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  • Writer's pictureDr. Colin Harris

BEHIND THE SMOKE SCREEN: AN ANALYSIS OF THE DEPP V. HEARD VERDICT AND THE CONFLICT BETWEEN TRUTH…

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Dr. Colin A. Harris, EdD., Principal Investigator


REPORT OVERVIEW


Behind the Smoke Screen:

An Analysis of the Depp v. Heard Verdict and the Conflict Between Truth and Opinion


In 2019, Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation arising from the 2018 opinion editorial (op-ed) published by The Washington Post. On June 1, 2022, following a trial in Fairfax County, VA. Circuit Court, the jury determined that Heard defamed Depp with her statement in the online headline of the op-ed in The Washington Post: "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." The jury also found that Heard defamed Depp with the following statement in the op-ed's third paragraph: "Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out." The third statement, "I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real-time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse," was also defamatory against Depp. Simply put, the jury believed that Heard was the aggressor and lied about being abused by Depp. In Heard's countersuit, the jury found that Depp's attorney, Adam Waldman, defamed Heard with a statement alleging that Heard and her friends damaged the property and called 911 a second time after the police determined no domestic disturbances occurred. Waldman's statement follows, "Quite simply, this was an ambush, a hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn't do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So, Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911."


An anonymous Juror revealed to ABC News that Heard didn't present any evidence to support her sexual or physical abuse claims. The unnamed juror did not believe Heard's story and felt she was the aggressor. "A lot of the jury felt what he was saying, at the end of the day, was more believable…," said the juror. "He just seemed a little more real in terms of how he was responding to questions." His emotional state was very stable throughout…." Still, the mainstream media (MSM) appears reluctant to accept the jury's verdict and instead provides cover for Amber Heard's actions while ignoring the overwhelming evidence. As a result, a significant portion of the public has taken to social media to express their disdain for Amber Heard and frustration with the MSM.


The problem is that the MSM’s reporting on the Depp V. Heard verdict in the United States conflicts with the jury's findings, thus insinuating that the verdict was made in error and went against the overwhelming consensus. For example, the MSM has been pushing the narrative that the jury's verdict will have a chilling effect on women coming forward with abuse claims (PBS News, 2022), and the Depp v. Heard trial was an orgy of misogyny (The Guardian, 2022). They criticized the verdict accusing it of being a setback for women and domestic violence survivors (NBC News, 2022). On August July 13, 2022, NBC News aired a new 30-minute documentary titled A Marriage on Trial: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and Truth in the Age of Social Media, attacking Johnny Depp supporters and social media; simultaneously pushing the narrative that people should blindly believe Amber Heard. The documentary neglected to address the overwhelming evidence against Heard and her untrustworthiness. Instead of taking the MSM messaging at face value, I decided to gauge how the public feels about the facts related to the trial.


METHODOLOGY The survey was fielded online through a Google Form poll embedded on a Star Apple Creative webpage established specifically for that purpose. Fielding was conducted between July 21, 2022, and Aug 21, 2022. I notified individuals of the survey on several online outlets; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and several United State News post about the case, including the Daily Mail, The Independent, People magazine, Business Insider, NBC News, Variety, Good Morning America, and more.


The present report provides insight into people's understanding of the trial, the facts, evidence, and testimonies. It also provides insight into who the people thought was liable for defaming the other: Depp or Heard, and why they felt that way about it. I employed a Google Form Poll, a national online poll of people who watched the Depp v. Heard trial. I collected the data in 2022, and the dataset includes responses from 322 individuals. In this report, I examine respondents’ gender (e.g., male, female, and non-binary) and domestic violence characteristics (e.g., physical, sexual), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for differences between these groups. Respondents include 250 women, 47 men, 21 non-binary, and four identifying as other. This study identifies how these characteristics influence respondents' understanding of the case and the jury's verdict.

 






 

Key Findings


DESCRIPTIVE RESULTS

This section is a presentation of this study’s data and results. This study aimed to gather insight into what people think about the Depp v. Heard verdict. When analyzing the survey data, I identified several statistically significant differences (p <.05). I used the information from respondents to generalize the results to a larger population. The following section highlights the most notable findings about:


§ Physical Abuse Allegations

§ Sexual Abuse Allegations

§ Evidence Tampering

§ Trustworthiness

§ Fabricating Allegations

§ Defamation


Physical Abuse Allegations

Questions 7 and 8 on the survey focused on identifying whether (1) Depp physically abused Heard or (2) Heard physically abused Depp. To establish people’s understanding based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, “based on the facts presented in the trial, do you believe Johnny Depp physically abused Amber Heard?” And “based on the facts presented in the trial, do you believe Amber Heard physically abused Johnny Depp?” The responses to the two questions indicate that people believe Heard physically abused Depp during their relationship. The results also show that people don’t think that Depp physically abused Heard.


§ Two-thirds (65.6 percent) of people believe that Heard physically abused Depp, compared to just 37.2 percent of individuals who think Depp physically abused Heard. Also, 62.8 percent of respondents selected ‘No’ when asked if they believe Depp physically abused Heard.” However, when asked if they believe Heard physically abused Johnny Depp, just over one-third (34.4 percent) selected ‘Yes.’ See Figure 1.


§ Additionally, 62.9 percent of the women surveyed believe that Heard physically abused Depp, compared to 39.1 percent that believe Depp abused Heard. Also, 27 percent of the men believe Depp ever physically abused Heard, compared to about 79 percent of men who have the opinion that Heard was the physical abuser in the relationship. Of the individual who identifies as non-binary, just 37.5 percent believe Depp physically abused Heard, compared to 76.2 percent who believe Heard physically abused Depp. See Figure 1.


§ Just under two-thirds (66.3 percent) of respondents indicated being either a domestic violence or sexual violence survivor. Of those respondents, 63.2 percent believe Heard physically abused Depp, and 40.1 percent believe Depp physically abused Heard. See Figure 1.


§ About half (50.3 percent) of the respondents selected ‘Yes’ when asked, “do you have PTSD, or were you ever diagnosed with PTSD?” Over two-thirds (67.3 percent) of people with PTSD believe that Heard abused Depp, compared to 33.96 percent who believe Depp abused Heard. See Figure 1.


§ As depicted in Figure 2, 77 percent of the people who watched 90 percent or more of the trial believe that Heard physically abused Depp, compared to just 25 percent who believe Depp abused Heard.


Figure 1. Physical Abuse Allegations (% indicating “yes” or no”)

Figure 2. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Physical Abuse


Sexual Abuse Allegations

Question 9 on the survey focused on identifying whether Depp sexually abused Heard. To establish people’s understanding based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, based on the facts presented in the trial, do you believe Depp sexually abused Heard? The responses to the question posed indicate that people believe Depp did not sexually abuse Amber Heard.


§ Under two-thirds (63.4 percent) of respondents selected ‘No’ when asked if they believe Depp sexually abused Heard.” See figure 3.


§ Additionally, 60.4 percent of the women believe Depp did not abuse Heard. Just under 75 percent of the men think Depp never sexually abused Heard. Of the individual who identifies as non-binary, just above 78 percent believe the sexually abused allegations against Depp is false. See figure 3


§ Additionally, 60.4 percent of the women believe Depp did not abuse Heard. Just under 75 percent of the men think Depp never sexually abused Heard. Of the individual who identifies as non-binary, just above 78 percent believe the sexually abused allegations against Depp is false. See figure 3.


§ Notably, as depicted in Figure 4, 77 percent of the people who watched 90 percent or more of the trial believe Depp did not sexually abuse Heard, compared to just 23 percent who believe Depp sexually abused Heard. See figure 4.


Figure 3. Sexual Abuse Allegations (% indicating “yes” or no”)


Figure 4. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Sexual Abuse


Evidence Tampering

Questions 10 and 11 on the survey focused on identifying whether Depp or Heard tampered with physical evidence. To answer this question based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, “considering the evidence submitted by Johnny Depp, do you believe Depp altered or tampered with any of the exhibits before submitting them?” And “considering the evidence submitted by Amber Heard, do you believe Heard altered or tampered with any of the exhibits before submitting them?” The responses to the two questions indicate that most people believe Heard altered physical evidence before submitting them to the court.


§ Most people believe Heard tampered with evidence before submitting them. Just above 64.3 percent of respondents selected ‘No’ when asked if they “believe Depp altered or tampered with any of the exhibits before submitting them.” However, when asked, “do you believe Heard altered or tampered with any of the exhibits before submitting them,” just under two-thirds (64.6 percent) selected ‘Yes.’ See Figure 5.


§ Providing additional evidence of people’s understanding of the trial proceedings and the evidence provided, 63.6 percent of the women surveyed believe Heard altered or tampered with exhibits before submitting them into evidence, compared to 38 percent that believe Depp altered or tampered with his submitted exhibits. Also, 25.5 percent of the men believe Depp tampered with evidence, compared to 70 percent who believe Heard submitted doctored evidence. The overwhelming amount of individuals (76 percent) who identify as non-binary support the allegation that Heard altered her exhibits before submission, while just 25 percent believe Depp altered his evidence. See Figure 5.


§ Most (63 percent) domestic violence or sexual violence survivor believe Heard altered or tampered with evidence. In contrast, 37 percent believe Depp altered or tampered with evidence. See Figure 5.


§ The results show that two-thirds (66.25 percent) of people with PTSD believe Heard altered or tampered with evidence, compared to one-third (32.5 percent) who believe Depp altered or tampered with evidence. See Figure 5.


Figure 6 shows that 77 percent of people who watched 90% or more of the trial believe Heard altered or tampered with evidence, compared to just 22 percent who believe Depp altered or tampered with evidence. See Figure 6.


Figure 5. Evidence Tampering (% indicating “yes” or no”


Figure 6. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Evidence Tampering


Trustworthiness

Questions 12 and 13 on the survey focused on identifying whether Depp and Heard were telling the truth during their testimony. To establish people's understanding based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, "considering the totality of the evidence and Johnny Depp's testimony, do you believe that Johnny was truthful about the events that took place during his marriage to Amber Heard?” And “considering the totality of the evidence and Amber Heard's testimony, do you believe that Heard was truthful about the events that took place during her marriage to Johnny Depp?” The responses to the two questions indicate that people feel that Depp was more trustworthy compared to Heard.


§ Many people (63.4 percent) hold that Depp was truthful about the events during his marriage to Heard. However, when presented with the same question about Heard’s trustworthiness, only 35.4 percent felt that she was believable. See Figure 7.


§ Focusing on truthfulness, more women (61 percent) believe that Depp was forthcoming during his testimony compared to women who found Heard testimony believable (38 percent). Additionally, most men (75 percent) trust Depp’s account of events, compared to about 26 percent of men who believe Heard. Similarly, most people who are domestic violence or sexual violence survivors and those diagnosed or suffering from PTSD feel Depp was truthful, compared to Heard (60 percent to 39 percent, and 66 percent to 34 percent, respectively). See Figure 7.


§ As illustrated in Figure 8, 76 percent of the people who watched 90 percent or more of the trial believe Depp was truthful about the events that took place during his marriage to Heard, compared to just 23 percent who believed Heard’s account.


Figure 7. Trustworthiness(% indicating “yes” or no”)


Figure 8. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Trustworthiness



Fabricating Allegations

Question 14 on the survey focused on identifying whether Heard fabricated physical and sexually abused allegations against Depp. To establish people's understanding based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, "based on the totality of the evidence, do you believe that Amber Heard fabricated the domestic violence and sexual violence allegations against Johnny Depp?” The responses to the question indicate that people believe Heard fabricated abuse allegations.


§ Most people (63 percent) believe Heard fabricated the domestic violence and sexual abuse allegations against Johnny Depp. See figure 9.


§ Additionally, 61 percent of women and 74 percent of men feel that Heard lied about being physically and sexually abused by Depp. Most non-binary people (71 percent) also believe Heard fabricated the abuse allegations. See figure 10.


§ A majority consensus (60 percent) has emerged from domestic violence or sexual abuse survivors that Heard is lying about her abuse allegations. Additionally, two-thirds (65.6 percent) of people with PTSD do not believe Heard’s domestic violence and sexual abuse allegations. See figure 9.


§ Just over 75 percent of the people who watched 90 percent or more of the trial believe that Heard manufactured the physical abuse and sexual assault accusations. See Figure 10.


Figure 9. Fabricating Allegations (% indicating “yes” or no”)


Figure 10. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Fabricating Allegations



Defamation

Questions 15 and 16 on the survey focused on identifying whether litigating parties defamed each other. To establish people’s understanding based on the facts (evidence and testimony) presented during the trial and the inferences they drew, I asked, "do you believe that Johnny Depp defamed Amber Heard?” And “do you believe that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp?” The responses to the two questions indicate that most people believe that Heard defamed Depp.


§ Most people (62.3 percent) believe Heard defamed Depp by falsely claiming in her op-ed piece that she was a victim of domestic violence, compared to 37.6 percent that think Depp defamed Heard for his attorney alleging Heard staged the scene. See Figure 11.


§ Most women (60 percent) feel that Heard's statement in the op-ed was defamatory, compared to 40 percent that believe Depp defamed Heard. Around three-fourths (74.5 percent) of men believe Heard defamed Depp, compared to 28 percent who think Depp's attorney’s statement was defamatory. A significant percentage of the non-binary community (71.4 percent) also believes Heard defamed Depp, compared to 28.6 percent who believe Depp defamed Heard. See Figure 11.


§ Most domestic violence or sexual violence survivors (60.7 percent) believe Heard’s statement was defamatory, compared to 42 percent that believe Depp defamed Heard. Similarly, most people with PTSD (65 percent) believe Heard defamed Depp, compared to 36 percent who believe Depp defamed Heard. See Figure 11.


§ Emphasizing their understanding of the evidence presented in the trial, the more time people spent watching the trial, the more they believed Heard defamed Depp, and the less time they spent watching the trial, they thought Depp defamed Heard. As depicted in Figure 12, 75 percent of the people who watched 90 percent or more of the trial acknowledge that Heard defamed Depp, compared to just 25 percent who believe Depp defamed Heard.


Figure 11. Defamation (% indicating “yes” or no”)


Figure 12. Percentage of Trial Viewed (% indicating “yes” or no”) for Defamation


Conclusions


This study’s findings identify several key areas that provide insight into people's understanding of the trial, the facts, evidence, and testimonies. The findings also highlight who the people thought was liable for defaming the other: Depp or Heard, and why they felt that way about it. Based on the data reported in this study, I can conclude that:


§ The time spent watching the trial is directly related to people's support for the verdict.


§ Depp did not physically or sexually abuse Heard but Heard physically abused Depp.


§ The jury's verdict in finding Amber Heard liable was the correct decision.


§ Women, men, and non-binary people overwhelmingly support the jury's verdict.


§ Abuse survivors and people with PTSD believe Depp is the victim.



This study’s findings support the following conclusions:

  • Depp did not physically or sexually abuse Heard but Heard physically abused Depp. See the full PDF Report below.

  • Women, men, and non-binary people support the jury’s verdict. See the full PDF Report below.

  • Abuse survivors and people with PTSD believe Depp is the victim. See the full PDF Report below.

  • The jury’s verdict in finding Amber Heard liable was the correct decision. See the full PDF Report below.

  • People that believe Heard’s account of the events during her marriage to Depp either did not watch the trial or watched 20 percent or less. Individuals that watched 90 percent or more of the trial overwhelmingly believed Depp was truthful about his experience being married to Heard. See the full PDF Report below.







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8 comentarios


cpt Haddock
cpt Haddock
09 oct 2022

Thank you for doing all this work and sharing it with us. For me it has been a really liberating experience to watch the trial, my mother is so much like AH. But inside the family it's hushed up and when there is an audience she makes sure to set the scene and play the perfect angel so it's next to impossible to do anything about it. The AH trial has brought up so many elements that I know from my childhood and it's been a relief to watch Camille grill her on the stand in ways that are beyond impossible for normal families.

Watching the normal press coverage, both here in Denmark and in USA was an odd experience for me,…

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fm
22 sept 2022

Thanks for doing the research, looking at the report there are a couple of things missing which I think would be important to be able to interpret the results correctly, I'd be glad if you could add them:

- in the beginning you mention that some findings were significant to a degree of p <.05, yet later on you don't mention any p-values or specify which ones fall under this threshold. Which ones are they, and what are the exact values?

- the graphs need to include the confidence interval, using a box plot diagram instead of a simple bar chart would be more representative

- in cases where you look at an extraction of the dataset (like for example…

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Dr. Colin Harris
Dr. Colin Harris
23 sept 2022
Contestando a

Hello, FM. You have raised some excellent points. Nonetheless, and no offense to you, most of your comments are irrelevant. As stated in the PDF document, this is a summary report. I prepared the report for people outside academia, so I chose a simple bar chart to make it easy for anyone to understand. Therefore, your suggested addition would not align with said the goal of simplicity.

Additionally, each graph that includes "Percentage of Trial Viewed" shows the number of people in that specific category. Again, this is a summary report. Now, regarding your final request for data sharing. We can work something out if you would like to provide me with your information (via email) and a way to…

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TurboKitty
TurboKitty
11 sept 2022

Thank you for being so dedicated to the truth.

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Anna Plummer
Anna Plummer
11 sept 2022

Thank You, Sir, for your hard work on this, much appreciated! I seen you on Andy's channel, Popcorned Planet.


When I downloaded the pdf, it did not work properly, it downloaded, but the text is hidden by an orange cover.

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Dr. Colin Harris
Dr. Colin Harris
23 sept 2022
Contestando a

Thanks for the feedback. I found out that most people with issues were using their phones. We did our best to rectify the problems. About your suggestion of ways I could have had more participants, I am relatively new to many platforms, and many prominent content creators were reluctant to engage because there are so many bad-faith actors out there. I think that will change in time.

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