After three days of deliberation, the six-week long trial that saw millions of people glued to Court TV to watch actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard discuss intimate and lurid details of their troubled relationship concluded after the seven-person jury in Fairfax, Virginia, ruled in favor of Depp.
The ruling was welcomed by Depp, who triumphantly announced the verdict was giving him his life back. Heard, on the other hand, appeared crushed in court, as she said she was disappointed "beyond words."
The verdict was the final straw hitting Heard, who has been the subject of brutal, insensitive mocking on social media, as the vast majority of people following the trial and dissecting every word pronounced in court appeared to side with Depp.
"Over six long and at times brutal weeks of sensational allegations and intrusive evidence, robust cross-examination, sky-high headlines and the eyes of the world watching via live Court TV, the former couple and their marriage were laid bare and dissected like a macabre post-mortem on the operating table of the Virginia court," a lawyer told Newsweek.
Millions of people followed the trial, sharing clips from the case on social media and even performing troubling re-enactment of domestic abuse.
Amber Melville-Brown, a partner at international law firm Withers, compared the trial to the "litigation equivalent of Squid Game," the binge-worthy South Korean TV show that became a sensation around the world on Netflix last year.
She described the Depp v. Heard case as "confusing, unsettling, offensive and graphic, yet mesmerizing, as the contestants fought to the reputational death."
The reputational death, said Melville-Brown, was that of Heard.
"Depp has exited victorious, life-blood pumped back into his failing reputation, almost fatally wounded by his London libel loss; while Heard leaves with her credibility in tatters as her evidence was deemed false, defamatory and malicious by the jury," she said.
Heard won one instance of the case for $2 million, as the jury found she was defamed by Depp's lawyer. But the message from the jury is clear, as it was repeated by the headlines of newspapers around the world: Depp won the case.
Victory came despite a previous defamation case brought about by Depp against the British tabloid The Sun, who had called the actor a "wife beater," finding the tabloid's claim to be "substantially true."
Depp's tarnished reputation—which, should be said, was already marred by his problems with alcohol and drug abuse and his recent complaints of financial troubles—has made a comeback during the trial, as thousands of fans expressed their support on social media with slogans like "Justice for Johnny."
While Heard was called a psychopath and a liar, Depp's reputation has somehow made a comeback during the trial. Now, Melville-Brown said, it's bound to be restored by the verdict.
"Depp's reputation will be remedied from the damage wrought by the blows leveled at him during this trial, and the former London trial, and his win sets him on the path to recovery," she said.
"It's arguable that despite the win, some will still fear the toxicity that Depp may bring to their own brand by association with him as a result of the evidence heard in court. However, the power of his loyal and vocal fan-base should be comfort to those concerned at his pulling-power and, standing on the shoulders of this win Depp will no doubt work to remedy his reputation even further in the way that he responds to the result."
The same is not true for Heard.
"For Heard the verdict is damning," said Melville-Brown. "She has already suffered extreme backlash and 'death by TikTok' as she was relentlessly featured in unflattering and offensive memes arising out of her testimony. With the court now finding that she published false and defamatory allegations with actual malice, her road to rehabilitation will be much longer, rougher and tougher."
A spokesperson for Heard told the New York Times that the actor is likely to appeal the jury's verdict. From a legal perspective, Melville-Brown said it's a risky move.
"In the world of reputation-remediation and brand protection, you need to be able to navigate a crisis and whatever the result, keep your head above water and live to survive another day," she said. "Clearly easier for the victor than the vanquished to turn the page and move on, my advice to the winner and loser would be to dust themselves down, stand as tall as possible, and start a new chapter."
Melville-Brown advised against "adding more words to the narrative" which has already filled many columns in newspapers around the world.
"Both could lose more by the manner in which they respond to the result. With the verdict now out—absent any appeal—the trial is over; whatever mistakes the parties may have made in the past, neither should mistake litigation for life. While Amber Heard will be unlikely willingly to follow any advice offered, or path taken, by her nemesis Depp, she could do worse than heed his words on losing in London, when he said that he would not let the loss define him."