

“This claim is dismissed. The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel. Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true. I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account.”

What’s particularly notable with the judge’s decision is that libel cases in the United Kingdom are much easier for plaintiffs who sue tabloids than they are in the United States. In other words, the burden of proof in a U.K. courts for libel is notably lower, and Depp only needed to prove that the allegation in question (that Depp was guilty of domestic abuse) is false in order to prevail against the defendant (in this case, The Sun‘s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and executive editor Dan Wootton). That’s a reversal of the tougher U.S. standard in libel trials.

In the end, Depp — who has denied abusing Amber before or during their marriage, and, in fact, has claimed that she’s the abusive party — didn’t prove his civil case. This, of course, doesn’t mean that he has been found guilty of abuse in a criminal sense in the United Kingdom. Nor does this technically affect his pending $50 million trial against Heard in the U.S. However, that trial has already been delayed for scheduling reasons, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Depp drop it altogether. After all, he’ll have an even harder time succeeding by U.S. defamation standards, and losing another trial would not bode well in terms of more verdict fallout and potential reputation damage.

(Via Hollywood Reporter)