The ruling comes after Heard's lawyers asked that the case be retried, alleging that a member of the jury was not actually called to serve for jury duty. According to legal documents filed by her team Friday, the discrepancy went unnoticed in part because the juror who did show up to court shares a name and address with the person who was meant to receive the summons. There is, however, a 27-year age gap between the two, who are reportedly father and son.
Depp's lawyers responded to the filing on Monday, calling it "desperate" and "frivolous." It seems Judge Penney Azcarate agreed that there was no basis for Heard's motion, ruling Wednesday that she found "no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing." She went on to suggest that either father or son could have served, and that if Heard's team had a problem with it, they had "every opportunity to object" during the selection process.
"Juror Fifteen was vetted by the Court on the record and met the statutory requirements for service," Azcarate said in court documents obtained by EW. "The parties also questioned the jury panel for a full day and informed the Court that the jury panel was acceptable. Therefore, due process was guaranteed and provided to all parties in this litigation."
STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images; JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
The judge added that the jury selection process "was conducted in a fair and impartial manner, with the Court and both parties examining the potential jurors," and that Heard's lawyers were provided "the jury list five days prior to the commencement of trial and knew or should have known about the mistake."
Azcarate also cited Virginia law stating that "any error in the information shown on such copy of the jury panel shall not be grounds for a mistrial or assignable as error on appeal, and the parties in the case shall be responsible for verifying the accuracy of such information."
Therefore, it was Heard's lawyers' "obligation to ensure the accuracy of the information provided for the jury panel," and they can't just "wait until receiving an adverse verdict to object, for the first time, on an issue known since the beginning of trial."
The defamation case began in April and wrapped up last month, with the jury ruling that Heard defamed her ex-husband when she wrote a Washington Post op-ed in 2018 detailing what she characterized as her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. While the piece never mentioned Depp by name, his lawyers argued that references to him were clear and damaging to his career and reputation.
The jury ultimately agreed, awarding the actor $15 million in damages, which the judge reduced to $10.35 million in accordance with state law. Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages for her countersuit.
"The disappointment I feel today is beyond words," Heard said in a statement following the verdict. "I'm heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband."
Depp said he was "humbled" by the outcome and support he received. "Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me," he said. "I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."