Judy Bellinger, the court stenographer during the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, said in an interview with Law & Crime Network that she witnessed several jury members dozing off to sleep during the course of the trial, which started April 11 and ended June 1. Law & Crime Network earned millions of views online from live-streaming the trial. Bellinger said she saw jury members in both the front and back rows falling asleep.
"It was tough," Bellinger said. "There was a lot of video deposition and they'd just sit there and all of a sudden I'd see their heads drop."
While Bellinger said the majority of the jury was "very intent" and "listening intently" during the trial, she added, "Unfortunately, when the jury was chosen we knew there were going to be some that wouldn't see it all the way through."
According to Bellinger, the single best jury member was an alternate who didn't get to stay with the trial through the end. "The one alternate was probably the one that listened the most," she said. "I watched her facial expressions. She was very deeply into every word that was being said. I thought she would've made a great juror but she did not get to see it to the end ... She was the best juror. She was paying close attention. There were a few jurors dozing off. She never dozed off."
The jury in the trial ruled that Heard defamed Depp when she wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed alluding to her past claims of domestic violence. Heard is now ordered to pay US$10.35mil in damages to Depp (US$10mil in compensatory damages and US$350,000 in punitive damages). The jury awarded Heard US$2mil in compensatory damages for her counterclaim.
Elaine Bredehoft, Amber Heard's attorney, criticised the jury after the trial, claiming they were "absolutely" swayed in Depp's favour due to the overwhelming vitriol against Heard on social media platforms. Social media was largely on Depp's side, as evidenced by the viral TikTok trend in which users widely mocked Heard's testimonies.
"Jurors [weren't supposed to be looking at social media], but how can you not [be aware]?" Bredehoft said. "They went home every night. They have families. Their families are on social media. We had a 10-day break in the middle because of the judicial conference. There is no way they couldn't have been influenced by it. It was was horrible. It was really, really lopsided. I was against cameras in the courtroom and I went on record with that and argued against it because of the sensitive nature of this. It made it a zoo." – Reuters