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In Johnny Depp‘s defamation case against Amber Heard, the jury surprised many courtroom observers by deciding in favor of Depp. And there are questions and complaints about the procedure that arose in the wake of the monumental verdict.

You’re not alone if you’re still wondering why the courtroom opened to the public, why cameras came in, and why the jury wasn’t sequestered. Read on to learn more about why those things happened.

Amber Heard waits with her legal team in the courtroom, while Johnny Depp was not present
Amber Heard and her attorneys | Evelyn Hockstein/POOL/AFP/ Getty Images

Why was the courtroom open to the public during the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial?

Some commenters have complained the subject matter of the trial was too sensitive for public consumption. Heard’s testimony included details of the abuse she accused her ex-husband of inflicting on her. On the other hand, Depp’s mental health and substance use were displayed. He also made allegations of domestic violence.

Depp sued Heard in Virginia, where most proceedings in state courts allow for onlookers in the courtroom. And most civil proceedings like the defamation case between Depp and Heard are generally open to the public.

Technically, having a gallery of observers is viewed as part of due process. It’s a step toward keeping the process transparent and honest.

Why were there cameras in the courtroom during the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial?

The decision to allow cameras in the courtroom came from Judge Penney Azcarate. She said she felt a press pool might decrease chaos at the courthouse. Heard’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft argued against the cameras, but Azcarate found her reasoning did not apply to the case.

The New York Times wrote, “… Azcarate ordered that cameras be allowed, maintaining that Ms. Bredehoft’s argument about victims of sexual offenses would only pertain to criminal trials. The judge suggested that allowing cameras could make the courthouse ‘safer’ by giving a broader audience of viewers access to the case remotely.”

Why wasn’t the jury sequestered in the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial?


Amber Heard’s Attorney: Blame the Judge, Jury, and Johnny Depp’s Legal Team For the Verdict

Some observers have argued that Judge Azcarate should have sequestered the jury in the defamation case between Depp and Heard. But that’s a costly decision that is uncommon in Virginia.

“In almost all Virginia jury trials … the jury goes home at the end of each day and is simply told not to discuss the case with anyone nor to watch, read, or listen to news reports about the case. It is essential that you follow these instructions.” (Per an Answer Book for Jury Service from Virginia.)

Some trial-watchers suggest the jurors probably took their instructions with a grain of salt when they went home. But juror misconduct could lead to their decision being overturned. That would mean their collective sacrifice of six weeks of dedicating most of their time to the case while making $30 a day would be invalidated.

After the verdict, Bredehoft said Heard could not afford to pay $10.4 million in damage. She also said they plan to file an appeal in the case.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.