Johnny Depp’s $10 million defamation trial victory will stay for the time being. Earlier today, a judge denied Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard’s petition for a retrial after discovering that one of the sitting jurors was not called for duty, per The Guardian.
Heard filed for a mistrial earlier this month, with her lawyers citing a case of mistaken identity regarding one juror. Court records show that a 77-year-old Fairfax County resident was called for jury duty. His 52-year-old son came in his stead.
Heard’s lawyers argued that Virginia law has strict rules against mistaken identity, making it grounds for a mistrial. While her attorneys did not say that Juror 15, as court records refer to the man, took his father’s identity purposely or with malicious intent, they could not discount the possibility.
“The court cannot assume, as Mr Depp asks it to, that Juror 15’s apparently improper service was an innocent mistake. It could have been an intentional attempt to serve on the jury of a high-profile case,” Heard’s lawyers argued.
Judge Penney Azcarate disagreed, stating that the juror performed their duties as required by law. “The juror was vetted, sat for the entire jury, deliberated, and reached a verdict,” Azcarate wrote. “The only evidence before this court is that this juror and all jurors followed their oaths, the court’s instructions, and orders. This court is bound by the competent decision of the jury.”
Depp’s lawsuit against Heard was over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence in which Heard referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” While Heard did not mention Depp by name, he claims that the editorial destroyed his career—as did the defamation case he lost in the U.K. after he sued The Sun for calling him a “wife beater.”
As a result of the trial, Heard became the subject of intense public scrutiny, particularly online, where her abuse claims were mocked, belittled, and regularly dismissed in favor of Depp’s constant mugging for the courtroom cameras. Many noted the disastrous effect such a decision will have on abuse victims looking to speak out against their abusers. Others noted that this was a case of “mutual abuse,” where one person receives sympathy and the other is the subject of a social media campaign to label them a liar.
Heard will still have a chance to appeal the decision in the Virginia court of appeals.