Depp VS. Heard: Summary of the Defamation Trial Timeline

The defamation trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in 2022 could be easily regarded as one of the most significant legal battles that year. With such immense attention, the case became the focal point of the Netflix docu-series titled “ Depp V. Heard.”

Below is an interactive timeline of the whole case, you can click here to open it in a new window

The trial’s unfolding blew up the internet as media and public interest escalated to a fever pitch. Before immersing ourselves in the trial timeline of the defamation case, it is essential to establish an understanding of what defamation exactly is.\

When your reputation, your very essence, is under attack, tarnished by false statements, misleading information, or malicious rumors, it can be regarded as defamation. Defamation is a legal and ethical labyrinth where the impact of a single sentence can ripple through lives, careers, and connections. For instance, after Amber Heard accused Pirates of the Caribbean star, Johnny Depp of domestic abuse, he was dropped from the show, including from his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts. 

Forming assumptions and viewpoints is easy at this point. However, before proceeding, here’s an overview of the couple’s relationship, the events that unfolded, the factors that contributed to their ultimate tragic conclusion, and the legal timeline of the defamation proceedings.

Timeline of Depp and Heard’s Relationship

2009: The Rum Diary

Depp and Heard crossed paths while working on the production of “The Rum Diary”, a film based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Depp played the role of Paul Kemp, who decides he has enough of New York and takes a job in Puerto Rico. There, his fixation centers on Chenault, portrayed by Heard, who happens to be the fiancé of a shady businessman.

2012: Dating

Several years after they met on the set of “The Rum Diary,” Johnny Depp and Amber Heard finally started dating. Their relationship occurred following Depp’s separation from longtime partner, Vanessa Paradis.

2014: Engaged

Heard first sparked rumors that she and Depp were engaged after she was seen leaving a restaurant in West Hollywood wearing an engagement ring. Depp later appears to have confirmed the engagement rumors during interviews. Eventually, the official confirmation landed on the pages of the Daily Mail.

2015: Getting Married and Heard’s Illegal Importation Charges

Following their marriage in an intimate Bahamas ceremony, Heard and Depp found themselves facing backlash for sneaking their dogs, Pistol and Boo into Australia.

In response, the couple released an awkward apology video acknowledging their breach of the country’s bio-security regulations. This incident led to legal action against Amber Heard, who faced charges for unlawfully importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and for providing a falsified document.

2016: Heard Files for Divorce

In May, Heard filed for divorce and was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp.

Through a joint statement, the couple made it known that they had settled their divorce. Heard also emphasized her intention to donate the proceeds from the settlement to charity.

The Allegations and Counter-allegations

2016: Amber Heard’s Allegations

Prior to filing a divorce, Depp allegedly had thrown a phone at Heard’s face, resulting in her obtaining a temporary restraining order against him.

On the night of the phone incident, police officers were called to the couple’s residence. Officers who responded testified that Heard opted not to file a report, and they did not see evidence of a crime.

A judge turned down Heard’s plea for Depp to partake in a year-long anger management program and declined the extension of the protective orders to the couple’s dogs.

2017: The Couple Finalizes Their Divorce

Having arrived at an extrajudicial settlement amounting to $7 million in August 2016, which Heard donated to the ACLU, the former couple finalized their divorce proceeding in January 2017.

2018: Op-ed for The Washington Post

At the heart of the defamation lawsuit, Heard wrote the op-ed for The Washington Post. In the op-ed, she writes “ I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of the culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”

Her article mentions her encounters with abuse from her upbringing to her adult life, with no explicit mention of Depp’s name throughout the article.

2019: Johnny Depp’s Response

Depp vehemently denied the allegations against him, portraying himself as the victim of false accusations. He filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard, claiming that her op-ed in The Washington Post, where she discussed being a survivor of domestic abuse, implied that he was the abuser. 

The COVID-19 pandemic led to multiple delays in the lawsuit’s progression.

The Trial Timeline

2019: The Defamation Lawsuit

The legal battle intensified when Johnny Depp filed his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard. The case was based on the premise that Heard’s public statements had damaged his reputation and career. The trial began with both parties presenting their arguments and evidence to the court. 

2020: Revelations and Counterclaims

The Daily Mail published an audio recording allegedly saying she hit Depp.

Later, a libel trial took place in the United Kingdom regarding the British tabloid “The Sun” labeling Depp, a “wife beater.” Depp sues both executive editor Dan Wooton and The Sun’s parent company News Group Newspapers.

Depp’s former partner Paradis comes to Depp’s defense by furnishing a statement asserting that the actor is “completely uncharacteristic” of a violent individual.

2021: Countersue

Amber Heard countersued Johnny Depp for $100 million in response to statements made by his lawyer referring to her allegations as a hoax.

2022: Kick-off of the trial

April 11, 2022

The weekslong defamation trial starts, with Heard and Depp appearing in a courtroom in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

During the opening statement of the defense’s presentation, Attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn reads the complete Post op-ed authored by Heard to the jury, emphasizing that the actress exercised her right to free speech.

April 19, 2022

Depp takes the stand and undergoes a four-day testimony. His legal team presented evidence pertaining to Heard’s alleged abuse, while Heard’s lawyers focused on Depp’s history of substance abuse, along with text messages and recordings, claiming Depp was the instigator of the violence.

During his time on the stand, Depp claims that Heard would initiate conflicts and amplify their disputes. At the conclusion of his four-day testimony, when asked what he lost due to Heard’s op-ed, Depp responds “Nothing less than everything.”

May 4, 2022

On May 4, during Heard’s initial day of testifying, Heard paints a picture of a man who fluctuated between periods of substance addiction and sobriety, which she says made it hard to sustain their relationship. 

She claims that during a vacation with Depp in May 2013, he conducted a “cavity search” on her, while searching for his cocaine. She recounts other instances of alleged abuse, including when Depp alleged to have hit her for the first time.

May 24, 2022

Depp’s legal team formally asked Judge Penny Azcarte to dismiss Heard’s $100 million countersuit, on the basis that Heard failed to satisfy the burden of proof concerning the statements attributed to Depp’s former attorney. However, the request was unsuccessful.

May 25, 2022

Depp takes the witness stand once more and when questioned about his reaction to Heard’s testimony, he expresses, “ It’s insane to hear heinous accusations of violence, sexual violence, that she’s attributed to me, that she’s accused me of. I don’t think anyone enjoys having to split themselves open and tell the truth, but there are times when simply has to because it’s gotten out of control. Horrible, Ridiculous. Humiliating. Ludicrous. Painful. Savage. Unimaginable brutal. Cruel. Um, and all false. All false.”

May 26, 2022

Heard also makes her second appearance on the stand, just before the closing arguments. She reveals that she has received numerous death threats since the trial began. 

She leaves a final statement, saying “ Johnny has taken enough of my voice and the right to tell my story. I have the right to say what happened… I have the right as an American to talk about what happened to me. To own my story and my truth.”

May 27, 2022

The jury, comprised of seven members and two alternatives begins deliberating after hearing the closing arguments.

June 1, 2022

The jury reached a verdict, concluding that Heard defamed Depp. Depp was awarded $5 million in punitive damages and $10 million in compensatory damages.

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages in her counterclaim, but nothing on punitive damages.

Events After the Trial

August 8, 2022

Johnny Depp became the face of SAUVAGE, a new fragrance from Dior. Dior is a French luxury brand that stood with him as he faced choppy PR waters and amid his legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard. 

October 11, 2022

Amber Heard filed an appellate brief, listing 16 grounds for appeal. The grounds for appeal include the absence of “clear and convincing evidence” to establish malice, and failure to nullify the damages awarded by the jury given that both Heard and Depp defamed each other.

December 19, 2022

Amber announced on Instagram that she has settled the defamation case. 

She wrote, “ It’s important for me to say that I never chose this. I defended my truth and in doing so my life as I knew it was destroyed. The vilification I have faced on social media is an amplified version of how women are re-victimized when they come forward.”

The Hype, Social Media, and Concerns

Numerous individuals found it difficult to control their emotions following the trial’s verdict, and on platforms such as Reddit, some hailed the decision as the “most favorable outcome.” On TikTok, one user even shared a video of herself in tears.

However, not all users on social media rejoiced in the decision, as some voiced concerns regarding what it might imply for future survivors of domestic violence.

The Defamation Case Timeline Presented Through a Legal Timeline Software

Given the divided opinions on the case outcome, here’s a summary of the defamation court case timeline visually presented with TrialLine. This tool offers a clear understanding of the chronological order of events and evidence. Users can also color-code the events to mark the start and conclusion of various phases in the case. Check out the courtroom presentation below: (Click on the image to view)


Schedule a demo with TrialLine, the leading timeline software designed for legal professionals. Gain valuable insights on leveraging TrialLine for effective courtroom case presentations, seamless app navigation, and the preparation of compelling evidence to secure favorable case outcomes.

Start your 14-day trial today and streamline your case management processes with our legal timeline software.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.