Amber Heard has been speaking out this week after what many considered her major legal loss to Johnny Depp earlier this month.
Amid the drip-drip-drip of tidbits from NBC News’ exclusive Savannah Guthrie interview with Heard — which airs in full tonight in a special edition of “Dateline” — there’s been some discussion about whether the “Aquaman” actor is asking for more legal trouble.
Guthrie even asked Heard if, having been found liable for defamation, she felt Depp would sue her again over their interview.
“I’m scared that no matter what I do, no matter what I say or how I say it, every step that I take will present another opportunity for this sort of silencing,” Heard replied in a preview clip released this week. “Which is what I guess a defamation lawsuit is meant to do. It’s meant to take your voice.”
When verdicts in the case came down June 1, the jury initially awarded $15 million to Depp, saying he had proved defamation, and $2 million to Heard, saying former Depp attorney Adam Waldman defamed her when he accused her and her friends of staging a hoax. (Depp’s award was immediately reduced to about $10.4 million by the judge, who capped the punitive part at $350,000, per state law.)
But in excerpts from the new NBC News interview, Heard has already said things such as “To my dying day, I will stand by my testimony” and “That’s all I spoke. And I spoke it to power, and I paid the price.”
Her testimony during the trial, which sprawled over six weeks starting in April, alleged that Depp physically abused Heard. The jury in Virginia didn’t believe that. And speaking truth to power and paying the price sounds a lot like the defamatory op-ed in the Washington Post that just cost her millions.
“There wasn’t enough or any evidence that really supported what she was saying,” an anonymous male juror in the case told “Good Morning America” on Thursday.
The jury, he said, was actually put off by Heard when she testified at the trial.
“The crying, the facial expressions that she had, the staring at the jury,” the juror said. “All of us were very uncomfortable … she would answer one question and she would be crying, and two seconds later she would turn ice cold. Some of us used the expression ‘crocodile tears.’”
Once the Guthrie interview airs in full, Depp “technically could file a lawsuit,” said Jeff Lewis, a defamation lawyer based in Southern California who was not involved in Depp and Heard’s recent trial. However, he added, “I don’t think it’s likely.”
Heard attorney Elaine Bredehoft said on the “Today” show the day after the verdict that her client “absolutely” intends to appeal the decision and that Heard would “absolutely not” be able to pay Depp the millions he was awarded.
The trial in Virginia was, according to Lewis, “a perfect storm of the extreme competence of his lawyers and less-than-competence by Amber Heard’s lawyers and social media and where we are with the MeToo movement. I can’t imagine he would roll the dice and hope for lightning to strike twice. I would be shocked if another lawsuit was filed.”
Lewis said to keep in mind that Depp “was just awarded millions of dollars for damage to his reputation for being accused of beating Amber Heard. He’d have a tough time proving additional damages from this interview.”
Depp’s team doesn’t appear to be feeling particularly litigious at the moment either.
“It’s unfortunate that while Johnny is looking to move forward with his life, the defendant and her team are back to repeating, reimagining and re-litigating matters that have already been decided by the Court and a verdict that was unanimously and unequivocally decided by a jury in Johnny’s favor,” a Depp spokesperson said in a statement Thursday.
Heard’s team was a bit more direct, with a spokesperson saying Friday, “If Mr. Depp or his team have a problem with this, we recommend that Johnny himself sit down with Savannah [Guthrie] for an hour and answer all her questions.”
Still, as long as Heard sticks to what she testified in court, she should be legally safe, said Ryan Baker, managing partner of boutique L.A. litigation firm Waymaker. Those statements are “decidedly privileged,” he told The Times. “A person can’t be sued for something they say on the stand.”
However, Baker said, if she were to allege any new facts in the sit-down with Guthrie, and those facts could be proven defamatory, it would be a whole new ballgame.
Lewis, meanwhile, was very surprised that Heard’s legal team agreed to let their client grant the interview.
“I’m just super shocked that her lawyers allowed her to do it, that she’s doing it, that she’s doubling down, that she’s not going to at least let her appeal try to run its course first before doing these interviews,” he said.
And the appeal — or striking some sort of agreement with Depp where he absolves her of liability if she drops the appeal — might be very important for Heard’s future.
“Defamation judgments are usually not dischargeable in bankruptcy,” Lewis said, “so if she doesn’t win her appeal, she’s stuck with paying this for the rest of her life.”
Heard’s full interview with Guthrie airs as part of “Dateline” tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.