Things have turned judicially weird, swirling around Johnny Depp’s win over Amber Heard in his multimillion-dollar defamation suit last month. If there wasn’t enough drama…
A partially redacted new filing, by the Aquaman star’s legal team, said: “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.”
Attorney Elaine Bredehoft adds in language similar to a previous filing of June 24: “In this case, it appears that Juror No. 15 was not, in fact, the same individual as listed on the jury panel. Ms. Heard’s due process was therefore compromised. Under these circumstances, a mistrial should be declared, and a new trial ordered.”
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. 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, per report.
The summons for jury duty was sent out to a Virginia resident in April 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, according to the redacted filing. But it seems, however, that there are two individuals residing at the same address with, at the very least, “the same last name” — one a 77-year-old and another a 52-year-old, also according to a filing.
It looks like the latter was the one who showed up, despite the former being the one summoned. “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,” the damning filing asserts.
The filing implies that the younger individual made it all the way to the jury, not noticed by officers or clerks of the court, without apparently ever being asked to produce any ID, or with perhaps fake ID. Additionally, it looks like someone filled out the required online information form either intentionally or accidentally to say that they were born in 1945.
At the time and during the media-frenzied trial, Heard’s defense team was unaware of this, and 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.
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