By Lisa Richwine
(Reuters) – Virginia jurors will resume deliberations on Wednesday in multimillion-dollar libel suits filed by actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the Hollywood stars who accused each other of abuse before and during their two-year marriage .
The seven-person jury weighed evidence for about seven hours on Tuesday without reaching a verdict.
Depp, the 58-year-old ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star, has sued Heard for $50 million and claimed she defamed him when she called herself a ‘public figure representing domestic violence ” in an opinion piece.
Heard, 36, countersued for $100 million, claiming Depp smeared him when his lawyer called his accusations a “hoax”.
Depp denied hitting Heard or a woman and said it was she who became violent in their relationship.
Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming “The Rum Diary” and married in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.
At the center of the court case is a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard in The Washington Post in which she made the statement about domestic violence. The article did not mention Depp by name, but his attorney told jurors it was clear Heard was referring to him.
During Tuesday’s deliberations, jurors asked Judge Penney Azcarate whether they should consider the entire article or just the headline. The headline read Heard “spoke out against sexual violence — and faced the wrath of our culture.”
Azcarate said she would tell the jury that the headline was the statement they should consider in reaching their verdict.
During six weeks of testimony, lawyers for Heard argued that she had told the truth and that her comments were covered by free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Throughout the case, jurors listened to recordings of the couple’s fights and saw graphic photos of Depp’s bloody finger. He said the top of his finger was severed when Heard threw a bottle of vodka at him in 2015.
Heard denied injuring Depp’s finger and said Depp sexually assaulted her that night with a bottle of liquor. She said she only hit him to defend herself or her sister.
The testimony was widely streamed live on social media, drawing large audiences to hear details about the couple’s troubled relationship.
Once among Hollywood’s biggest stars, Depp said Heard’s allegations cost him “everything”. A new “Pirates” movie has been put on hold, and Depp has been replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” movie franchise, a “Harry Potter” spin-off.
Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid which called him a “wife beater”. A High Court judge in London ruled that he assaulted Heard on several occasions.
Depp’s attorneys filed the US case in Fairfax County, Va., because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not accused.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)