Will Johnny Depp's Legal Setback Affect Amber Heard Trial Outcome?

Johnny Depp recently suffered a significant setback with his years-long legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp's $50 million lawsuit against Heard is coming to a close, with the jury currently deliberating the outcome. But has the trial already left a black mark on both of their reputations? Depp actually stands to lose more than he stands to gain since Heard has successfully filed a $100 million counterclaim against Depp.

Heard filed a counterclaim against Depp back in February of 2020 after one of his attorneys, Adam Waldman, gave an interview with The Daily Mail. Waldman claimed that Heard's allegations of domestic abuse against Depp were fabricated, which Heard's team claims was a defamatory statement. According to a report by Deadline, Depp and his team made a motion to strike the counterclaim on the grounds that Heard should sue Waldman over the statement, not Depp. However, Judge Penney Azcarate denied this motion, saying that there was evidence that Waldman was acting as an agent for Depp, and the counterclaim could therefore stand.

Depp's attorney Benjamin Chew argued for this motion to strike the counterclaim on Tuesday morning, but Azcarate's decision was final. Legal experts say that motions to strike like this one are very common in trial proceedings, but they are rarely granted. Judges want cases like this decided by a jury except in extreme circumstances. In order for a defamation case against a public figure to go before a jury, judge's require evidence of "actual malice," and in this case Azcarate saw plenty.

"As to actual malice, Mr. Waldman made the counterclaim statements after he met with his client," she said. "In addition, there's evidence [Depp] was with Mr. Waldman at a meeting in February, 2020 with the Daily Mail Online... There is more than a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror may infer that Mr. Waldman made the counterclaim statements while realizing they were false or with a reckless disregard for their truth."

To be clear, Azcarate reminded the court that she was not giving her opinion on which side she thinks is right or which side she thinks will win its case. She said: "It is not my role to measure the weight of the evidence." However, since the evidence exists, she will allow the counterclaim to move forward.

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Depp's lawsuit against Heard will conclude with closing statements on Friday, May 27. The jury will then deliberate the winner before any counterclaims or other legal proceedings can move forward.