EXCLUSIVE: If there wasn’t enough drama swirling around Johnny Depp’s win last month over Amber Heard in his multimillion-dollar defamation suit, things have now turned judicially weird.
“Ms. Heard had a right to rely on the basic protection, as prescribed by the Virginia Code, that the jurors in this trial would be individuals who were actually summoned for jury duty,” says a new, partially redacted filing Friday by the aquaman star’s legal team (read it here).
“In this case, it appears that Juror No. 15 was not, in fact, the same individual as listed on the jury panel,” attorney Elaine Bredehoft adds in language similar to a previous filing of June 24. “Ms. Heard’s due process was therefore compromised. Under these circumstances, a mistrial should be declared, and a new trial ordered.”
Unlike the previous motion and memorandum placed in the Fairfax County courthouse docket late last month to dismiss the June 1 verdict and get a new trial, today’s supplemental memo has a lot more details on what could snatch victory from Depp in his long legal battle with his ex-wife
According to the redacted filing, the summons for jury duty was sent out to a Virginia resident in April of this year for the much delayed $15 million defamation action Depp had set off in March 2019 against Heard for a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she penned on being the “public face” of domestic abuse. However, also according to today’s filing, it seems that there are two individuals residing at the same address with, at the very least, “the same last name” — one a 77-year-old individual and another a 52-year-old individual.
The former was the one summoned, but it looks like the latter was the one who showed up. “Thus, the 52-year-old- (redacted) sitting on the jury for six weeks was never summoned for jury duty on April 11 and did not ‘appear in the list,’ as required,” Friday’s damning filing asserts.
Not noticed by officers or clerks of the court, the younger individual made it all the way to the jury without apparently ever being asked to produce any ID, or with perhaps fake ID, the filing implies. Additionally, it looks like someone filled out the required online information form either intentionally or accidentally to say that they were born in 1945.
Unaware of this at the time and during the media-frenzied trial, Heard’s defense team now wants an explanation and to see some consequences, which could take the shine off Team Depp:
As the Court no doubt agrees, it is deeply troubling for an individual not summoned for jury duty nonetheless to appear for jury duty and serve on a jury, especially in a case such as this. This was a high-profile case, where the fact and date of the jury trial were highly publicized prior to and after the issuance of the juror summonses. Virginia has in place statutory code provisions designed to ensure the person called for jury duty is the person arriving for jury duty.
Fairfax County’s Juror Questionnaire webpage furthers this goal by requiring all County residents to login using their 7-digit Juror number, Zip code, and “Birth Date.” Att. 5 (emphasis added). Those safeguards are in place and relied upon by the parties to verify the identity of the correct juror, to ensure due process and a fair trial for all litigants. When these safeguards are circumvented or not followed, as appears to be the case here, the right to a jury trial and due process are undermined and compromised
Neither reps for Heard or Depp responded to request for comment from Deadline on Friday’s filing. We are also attempting to contact the Virginia court for insight.
While the particulars are way out there, the gist of Heard’s move here is no surprise: Almost within a minute of the $10 million-plus verdict came down June 1 in favor of an absent Depp in Judge Penney Azcarate’s courtroom, Heard’s defense and $100 million countersuit team have promised to fight the ruling on appeal.
Facing having to put up am $8.3 million bond to move forward, Heard’s team may have chopped off the financial Gordian Knot with this apparent Keystone Kops-like incident.