Questions in the Johnny Depp trial: Jury asks judge for help

A seven-person jury is currently deciding on the outcome of the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

Questions in the Johnny Depp trial: Jury asks judge for help

A seven-person jury is currently deciding on the outcome of the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. For their deliberation, the jury received a questionnaire from the judge, which must be taken into account. But apparently it causes confusion.

After seven long weeks in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the seven jurors have retired from their verdict. But apparently it's not that easy. As several US media reports, the jury returned to court on Tuesday because they could not quite follow the instructions of Judge Penney Azcarate.

At the heart of the case is a 2018 op-ed by Heard for the Washington Post entitled: "I spoke out against sexual violence -- and faced the wrath of our culture." The 36-year-old describes herself as a victim of domestic violence. Although she does not name Depp explicitly, Depp then sued his ex-wife for $ 50 million. He claims the post ruined his career and reputation.

The judge gave the jury a "special verdict sheet" with 42 questions to consider in their verdict. A question about Heard's comment apparently caused confusion. According to media reports, the jury wasn't sure exactly what to consider: whether just the headline or the entire article was defamatory. At a joint meeting, Judge Azcarate then told them that they should only consider the heading "and not the entire comment" for the question in question. Instead, other questions in the arc go into more detail in Heard's opinion piece. Of the 42 questions, 24 relate to Depp's lawsuit and the remaining 18 to Heard's counterclaim.

According to the Daily Mail, which claims to have seen the court document, the jury has a huge amount of detail to consider. The 10-page form covers a range of questions, mainly on the details of the defamation allegations, but also on the amount of compensation to be paid to the winning party. The first pages refer to Depp's allegations against Heard, and the opening question also focuses on the title of the comment. The jury is to decide whether Depp has proven all elements of his defamation allegations.

If the answer is "yes", seven further questions go into the details of this view. So the jury must state whether they believe the defamation was intentional on Heard's part. It also asks if Depp has demonstrated "actual malice". This is a US legal term that states that a statement was made with a knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.

A subsequent series of questions prompts the jury to consider perhaps the most important sentence in Heard's commentary. It said that when Heard shared her experience of domestic violence "two years ago," she felt "the full force of our culture's anger at women speaking out." Depp's lawyers have argued that even without naming his name, the phrase suggests he was targeting Johnny Depp. The jury should state whether it can be proven that the sentence is defamatory and, if so, why.

The jury is also expected to determine whether the allegations by Depp's divorce attorney, Adam Waldman, that Heard's counterclaim is aimed at were made on Depp's behalf, according to the Daily Mail. Waldman had said in several statements, among other things, that Heard had made "false" allegations against the Hollywood star. Depp denies that his lawyer acted on his instructions. If the jury disagrees, they must answer deeper questions, including whether the statements were made with "actual malice."

How long the jury will deliberate is unclear. However, a verdict is expected later this week. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began dating in late 2011. They first met on the set of The Rum Diary. The Hollywood stars got married in 2015, but the marriage only lasted 15 months. The actor lost a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper "The Sun" in Great Britain in 2020. The newspaper had described Depp in an article as a "wife beater".

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