Johnny Depp Gets Unfavorable Decisions on Jury Instruction

Johnny Depp Gets Unfavorable Decisions on Jury Instruction

The key rulings from the judge may swing the actor's defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.

The key rulings from the judge may swing the actor's defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.

Actress Amber Heard arrives at the Fairfax County Courthouse on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. Depp v. Heard, a defamation case brought by Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard is in its last week at trial with closing arguments scheduled for this Friday.

Jurors in Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard can not consider whether Adam Waldman, a former attorney of Depp’s who was kicked off the case, had free speech protections when he made allegedly defamatory statements about Heard.

In a key ruling on jury instructions, the judge overseeing the case sided with Heard’s lawyers Thursday that Waldman does not qualify for privilege, a defense from defamation, because his statements were not in response to anything Heard said or wrote. A ruling the other way could have led to jurors outright denying Heard’s $100 million counterclaim against Depp. 

Other than Heard and Depp, Waldman is the central figure of the trial. Heard has claimed that Depp, through Waldman, defamed her by calling her abuse accusations a hoax.

Other than Heard and Depp, Waldman is the central figure of the trial. Heard has claimed that Depp, through Waldman, defamed her by calling her abuse accusations a hoax.

TiBen Rottenborn, representing Heard, said of Waldman that it cannot be the case “that defending yourself through judicially immune statements in a lawsuit entitles someone to go out and say whatever they want to avail themselves to privilege.” He called Waldman — thrown off the case for leaking information covered by a protective order to the press — Depp’s “attack dog.”