Amber Heard declines to call Johnny Depp to stand after a fiery cross-examination

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A profile of a man wearing sunglasses and his hair in a short ponytail
Actor Johnny Depp participates in a 2022 defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Virginia. (Steve Helber / Associated Press)

Contrary to expectations, Johnny Depp did not return to the witness stand Monday in his ongoing defamation trial against Amber Heard.

At the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Virginia, Heard's legal team was expected to call Depp back to the stand after cross-examining the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor last month. However, Team Heard ultimately declined to interrogate Depp on Monday after a fiery cross-examination between Team Depp and one of Heard's witnesses nearly derailed the trial.

Depp filed a $50-million defamation lawsuit against Heard based on a 2018 op-ed for the Washington Post that referred to her as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard has countersued her ex-husband for $100 million, also for defamation, and both cases are being heard simultaneously. The action is being broadcast and streamed live via CourtTV.

Before Depp was supposed to testify on Monday, his attorney Wayne Dennison sparred with one of Heard's expert witnesses, psychiatrist David Spiegel, who spoke about trauma and intimate partner violence. At one point, Dennison grilled Dr. Spiegel for allegedly calling Depp an "idiot" during his deposition. Spiegel often became combative while fielding questions about his psychiatric evaluation of the Oscar nominee.

Under direct examination, Spiegel cited the American Psychological Assn. while defining domestic abuse and intimate partner violence as "recurrent abusive behavior by means of psychological, sexual or physical maltreatment for the purpose of achieving control." He painted Depp as a narcissist who exhibited "warning signs" of intimate partner violence on an "almost routine" basis.

"After it was all said and done ... he would apologize for letting this monster out, letting this anger out almost routinely," Spiegel said. "And there's very well-[recorded] evidence of that, starting early on the marriage in therapy from Ms. Heard. So that's very common."

Things got heated during cross-examination when Dennison attempted to undermine Spiegel's credibility by pointing out that he never interacted with Depp directly and suggesting that the psychiatrist based his opinions on Depp's movie performances.

Spiegel defended himself by reiterating that he has "reviewed a lot of professionals and their evaluations ... video deposition, picture deposition, court filings, emails" and "a whole lot of things that directly describe Mr. Depp and his behavior."

"Didn't you say that what you did was compare Mr. Depp's performance in lots of pirate movies against his deposition testimony?" Dennison asked.

"What I said was I've seen Mr. Depp do apology ads," Spiegel replied. "I've seen him interact with the media regarding to that."

When Dennison pressed harder, insisting that the witness previously compared the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films to "the depositions given in this case," Spiegel admitted he misspoke and apologized for what he said.

As Dennison and Spiegel continued to snipe at one another, Judge Penney Azcarate intervened, instructing the witness to "just answer the questions."

During his first round of testimony last month, Depp accused Heard of transforming from someone “too good to be true” into “this other person" while they were together. He also denied ever striking Heard, while Heard claims Depp physically and sexually abused her during their relationship.

Though he acknowledged a prior addiction to Roxicodone that began after he hurt his back while filming the fourth "Pirates" movie in 2010, Depp dismissed Heard's allegations regarding his drug use as “grossly embellished" and mostly "false."

Additionally, he accused Heard of throwing a bottle of vodka that severed the middle finger on his right hand during a fight. Heard testified that she did not become aware of Depp’s finger injury until the morning after the fight, during which Depp allegedly sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle.

Immediately before Spiegel took the stand, a hand surgeon testified Monday that Depp could not have lost the tip of his finger the way he testified he did earlier in the trial. Because his fingernail remained intact and the rest of his hand was largely unscathed, Dr. Richard Moore was skeptical of Depp's account of the injury.

While Depp testified he lost part of his finger when Heard allegedly threw a liquor bottle that smashed on his hand, Heard testified that Depp did it himself when he allegedly smashed a telephone against a wall.

On Monday, Depp's team of attorneys released its list of rebuttal witnesses, including British model Kate Moss, who dated the "Fantastic Beasts" star in the 1990s. Heard opened the door during her testimony for Depp's attorneys to call Moss to the stand by alluding to an incident in which Depp allegedly pushed Moss down a staircase.

When Heard name-checked Moss in court earlier this month, Depp and his attorney, Ben Chew, shared a celebratory fist-bump. If Moss takes the stand, she could either confirm or deny the rumor that Depp shoved her down a flight of stairs while they were dating.

Also on the list is Depp, who could testify for a second time during the upcoming rebuttal portion of the trial.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.