Johnny Depp Fails to Overturn Ruling in 'Wife Beater' Libel Case, Amber Heard Says She's 'By No Means Surprised'
In a written judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in London on Thursday, judges Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Dingemans refused the actor's application for a fresh trial on the grounds that a second hearing was unlikely to produce a different outcome.
"Following a hearing last week, the Court of Appeal has refused permission to Johnny Depp to appeal against the dismissal of his claim for libel against News Group Newspapers and one of its journalists," the Lord Justices wrote in an official summary of their ruling.
"The claim was based on a story in The Sun alleging that he had beaten his former wife, Amber Heard. After a three-week trial in the High Court last year, in which both Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard gave evidence, Mr. Justice Nicol found that the allegation was true," the summary continued.
"The Court in its judgment emphasized that an appeal against the decision of a trial judge on questions of disputed fact faced serious difficulties: of its judgment – and that none of the criticisms of the Judge's reasoning or conclusion advanced on behalf of Mr. Depp had a real prospect of success."
The court added that the 2020 trial was "full and fair" and the judge involved, Mr. Justice Nicol, had given "thorough reasons for his conclusions."
After the court's ruling was made, a spokesperson for Heard said in a statement to Yahoo Entertainment, "We are pleased — but by no means surprised — by the Court's denial of Mr. Depp's application for appeal. The evidence presented in the UK case was overwhelming and undeniable. To reiterate, the original verdict was that Mr. Depp committed domestic violence against Amber on no fewer than 12 occasions and she was left in fear of her life. The verdict and lengthy, well-reasoned Judgment, including the Confidential Judgment, have been affirmed. Mr. Depp's claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the Court."
Thursday's ruling closes the door on the Pirates of the Caribbean actor's legal action against The Sun newspaper for labeling him as a "wife-beater" in a 2018 article. Last week, Depp argued that the original trial ruling should be overturned on the basis that Amber Heard's pledge to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity was a "calculated and manipulative lie" that "subliminally" influenced Justice Nicol.
They backed this assertion up with new evidence they say shows the actress has donated a total of $550,000 to the ACLU and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles since the couple's 2016 divorce.
It was, they claimed, far removed from the $3.5 million "the court was led to believe" each organization would receive.
In reply, Heard's legal team stated that she has done "nothing dishonest" with her donations to both charities and that she "pledged to pay over 10 years" — something they added was "understood" by the ACLU.
To support this, Heard's attorneys provided their own evidence, which they say showed that the Aquaman star has, in fact, gifted a total of $950,000 to the ACLU and $850,000 to the Children's Hospital through anonymous donors.
"She has pledged this amount," said Wolanski. "She is a donor."
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that it could not make a ruling about whether Heard's statements were "misleading." It added that Depp's legal team should also have raised the question of whether Heard's pledge was a "calculated and manipulative lie" during the original trial.
"Ms. Heard was not asked anything about her donation to charity in the course of cross-examination," the Court wrote in its formal judgment. "The question was never put to the test because she was never asked."
In reply to the Court's decision, lawyers for The Sun said the judge's ruling "fully vindicates" the newspaper's journalism, and "also Amber Heard who stood up to Mr. Depp in the face of his repeated attempts to silence her."
"It's a victory for the freedom of the press and for victims of domestic violence everywhere," added The Sun's attorney Jeffrey Smele in a written statement to PEOPLE. "In a case widely labelled as the 'libel trial of the century,' the court heard evidence from over 30 witnesses and reviewed more than a dozen files of evidence. The Court of Appeal has now turned down any form of additional appeal. For our clients this will thankfully, finally, bring this matter to a close.
"Mr. Depp's claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the Court"
While Thursday's ruling signals the end of Depp's legal case in the UK courts, the actor is still fighting a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in the U.S., which is scheduled to begin on May 3 in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Speaking on behalf of Depp, Joelle Rich, from Schillings Partners in London, stated that the Hollywood star was still prepared to pursue the American strand of his legal action against his ex-wife.
"The evidence presented at last week's hearing further demonstrates that there are clear and objective reasons to seriously question the decision reached in the UK court," wrote Rich in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "Mr. Depp looks forward to presenting the complete, irrefutable evidence of the truth in the US libel case against Ms. Heard where she will have to provide full disclosure."