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Former celebrity couple Amber Heard and Johnny Depp wrapped up their fifth week in court Thursday, nearing a verdict in what has become one of the country’s most-watched trials.
Heard, who is being sued for defamation by Depp because of a 2018 op-ed she wrote about sexual violence, told her side of the story and called on witnesses who alleged Depp became more aggressive while addicted to drugs and alcohol, physically and mentally abusing Heard.
Depp’s lawyers are most focused on Heard’s line that says, “Then two years ago, I became a public figure, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Since the article was published in 2018, two years prior would be when she left Depp, with lawyers arguing that Heard is insinuating he was the domestic abuser.
But Heard testified this week that the op-ed titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change” wasn’t about Depp at all and denied ever wanting to initially name him.
“It’s not about Johnny,” she said. “The only one who thought it was about Johnny was Johnny.
“There was a greater cultural conversation being had around gender issues and I was happy to weigh in on what I saw as a unique phenomenon that typically women experience in our culture when they come forward against somebody more powerful,” Heard added.
To prove that Heard defamed him, Depp needs to show that she published the op-ed with a reckless disregard for the truth and with knowledge that her claims were false. Depp, who has denied abusing Heard and has alleged that Heard abused him, has an uphill battle to climb.
Heard argues she met “different versions” of Depp and oftentimes he didn’t remember what those versions said or did to her. She also claimed he hallucinated and accused her of acts like cheating in the beginning of their marriage in 2015.
“I was constantly doing a juggling act of what kind of version of Johnny I was dealing with,” Heard said.
She alleged that arguments would often escalate to violence, presenting photographs of scars on her arms while on the red carpet and saying that Depp threw her into furniture, slapped her in the face and punched her in the jaw.
“My perception was that no matter what I did, no matter what I did to deescalate, walk away from him, to confront him, nothing I did made a difference,” Heard said. “Nothing I did changed his rage at me.”
Heard filed for divorce from Depp in May 2016, two days after a fight took place in their Los Angeles penthouse. Paparazzi snapped photos of Heard’s facial bruises when she showed up to the courthouse that same week to obtain a restraining order against Depp.
Supporting Heard’s allegations, some of her witnesses provided their own personal experiences in dealing with Depp, including his ex and former costar Ellen Barkin, claiming in a 2019 pre-recorded deposition that he was “jealous” and “controlling.”
“I had a scratch on my back that once got him very, very angry because he insisted it came from me having sex with a person who wasn’t him,” Barkin said about his behavior during their relationship.
Two people who used to be very close to Depp – his longtime agent and former business manager – also testified on behalf of Heard, outlining Depp’s fall from grace in Hollywood, largely due to drugs.
“It also got around town,” Tracey Jacobs, his former agent, said about his bad behavior and unprofessionalism. “It made people reluctant to use him.”
Joel Mandel, his former business manager, said Depp’s quick rise in fame after he starred in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film caused him to dive into “a bigger life and a more expensive one” which included an increase in drug and alcohol use and “more erratic behavior, more stressful behavior.”
He said Depp’s spending made his lifestyle extremely hard to maintain, saying he spent periods paying $100,000 a month to get sober and $300,000 a month on full-time staff.
“I was extremely concerned and on a very, very regular basis expressing that concern and it seemed like an increase in expressing my concern, there was a level of anger directed in my direction,” Mandel said.
Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez countered Heard’s claims that she didn’t want to receive any publicity from her op-ed by arguing that her donation of her divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was meant to elevate her accusations against Depp.
Heard previously said she didn’t want any monetary gain from the divorce. Vasquez pressed her on why she never actually donated half of the $7 million settlement to the charity despite her statement in October 2018 saying that she did.
“I pledged the entirety of the settlement to the charities and I intended to fulfill those obligations,” Heard said about her 2018 statement, saying that she uses the words “pledge” and “donate” interchangeably.
“Sitting here today, you have not donated the $7 million – donated, not pledged – donated the $7 million divorce settlement to charity,” Vasquez pressed, arguing that Heard couldn’t use the excuse that Depp’s $50 million lawsuit prevented her from doing so since she received the settlement months before.
“I have not been able to fulfill those obligations yet,” Heard replied. “My interest is clearing my name and at the time I was being called a liar and my motives were being questioned and I did see it as important to clear that up.”
“You wanted to seem altruistic publicly,” Vasquez said to Heard. “You wanted to remind everyone of your claims of domestic violence against Mr. Depp.”
The trial will resume next Tuesday with proceedings expected to end on May 27.