Jurors in the explosive trial have more than 40 detailed, crucial questions to consider which get to the heart of the case and will decide who wins.
Jurors deciding the outcome of the epic trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard returned to their deliberations on Tuesday following the Memorial Day public holiday in the US.
But it could take them a while to come to a verdict with documents from the court revealing the seven men and women will have to ponder no fewer than 42 separate questions before they can make a decision.
Of the 42 questions on the “special verdict form,” 24 relate to Depp’s case against Heard with the remaining 18 about Heard’s case against Depp. If the jurors believe Depp is more credible and answer Yes to more of his questions from him, then Heard could be sunk.
Heard is being sued by Depp for $US50million ($A67m) for implying he abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. He claims her allegations are false and cost him lucrative movie roles.
Heard has countersued, asking for $US100 million ($A134m) and claiming she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at her hands but was defamed when claims were made that she had manufactured the allegations.
Closing arguments from both sides concluded on Friday at the Fairfax County court house in Virginia with the jury retiring at around 2pm to begin discussing the case.
A verdict is expected this week. But the court document, seen by the Daily Mailreveals they will have a huge amount of detail to consider.
The 10 pages of the special verdict form cover a range of questions chiefly on the detail of the defamation allegations but also on the amount of compensation that should be paid out to the winning party.
Questions about Depp’s case
The first pages relate to Depp’s accusations against Ms Heard. The initial question focuses on the op-ed’s headline: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
It asks the jurors if Depp has proven all the elements of his defamation allegations.
If the juror believes that to be the case there are a further seven questions which dig into the detail of that view.
So, the form asks the juror if they believe the headline was defamatory and if that defamation was deliberate on Heard’s part.
It also asks if Depp has proved “actual malice”. This is an American legal term which says a statement was made with deliberate and reckless disregard for the truth.
A subsequent set of questions ask jurors to ponder another line from Heard’s Washington Post article – perhaps the most key line in the whole op-ed.
“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Depp’s legal team has argued that while the Pirates of the Caribbean star may not have been named in that line – indeed in the article at all – the inference was that Heard was referring to him.
Again jurors are asked if it can be proved that the line is defamatory and – if that’s the case – why that is.
There are further questions on other extracts from Heard’s article. Finally, if the jurors do believe Heard defamed Depp they are then asked the amount of punitive and compensatory damages should be awarded to the star.
If the jurors do not believe Depp has been defamed, Heard wins and no damages are payable.
Questions about Heard’s case
The second part of the form focuses on Heard’s counter claim against Depp.
That remains on a Daily Mail article from April 2020 where Depp’s then lawyer Adam Waldman was quoted as saying Heard made “fake” sexual violence allegations against Depp which contained “hoax” facts.
Heard’s legal team has said that while Depp may not have made those comments directly, Mr Waldman was effectively acting on the star’s instructions. Depp denies that claim.
Jurors are asked if Heard has proven all the elements of her defamation case against Depp. If the juror says yes, they then need to delve into more detail with questions including if Mr Waldman was an “agent” for Depp.
The juror is also asked to deliberate on whether the comments were made with “actual malice”.
Just like for Depp’s case, the juror is asked to consider how much compensation Heard should get if they find in her favour.
On Friday, Heard’s lawyer Benjamin Rottenborn reminded the jury that the burden of proof was on Depp and that he needed to show that every single instance of abuse Heard has accused him of was false.
“If Amber was abused by Mr Depp even one time, then she wins,” Mr Rottenborn said.
“We’re not just talking about physical abuse, we’re talking about emotional abuse, physical, financial abuse, sexual abuse.
“It’s not about whose the better spouse,” he added.
“It’s not about whether you think Ms Heard may have been abusive to Mr Depp.
“If you think they were both abusive to each other… then Amber wins.”
Camille Vasquez, for Depp, said Heard’s claims were “false” and “defamatory,” and that she conducted a “performance” in court to play “the role of her lifetime as a heroic survivor of brutal abuse”.
“She told you what she thinks you need to hear to convict this man as a domestic abuser and a rapist,” Ms Vasquez said.
Depp’s team said the evidence presented by Heard’s team of abuse was inconsequential or maybe manipulated. And the star’s lawyers asked why no medical records existed if there was an incident after an incident of abuse.
Ms Vasquez also said that “no woman” before Heard had ever alleged Depp was violent.
One of Depp’s other lawyers went for the jugular.
“You have now come to know the real Amber Heard: it’s scary,” Benjamin Chew told the jury.