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Depp-Heard trial: Why Johnny Depp lost in the UK but won in the US

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By Robin Levinson-King

(BBC) – In 2020, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp lost a UK libel lawsuit against the Sun newspaper. But on Wednesday, he won a similar lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard in a US courtroom.

At the start of his recent trial, many legal experts suggested that Mr Depp had a weaker chance of winning than he did in the UK, because the US has very strong free speech protections.

The fact that the jury found that Ms Heard was guilty of defamation with an article in which she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse means they didn’t believe her testimony.

Mark Stephens, an international media lawyer, told the BBC that it’s “very rare” that essentially the same case is tried on two sides of the pond and gets different results.

He believes the main factor that influenced Mr Depp’s victory in America was the fact that his US trial was before a jury while his UK trial, over an article in the British tabloid that called him a “wife-beater”, was before a judge only.

“Amber Heard has comprehensively lost in the court of public opinion, and in front of the jury,” he said.

In both the UK and the US trial, Mr Depp’s lawyers argued that Ms Heard was lying – to make their case, they attacked her character and claimed that she was in fact the abusive partner.

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