Johnny Depp loses 'wife beater' libel case

The judge said: “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”

He said that “a recurring theme in Mr Depp’s evidence was that Ms Heard had constructed a hoax and that she had done this as an ‘insurance policy’,” and that Ms Heard was a “gold-digger”.

But he added: “I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.”

“I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely, as well as the over-arching considerations which the claimant submitted.”

His career will be all downhill from here, I think…

I don’t pity him. I find men who abuse their wives despicable.

I think his career has already been downhill for awhile now.

No more Disney films for him.

I haven’t been following this case but I thought he said or it was substantiated that she was the abuser(?). Does anyone remember that? Not excusing the allegations against him, just having a fuzzy memory.

I read a tweet recently from a British Barrister who was taught at law school during her ‘libel’ lessons that if a client ever wants to sure for libel, tell them not to under any circumstances. It will bankrupt them, their dirt will be amplified ten fold in the news and if they lose, they’re screwed. No outcome is a good outcome.

On this theme, with apologies for the mini-hijack, there was a good short story by Frederick Forsyth in his collection “No Comebacks” that dealt with this. The would-be claimant found another, cheaper resolution to his problem.

That’s how I remember it.
But a very, very quick review of what’s going on in this case (on wiki), after all that was settled, Amber wrote an op-ed about being a victim of domestic abuse without actually naming Depp (just “implying” it was him) and that’s what he was suing her for.

He wasn’t suing her, he was suing The Sun newspaper for calling him a wife-beater. She was just called as a witness. He lost the case because the judge ruled that he did, indeed, beat his wife on many occasions. Whether she did it back wasn’t part of the case.

One point of clarification: In a civil case, the burden of proof is just the preponderance of evidence. So it’s not that the judge ruled that he did indeed beat his wife. It’s the judge ruling that he finds the wife’s claims that he did more credible than his claims that he didn’t, even if only very slightly more. Now, if this came up in a criminal trial, and the verdict went against him, that would be much more significant, since criminal trials have a much higher burden of proof.

This case was in the UK, where libel laws are different. The judge found that The Sun had demonstrated that their claims were substantially true.

In the US, he’s suing Heard, where he’s got a harder case. Whereas The Sun had to prove that their claims were true, in the US, he’ll have to prove that her claims are false.

It appears there’s two different cases going on right now.
The wife-beater case is a suit against a newspaper in England. He lost that one because the judge said the article was ‘substantially true’.

He’s suing Amber in the states over an op-ed article published in WaPo. That one, I believe is still ongoing.

I don’t know what was published in The Sun or WaPo, but it’s the WaPo one where Heard never mentioned Depp’s name or any specifics that could potentially tie the antagonist in her article to Depp. IIRC, the issue was/is that after being all their dirty laundry was aired for the world to see, she published a story (WaPo) about being the victim of domestic violence. Johnny, obviously claiming he never abused her, was/is trying to show that that a reasonable reader would come to the conclusion that it’s about him and therefore libel since (as he’s claiming) it didn’t happen.

At least that’s my ‘skimming the internet at 6am’ understanding of what’s going on.

These two statements do not seem to be quite congruent. Perhaps a UK legal expert could weigh in and explain what “the civil standard” means in this particular instance. (note: the quote was in GreenWyvern’s post but it was what the judge said.)

Not trying to be difficult, but I’m not sure what the difference you’re seeing is. Here’s a cite for what I said.

Just this: “the tabloid’s story was substantially true” could refer to the fact that the judge found that the majority of the 14 instances of alleged abuse were proved “to the civil standard.” I think those two things are different. The majority of cases were proved (to some standard) which makes the story substantially true. If all the cases had been proved to that standard, then he might have said the story was completely true. That would have said nothing about how the standard was applied in the individual instances, nor would it have enlightened me about what the standard is.

What Chronos said about the preponderance of evidence could still be true about those incidents that were proved “to the civil standard.” I am interested to know what the “civil standard” means in British law.

From the full judgement of the Johnny Depp case:

The defence of truth: the burden and standard of proof

  1. As Defamation Act 2013 s.2(1) makes clear, it is for a defendant to prove that the libel was substantially true. The burden of proof therefore rests on the defendant. That was also the case when the common law defence of justification existed.

  2. As for the standard of proof, the starting point is that these are civil proceedings and in civil proceedings the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities i.e. is it more probable than not that the article was substantially true in the meaning that it bore? In this case, is it more likely than not that the claimant did what the articles alleged? The common law knows only two standards of proof: beyond reasonable doubt (or, as it is now put, so that the decision maker is sure) which applies in criminal cases and certain other immaterial situations and the balance of probabilities (which applies in civil cases) – see In re H (Minors) (Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563, 586. The ‘balance of probabilities’ simply means, as Lord Nichols said in Re H, that,

      'a court is satisfied an event occurred if the court considers, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more likely than not.'
  1. Although there is a single and unvarying standard of proof in civil proceedings, the evidence which is required to satisfy it may vary according to the circumstances. In Re D [2008] 1 WLR 1499 at [27] Lord Carswell approved what had been said by Richards LJ in R (N) v Mental Health Review Tribunal (Northern Region) [2006] QB 468 at [62] who had said,
      'Although there is a single civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities, it is flexible in its application. In particular, the more serious the allegation or the more serious the consequences if the allegation is proved, the stronger must be the evidence before a court will find the allegation proved on the balance of probabilities. Thus the flexibility of the standard lies not in any adjustment to the degree of probability required for an allegation to be proved (such that a more serious allegation has to be proved to a higher degree of probability), but in the strength or quality of the evidence that will in practice be required for an allegation to be proved on the balance of probabilities.' [emphasis in the original]
  1. Simon J. also quoted the same comments by Richards LJ when considering the defence of justification in the course of his judgment on a libel claim – see Hunt v Times Newspapers Ltd. [2013] EWHC 1868 (QB). He said (at [76]),
      'Where the allegation is one of serious criminality (as here) clear evidence is required.'
  1. Simon J’s judgment concerned the common law, but neither party before me suggested that a different approach was required in this regard in consequence of the replacement of the common law defence of justification with the statutory defence of truth and see Bokhova v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2018] EWHC 2032 (QB), [2019] QB 861 at [28].

Further clarification:

The more serious or unusual the thing to be proved, the stronger the evidence needs to be in order to decide that it is true on ‘balance of probability’.

From another source:

The balance of probability standard is a flexible standard. This means that when assessing this probability the court will assume that some things are inherently more likely than others. This concept was memorably encapsulated by Lord Hoffmann, when he observed:

    ‘It would need more cogent evidence to satisfy one that the creature seen walking in Regent’s Park was more likely than not to have been a lioness than to be satisfied to the same standard of probability that it was an alsatian.’

i.e.

  • If it is alleged that an alsatian was seen walking in the park, it wouldn’t need much evidence to decide that it was true on balance of probability.
  • If it is alleged that a lioness was seen walking in the park, it would need lots of solid evidence to decide that it was true on balance of probability, because it’s inherently unlikely.

This higher standard of evidence is also required if the ‘allegations are made of criminal or quasi-criminal conduct which, if proved, would have serious consequences for the person against whom they are made’.

So it seems that a high standard of evidence was required in this case in order to decide that the allegations were true on balance of probability.

(I’ll leave the reading of the full judgment to others.)

I actually thought he would be kept on, but no.

He needs to pull a Howard Stern and claim all defamation about him is coming directly from Donald Trump and his cronies who were angry at Depp for previously saying bad things about Trump.