Lawyer: Heard was 'demonized' by Depp team, social media

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Actor Amber Heard waits before the verdict was read at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. The jury awarded Johnny Depp more than $10 million in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard. It vindicates his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage. But the jury also found in favor of Heard, who said she was defamed by a lawyer for Depp.(Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)

FAIRFAX, Va. – Amber Heard was “demonized” by ex-husband Johnny Depp's legal team and excoriated on social media during a sensational defamation trial that ended with a jury ordering her to pay Depp $15 million, Heard's lawyer said Thursday.

Elaine Bredehoft, one of Heard's lead attorneys during the trial, said she believes the jury was influenced by a relentless barrage of social media posts condemning her and supporting Depp. She said Heard plans to appeal.

“These people were giving her death threats. They threatened to microwave her baby. This is the kind of social media she was getting,” Bredehoft said on “CBS Mornings.”

“It was like a Roman coliseum is the best way to describe the atmosphere here. And I have to believe that the jury, even though they’re told not to go and look at anything, you know, they have weekends, they have families, they have social media,” she said.

Bredehoft also said some evidence that was allowed in a similar defamation lawsuit that Depp lost in the U.K. was suppressed in the lawsuit he filed in Virginia. In the U.K. case, the judge found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions.

“We weren't allowed to tell the jury this,” Bredehoft said on NBC's “Today” show. “So what did Depp's team learn from this? Demonize Amber. And suppress the evidence."

The verdict handed down Wednesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court found that Depp had been defamed by three statements in a 2018 op-ed written by Heard in which she said she was an abuse victim. The jury awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, but the judge reduced the punitive damages award to $350,000 under a state cap.

Depp attorney Camille Vasquez said Wednesday that the verdict “confirms what we have said from the beginning, that the claims against Johnny Depp are defamatory and unsupported by any evidence.”

When asked on “Today” whether Heard has the money to pay the $10.35 million, Bredehoft said, “Oh, no, absolutely not.”

The jury also awarded Heard $2 million in her countersuit, concluding that she was defamed by a lawyer for Depp who accused her of creating a detailed hoax surrounding the abuse allegations.

The case captivated viewers who watched gavel-to-gavel television coverage, including impassioned followers on social media who dissected the actors’ mannerisms, their wardrobe choices and their use of alcohol and drugs.

While the case was ostensibly about libel, most of the testimony focused on whether Heard had been physically and sexually abused, as she claimed. Heard enumerated more than a dozen alleged assaults, including a fight in Australia — where Depp was shooting a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel — in which Depp lost the tip of his middle finger and Heard said she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle.

Depp said he never hit Heard and that she was the abuser, though Heard’s attorneys highlighted years-old text messages Depp sent apologizing to Heard for his behavior as well as profane texts he sent to a friend in which Depp said he wanted to kill Heard and defile her dead body.

Both performers emerge with unclear prospects. Depp, a three-time best actor Oscar nominee, was a bankable star until recent years, with credits including playing Capt. Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. However, he lost that role and was replaced in a “Fantastic Beasts” spinoff.

Heard’s acting career has been more modest, and her only two upcoming roles are in a small film and the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel due out next year.

Brett Ward, a family law attorney in New York, said Depp made himself a more believable witness by admitting to drug and alcohol use and that he could be a difficult person. But he said Depp also ran the risk of making those moments more memorable to the public than his film work.

“He says he did this for his children. Having watched the whole trial, I don’t think that he did any service to his children by airing all of this dirty laundry,” Ward said.