Explained: Will Amber Heard or Johnny Depp go to prison if other party wins?


Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s bitter and public defamation trial came to a close on Friday as both parties rested their case, and the judge handed the case over to the jury. Now, the jury will deliberate over the case’s facts and findings and deliver their verdict next week. The high-profile defamation trial has seen its fair share of twists and turns. But now the question on everyone’s lips is what would be the outcome. As per reports, Johnny Depp is heavily favoured to emerge victorious in his suit against his ex-wife. But if he does win, what does that mean for Amber? We take a look. Also read: Johnny Depp thanks cops, photographers while leaving courthouse as trial nears end: ‘See you down the road’. Watch

Johnny has sued Amber for $50 million saying she defamed him when she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence in a Washington Post op-ed in 2018. Johnny’s lawyers have said that even though Amber didn’t name him, the implication damaged his career. He has further alleged that Amber was abusive towards him during their marriage.

Amber has countersued him for $100 million claiming that he has smeared her name by calling her a liar. She has maintained that she suffered physical and sexual abuse at Johnny’s hands. Both trials ran concurrently in a Virginia court for over six weeks. The hearings ended on May 27.

If the jury finds that Amber did defame Johnny, she could be ordered to pay the full $50 million as demanded by Johnny. The jury can also recommend a lesser amount in damages if they see fit. However, the case is a civil dispute and is being tried in the court as one. No criminal charges have been filed and as per Virginia law, new charges cannot be filed at this stage. This effectively means that neither party can go to prison if found guilty. So even if Johnny wins the case, Amber will not go to prison.

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The same holds true for Johnny, if Amber ends up winning the case. However, if that does happen, the Pirates of the Caribbean actor may have to pay her the $100 million she has asked. Here too, the jury can recommend a lesser amount if they deem necessary.

However, the fact that it isn’t a criminal case is actually good news for both parties. In the American legal system, civil suits have a lower burden of evidence for proving the accusation as compared to criminal cases. According to an explainer from the legal department of Cornell University, in criminal cases, it needs to proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the accused is guilty. However, in a civil case, the jury can simply come to a verdict based on which person or party is most likely to be correct.

In the past, this has led to some strange outcomes, most notably in the infamous OJ Simpson case. The American football star was tried for allegedly murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend in the early 90s. He was acquitted in the criminal case. But in a subsequent civil lawsuit filed against him, OJ was ordered to pay millions in damages.

The jury in the Amber Heard versus Johnny Depp case will reconvene on Tuesday and resume their deliberations. There is no set timeframe for the verdict though. It could be delivered on Tuesday itself or take a few more days.

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