Amber Heard’s lawyers on Friday asked for a mistrial in the Johnny Depp defamation case after learning that the wrong juror showed up to court.
Heard’s attorneys say they recently discovered that one of the seven jurors had not received a jury summons. Instead, the summons went to a person in the same household with the same last name, who is 25 years older. The names were redacted from the filing, and it is not clear what their relationship is.
“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,” wrote Heard’s attorneys, led by Elaine Bredehoft. “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.”
Bredehoft went on to argue that Heard had been deprived of her right to a fair trial, and asked the court to order a new trial.
The jury in Fairfax, Va., ruled on June 1 that Heard had defamed her ex-husband by writing an op-ed in the Washington Post that alluded to past allegations of domestic violence. She was ordered to pay $10.35 million in damages. Depp was also found liable for statements made by his lawyer, Adam Waldman, and was ordered to pay $2 million to Heard.
It is not clear how the court will handle the juror situation. Jon Katz, an attorney in Fairfax, said the court may not rule that the whole trial was tainted.
“It’s going to come down to whether Amber can show real prejudice,” he said.
Lawyers sometimes scrutinize the backgrounds of potential jurors. If the wrong person showed up to the trial, Heard’s lawyers would not have had the opportunity to do a criminal background check or look up the juror’s social media posts in search of potential biases.
Heard’s attorneys first referenced the juror issue in a motion filed last week to set aside the verdict. In that motion, they also argued that Depp’s lawyers had improperly sought damages for conduct that predated the op-ed, and argued that the verdict should be vacated for a host of other reasons as well.
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