Johnny Depp gets unfavorable decisions about jury instructions – The Hollywood Reporter

Jurors in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp And Amber Heard It will not take into account whether Adam Waldman, Depp’s former attorney who was thrown out of the case, had free speech protections when he made allegedly defamatory statements against Heard.

In a key ruling on jury instructions, the judge overseeing the case sided with Heard’s attorney Thursday that Waldman did not qualify for a lien, a defense from libel, because his statements were not in response to anything Heard said or wrote. A ruling the other way would have resulted in a jury denying Heard’s $100 million claim against Depp.

Waldman, unlike Heard and Depp, is the central character in the trial. Heard alleged that Depp, through Waldman, defamed her by calling her abuse accusations a hoax.

Ben Rottenborn, who represents Heard, said of Waldman that it couldn’t be “that defending yourself with judicially immune statements in a lawsuit empowers someone to come out and say whatever they want to take advantage of a privilege.” Waldman – who was thrown out of the case for leaking information covered by a protective order to the press – called Depp’s “assault dog”.

When asked about Heard’s statements that Waldman was responding to his franchise award, Depp’s attorney referred to an article in the sun which described the actor as a “wife beater”.

“Mrs. Heard’s statements should be,” Fairfax County Court Judge Benny Azcaret responded.

Trials win and lose based on jury instructions. They tell jurors how to apply legal standards, deal with certain evidence, and consider objections, among other things. Jury instructions can be severely challenged, especially in a long trial with dozens of witnesses and documents.

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Depp argued that the question of whether Waldman qualifies for the franchise must be decided by a jury. Under defamation law, people can claim defense if they are sued for defamation in response to an alleged defamatory statement from another person.

Samuel Muniz, Depp’s representative, said, “The statements were clearly a direct response to Mrs. Heard’s allegations that appeared on their faces. Whether that answer was fair and reasonable is a question of the jury.”

Azkaret initially looked side by side with Deep. She disagrees, however, with Heard’s lawyer on whether or not the matter is legal, saying the question hovered over “whether or not there is any evidence that a jury can find.” [of Waldman’s statements] Being a protected speech.”

“I don’t think it is my role to weigh this evidence,” the judge added.

The discussion turned when Azkarat pressed Depp’s attorney about specific statements from Heard Waldman was responding to. She ultimately refused to hand over the jury instructions Depp requested, asserting that the privilege could only be claimed if there was no actual malice.

“The only way to find defamatory statements in this case is if there is real malice,” Azcaret said. This is unique in this case, and I understand that. But if they find actual malice in the defamatory phrases, you have no protected privilege to speak anyway.”

For Heard to win her counterclaim, Heard must prove that Waldman made allegedly defamatory statements with real malice, or that he knew that his allegations were lies.

In another ruling on jury instructions, the judge agreed with Depp’s attorney that jurors should be told not to draw conclusions from their objections during Waldman’s filing.

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“To be fair, I wanted it to continue [the objections] In,” Azcaret told Rothenborn. “I wanted you to leave them to show that you asked the questions, and they weren’t answered. But you can’t conclude from that, “Oh, they’re hiding something.”

During his testimony, Waldman asserted attorney-client privilege to refrain from answering questions intended to support allegations that he was acting on Depp’s behalf when he made the allegedly defamatory statements.

The judge also allowed jurors to award punitive damages if necessary.

Before discussing the jury’s instructions, Heard on Thursday returned to the stage as the final witness at the trial. She testified about the extent to which Waldmann’s alleged defamatory statements continued to harm her career.

“If I’m practicing a fight scene for Aquaman “A trigger is happening, I’m having a breakdown and I have to deal with that,” Heard said. “The crew I work with has to deal with that, because of the damage I’m walking around every day from what I’ve lived through.”

When asked about being questioned if she was amazed at the number of people who have testified in support of Depp, Heard replied, “That’s why I wrote this editorial. Because I’ve been talking about this phenomenon – how many people are going to come out to support him and not shame his authority.”

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