'Washington Post' Adds Editor's Note to Amber Heard's 2018 Op-Ed After Johnny Depp Defamation Verdict

The jury found that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp in her December 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post

The Washington Post has added an editor's note to the top of Amber Heard's op-ed about surviving domestic abuse after the verdict in the case, brought by Johnny Depp, found the article to be defamatory.

On Wednesday, the jury handed down its verdict, unanimously determining that Heard, 36, defamed her ex-husband Depp, 58, three times in her op-ed, which was published in December 2018. Depp's name was not mentioned in the article. The jury awarded Depp $15 million in damages, but the judge reduced that to $10.35 million due to a state law in Virginia. Heard, who was awarded $2 million in her defamation countersuit, plans to appeal the verdict.

On Thursday, the digital version of Heard's op-ed became amended with an editor's note that reads: "In 2019, Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation arising out of this 2018 op-ed. On June 1, 2022, following a trial in Fairfax County, Va. Circuit Court, a jury found Heard liable on three counts for the following statements, which Depp claimed were false and defamatory: (1) 'I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change.' (2) 'Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out.' (3) 'I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.' The jury separately found that Depp, through his lawyer Adam Waldman, defamed Heard in one of three counts in her countersuit."

Legal analyst Emily D. Baker tells PEOPLE she thinks it's a "smart move" for The Washington Post to add an editor's note rather than deleting the article from the website altogether: "Because this case is so watched and commented on, I think the op-ed is still needed for context. I appreciate that they put up the notice rather than take the op-ed down. And I appreciate that they included, with specificity, exactly the statements that were found to be defamatory."

"It would have been easier to just take it down and say nothing. But I appreciate they're saying, 'Anyone who's reading this, this is what happened,' " added Baker.

Actor Johnny Depp's attorney Benjamin Chew gives closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse.

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Roy Gutterman, a professor at Syracuse University's Newhouse School and director of the Tully Center for Free Speech, said in a press release that the verdict was "shocking" to some.

"At this point it is difficult to assess the long-term effect this decision will have on defamation law and whether it will chill future speakers and writers from addressing potentially controversial issues. I think it might have a chilling effect," said Gutterman. "... The defamation claim is based on a statement in a newspaper column. The weeks of testimony were at times lurid and even entertaining, but I'm not sure it adequately proved anything beyond the fact that two movie stars had an extremely volatile relationship."

Back in November 2020, Depp lost his U.K. libel suit in which he sued British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." Heard testified to back up the claims, and a London judge upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true." In March 2021, Depp's attempt to overturn that decision was overruled. In this case, Depp sued Heard directly, not the newspaper.

During the trial, Heard revealed that the American Civil Liberties Union wrote the first draft of the op-ed, and several teams of lawyers vetted it before it was finalized at the time. Heard testified that she did not write or approve the headline that was used on the online version, which includes the term "sexual violence" and differs from the one used in the print newspaper. (At the time, she did, however, tweet out a link to the article, which had the "sexual violence" headline visible.)

The print headline was: "A transformative moment for women."

Actor Amber Heards attorney Benjamin Rottenborn speaks during closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse

"I was intending to keep that private when this was published. I had not publicly ever accused [Depp] of that," Heard said of the "sexual violence" reference. In the trial, she testified in front of cameras that she was sexually assaulted by Depp, which he denies. She explained she didn't want her sexual assault claims to be made public, and that they were sealed from public view in the U.K. trial.

She said she "didn't notice" the web headline's wording when she made the tweet so she didn't ask the news outlet to change it: "Nor do I think I needed to," said Heard.

In her time on the witness stand, Heard said she was "proud" of the op-ed and even had the print version framed. About the op-ed, she maintained, "Every word of it is true."

Amber Heard listens in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia

"I was looking forward to the opportunity to lend my voice to what I thought was a great cause, which is just a conversation around women's issues and gendered issues that I think the whole country was having at that time," she said of why she participated in the op-ed. "... I was happy to lend my voice if I could."

Depp, in a statement after the verdict, said his "quest" with the lawsuit was "to have the truth be told." He said that "six years ago" his life was "forever changed" when "False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media," though the op-ed is from 2018. (Heard got a domestic violence restraining order after filing for divorce in May 2016, which made headlines at that time, two years prior to the article.)

He said her allegations had a "seismic impact on my life and my career" but "six years later, the jury gave me my life back."

Reacting to the verdict, Heard said in a statement that it is a "setback" for women and added, "I believe Johnny's attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the U.K. I'm sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly."

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