A Virginia jury will determine whether Johnny Depp and Amber Heard will be liable for millions of dollars in damages in their competing defamation cases.
Seven jurors will decide whether Heard, 36, defamed Depp, 58 when she referred to herself in a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece as "a public figure representing domestic abuse."
The jury must also decide whether she is liable for millions of dollars in damages.
According to sources close to Heard's legal team, the jury will evaluate damages for both the claim and the counterclaim, as reported by The Post. If the jury determines that Amber is liable for Mr. Depp, it will determine damages. If the jury determines that Mr. Depp is accountable for Amber's counterclaims, it will assess damages.
The "Aquaman" actress, who once dated Johnny Depp and was married for 15 months, does not face criminal accusations and instead faces civil lawsuits.
The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor filed a $50 million defamation complaint against Heard, alleging that her op-ed damaged his reputation and career, costing him millions of dollars.
Heard did not name Depp in the essay. Still, his attorneys contend it defamed him since it referenced his ex-wife's domestic abuse allegations in 2016 when she filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order.
Depp has denied physically harming Heard, claiming that she was the abusive partner in their relationship. Meanwhile, Heard has repeatedly accused Depp of attacking her.
The actress subsequently filed $100 million defamation counterclaims, alleging Depp was conducting a "smear campaign" to harm her life.
Four weeks have passed since the couple began battling with a jury at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Currently, the trial is on a one-week hiatus.
The closing arguments are scheduled for May 27, following which the jury could begin deliberating the fate of the estranged couple.
According to a source close to Heard's legal team, the jury could be unconvinced by either side and conclude neither Depp nor Heard should be granted damages.
A representative for Depp acknowledged, "The jury decides damages, and it is possible that none are awarded."
If the jury determines that Heard is not liable in Depp's case, she will be entitled to recover her legal fees. According to the sources, a judge would assess this sum at a later date.
However, if Depp were to be acquitted, it may have a "chilling effect" on other claimed victims, according to Halim Dhanidini, a former California judge and current criminal defense attorney.
Dhanidina stated, "Whenever a defamation lawsuit is successful, it has a chilling effect on speech."
"There has always been a chilling effect on victims' willingness to come forward and speak out against powerful institutions, entities, or individuals because they fear that their world will collapse," she stated.
If the hypothetical victory also results in a significant monetary judgment for Depp, "then there are people who would think twice before making statements that could expose them to legal liability," added Dhanidina.
On the other hand, "we don't want to create a world where people feel free to say anything, even if they know it's false," the former judge said.
Dhanidina stated, "Regardless of the verdict, a verdict will have a chilling effect."