Amber Heard settles defamation case with Johnny Depp: 'This is not an act of concession'

Actor Amber Heard testifies during her defamation trial accusing Johnny Depp of physical and sexual violence
Actor Amber Heard testifies during her defamation trial accusing Johnny Depp of physical and sexual violence. (Photo: Reuters) (POOL New / reuters)

Amber Heard announced she settled her defamation case against Johnny Depp.

The surprise move comes weeks after lawyers for the actress officially appealed the June verdict, in which a Virginia jury awarded the Pirates of the Caribbean star more than $10 million. She will pay him $1 million, which he will donate to charity.

Heard announced Monday she "made a very difficult decision" to settle "after a great deal of deliberation." The actress went on to slam the U.S. justice system in her lengthy statement and said she "cannot relive" the kind of humiliation she was exposed to during the six-week trial.

"It's important for me to say that I never chose this. I defended my truth and in doing so my life as I knew it was destroyed. The vilification I have faced on social media is an amplified version of the ways in which women are revictimized when they come forward. Now I finally have an opportunity to emancipate myself from something I attempted to leave over six years ago," the Aquaman star continued, referencing her very public 2016 divorce from Depp when she accused him of abuse.

Depp's attorneys Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez tell Yahoo Entertainment in a statement, "We are pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter for Mr. Depp, who made clear throughout this process that his priority was about bringing the truth to light. The jury's unanimous decision and the resulting judgement in Mr. Depp's favor against Ms. Heard remain fully in place. The payment of $1M — which Mr. Depp is pledging and will donate to charities — reinforces Ms. Heard's acknowledgement of the conclusion of the legal system's rigorous pursuit for justice."

Heard, 36, noted her statement is "not an act of concession" and "there are no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward." However, a Depp source says, "Contrary to what she claims, the judgement can still be used against her if she were again to repeat the false and defamatory allegations." The same source adds that there are "no victories here for her — the judgement against her stands."

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post. Although the actress never named her ex-husband, she wrote about being the victim of physical and sexual violence. A jury agreed it's reasonable to infer the person was Depp. The ruling meant a jury did not believe Heard was emotionally or physically abused, even once — even after the star's emotional testimony on the stand.

In her statement, Heard said she "lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder."

Although Depp won all three of his claims of defamation, Heard won one of her counterclaims and was awarded $2 million. However, the verdict was considered a resounding win for the actor and directly contradicted a 2020 ruling in the U.K. When Depp sued a tabloid for labeling him a "wife beater," a judge ruled it was "substantially true" the actor assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions.

"When I took before a judge in the U.K., I was vindicated by a robust, impartial and fair system, where I was protected from having to give the worst moments of my testimony in front of the worlds media, and where the court found that I was subjected to domestic and sexual violence," she continued in Monday's statement. "In the U.S., however, I exhausted almost all my resources in advance of and during a trial in which I was subject to a courtroom in which abundant, direct evidence that corroborated my testimony was excluded and in which popularity and power mattered more than reason and due process. In the interim I was exposed to a type of humiliation that I simply cannot relive. Even if my U.S. appeal is successful, the best outcome would be a re-trial where a new jury would have to consider the evidence age. I simply cannot go through that for a third time."

Johnny Depp gestures to supporters in court on May 27, 2022.
Johnny Depp gestures to supporters in court on May 27, 2022. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) (STEVE HELBER via Getty Images)

Heard, who welcomed a daughter in 2021, said by settling this case she's "choosing the freedom to dedicate my time to the work that helped me heal after my divorce; work that exists in realms in which I feel seen, heard and believed and in which I know I can effect change."

"I will not be threatened, disheartened, or dissuaded by what happened from speaking the truth. No one can and no one will take that from me. My voice forever remains the most valuable asset I have," she continued.

Heard thanked her lawyers and supporters.

"Any survivor knows that the ability to tell their story often feels like the only relief," she concluded. "I cannot find enough words to tell you the hope your belief in me inspires. Not just for me, but for all of you."