Johnny Depp v Amber Heard: Most explosive moments so far in star-studded defamation trial

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The defamation trial opposing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has put the Hollywood heavyweight’s tumultuous relationship on full display inside a courtroom in Fairfax, Virginia.

Depp sued Heard, his ex-wife, for alleged defamation over an op-ed she wrote in 2018 in The Washington Post, in which she describes herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. Heard countersued her ex-husband, accusing him of allegedly orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his own lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment.”

Depp has asked for $50m in damages; Heard has asked for $100m and immunity against Depp’s claims. The trial is expected to last a total of six weeks.

The trial in Depp’s suit began on 11 April. Over the first two weeks of testimony, the jury has heard from a string of witnesses including the couple’s former marriage counselor, their friends and Depp himself.

The testimony has thus far painted a captivating and disturbing portrait of the actors’ doomed marriage, laying bare their violent fights, drug use and vicious words to each other.

Here are some of the biggest moments so far:

Week one:

Heard’s attorney brings new sexual assault allegation

During opening arguments on 12 April, Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft alleged that Depp sexually assaulted Heard with a liquor bottle on one occasion.

Depp shook his head in court as Bredehoft recounted the alleged incident. His attorney Camille Vasquez disputed the allegation of sexual assault in court. A spokesperson called the claims “fictitious” in a statement to The Independent.

Marriage counselor describes ‘mutual abuse’

A video deposition of Heard and Depp’s former marriage counselor Dr Laurel Anderson aired on Thursday (14 April). She discussed her past sessions with the couple.

Asked whether Heard had ever reported any physical violence by Depp to her, Dr Anderson said yes. Asked whether she had seen photos, she said she had but doesn’t remember when. Asked whether “there was violence from Depp toward Amber”, she said: “Yes, you’re right.”

“He had been well controlled for, I don’t know – 20, 30 years, and both were victims of abuse in their homes, but I thought he had been well controlled for decades,” she added. “And then with Heard he was triggered and they engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.”

Depp’s friend ejected as witness

Gina Deuters, who is married to a member of Depp’s staff and is herself a close friend of the actor’s, gave testimony in person on Thursday (14 April).

She answered questions about Depp’s drugs and alcohol use, telling the court she had seen him use weed and cocaine occasionally, and that she had seen him drink alcohol. Deuters testified that she had never seen Depp be violent or angry after using any substances or drinking alcohol.

At one point during her testimony, Heard’s legal team asked for permission to approach Judge Penney Azcarate. The judge conferred with the attorneys, then sent the jury out for a brief recess.

Judge Azcarate then asked Deuters: “Have you been watching the trial this past week?”

Deuters replied: “I’ve seen clips of it online, yes.”

The judge then confirmed that Deuters had watched clips of witness testimony, after which she told Deuters she was excused and her testimony was stricken from the record.

Week two:

The metaphorical heat in the courtroom ramped up dramatically on 19 April, when Depp took the stand. He testified under questioning from his own lawyers for two days before facing cross examination.

Depp is ‘not embarrassed’ to testify on fall from ‘Cinderella to Quasimodo’

“I can’t say that I’m embarrassed because I know that I’m doing the right thing,” Depp said after taking the witness stand on 19 April.

The actor told the court that he did feel exposed by the litigation, insisting that despite his successful career, he had always been a private person who had tried to shield his two children from “hordes of paparazzi’ and that he did not want them to see their parents as “novelties”.

But, he said he wanted to clear his name after it was smeared throughout the industry, saying: “It’s strange when you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo.”

Depp says Heard ‘grossly embellished’ substance abuse

The star said from the witness stand that his drug and alcohol use had been “an easy target” for the actress to hit after their marriage ultimately broke down. But Depp said he didn’t use for the sake of partying, but rather to dull the pain of past trauma.

“It has never been for the party effect, it has been trying to numb the things inside that have, that can plague someone who has experienced trauma,” he told the court in Virginia.

“The characterisation of my substance, of my quote-unquote substance abuse that has been delivered by Heard is grossly embellished, and I am sorry to say, but a lot of it is just plainly false.

“I think that it was easy, it was an easy target for her to hit. Because once you have trusted somebody for a certain amount of years and you have told them all the secrets of your life, that information can then, of course, be used against you.”

The second week of Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his former wife Amber Heard concluded with members of the jury being shown video and audio of the actor’s allegedly violent episodes (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AP) (AP)
The second week of Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his former wife Amber Heard concluded with members of the jury being shown video and audio of the actor’s allegedly violent episodes (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AP) (AP)

Depp describes his first kiss with Heard on set of The Rum Diary

The actor said that he and Heard had locked lips in a scene in which she walked in on him in the shower.

And he described how the pair continued the passion back in his trailer later in the day.

“I think there was something in the kiss in the shower that was real,” he added.

“So that day after work, Heard had come to my trailer and I was sitting there listening to old blues stuff and we had a glass of wine and we kissed.

“At that point my trailer was the only trailer in the parking lot, she had the mind to stay in the trailer for a while with me but I did not think that was a good idea on any level as there were nine Teamsters outside waiting to move the trailer.”

Depp said mother’s abuse ‘tore up’ his family

Depp also spoke at length about his difficult childhood, saying that his mother, Betty Sue Palmer, “had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be”.

Describing his mother’s violence, Depp said “an ashtray” could be “flung at you”. He added that she would hit her children in the head and that she could use a “high heeled shoe or a telephone or whatever was handy”.

He added that he started being able to see when his mother was about to “head into a situation where she was going to be riled up and somebody was going to get it. Generally, it was me”.

Depp said the family learned to deal with the physical abuse but that the verbal and psychological abuse “tore us up”.

He described his father as “kind”, “quiet”, and “shy” who would “amazingly remain very stoic” when Depp’s mother “delivered the pain”.

“He swallowed it, he took it,” Depp said, adding that he once saw his father punch a concrete wall, shattering his hand. “He remained a gentleman.”

Depp said his father leaving led his mother into a “deep, dark depression” and he mimicked her stumbling around the home after taking a multitude “of pills to try to take herself out”. She survived after having her stomach pumped at hospital.

He said his mother seemed to “calm down” after taking some “nerve pills” and that he, at the age of 11, would take one as well because he wanted “to calm down” but he “didn’t know how to” and that he wanted to “escape feeling so much”.

“That was the beginning – when I realized that nerve pills calm the nerves,” he said, adding that he had taken all the drugs “he was aware of” by the age of 15.

Actor reveals that he never saw Pirates of the Caribbean

The actor also said he had never seen one of his most successful films – Pirates of the Caribbean.

Depp first appeared as Captain Jack Sparrow in 2003 in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

The actor went on to also appear in several sequels, including Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, and Dead Men Tell No Tales.

“I thought that it had all the hallmarks of a Disney film – that is to say, a kind of a predictable three-act structure,” he said about his first thought about the first script. “The character of Captain Jack was more like a swashbuckler type that would swing in shirtless and be the hero.”

He then revealed that he never saw the film.

“I didn’t see it. But I believe that the film did pretty well, apparently, and they wanted to keep going, making more and I was fine to do that,” he said. “It’s not like you become that person, but if you know that character to the degree that I did – because he was not what the writers wrote, so they really weren’t able to write for him… Once you know the character better than the writers, that’s when you have to be true to the character and add your words.”

Depp likens relationship with Heard to his relationship with his mother

On Wednesday, Depp likened his marriage to Heard to his fraught relationship with his mother, calling it an “endless parade of insults”.

He recalled how “demeaning name calling”, being “berated” and “made a fool of” by Heard would frequently escalate into full scale arguments.

“If there’s a dialogue between two people, both people need to speak. But there was no way to fit a word in. It was a sort of rapid-fire, endless parade of insults,” he said, adding that he “was not allowed to be right and not allowed to have a voice”.

“You start to slowly realise that you are in a relationship with your mother, in a sense. And I know that sounds perverse and obtuse, but the fact is, some people search for weaknesses in people,” he said.

Amber Heard in court on 21 April (AP)
Amber Heard in court on 21 April (AP)

Actor’s tattoos are discussed

Depp was asked about Heard’s claims that the first time he struck her was in response to a comment about a tattoo.

The actor said that incident did not happen and reiterated that he never hit Heard or any other woman.

He added that this specific allegation never made sense to him because he would have no reason to strike a woman for making fun of his ink.

Probed further on whether Heard objected to any of his tattoos, he replied that he had “Winona forever” – a reference to his previous relationship with actor Winona Ryder – changed to “Wino forever”. It wasn’t clear which iteration Heard objected to or if she influenced the change.

Heard admits to hitting Depp in audio

Heard could be heard admitting to hitting Depp on a recording played in court.

Heard and Depp argued about the physical altercation on the recording, during which she said she hit Depp but she didn’t “deck” him. She also told Depp to “grow up”, calling him a “baby”.

“You told me to do it. You told me ‘go do that’,” Heard said on the recording.

“You punched me in the f***ing thing,” Depp said.

“You figured it all out,” Heard responded. “I didn’t punch you by the way.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t hit you across the face in a proper slap,” she added. “I was hitting you, I was not punching you. You’re not punched.”

Depp describes finger injury

Depp described in graphic detail a fight with Heard during which he claims she threw a vodka bottle at him, severing his finger.

“She then grabbed that bottle and threw that at me,” Depp said, demonstrating to the jury how he was sitting at the time. He said his fingers were resting on the edge of the bar and that the large vodka bottle “made contact and shattered everywhere”.

“I felt no pain at first all,” he said. “I felt heat and as if something was dripping down my hand.”

“I was looking directly at my bones sticking out,” he added. “Blood was just pouring out.”

Actor Johnny Depp gives evidence in court (AP)
Actor Johnny Depp gives evidence in court (AP)

Depp explains why daughter Lily-Rose Depp didn’t attend wedding

Depp was asked about his wedding to Heard on day two of his testimony.

During his testimony, Depp said his daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, the eldest of his two children with Vanessa Paradis, did not attend his wedding to Heard in 2015.

“Lily-Rose did not come to the wedding,” he said. “She and Heard were not on particularly great terms for several reasons.”

Depp cringes as he describes seeing photo of faeces on his bed

Depp described seeing a photo of faeces on his bed days after a fight with Heard.

Depp said on that he didn’t see Heard between 22 April and 21 May 2016 as he had “received some news that was as absurd and grotesque and cruel, and then I was shown a picture of what the problem was”.

He said he was shown a photo of “our bed and on my side of the bed was human faecal matter, so I understood why it wasn’t a good time to go down there”.

Depp said his “initial response” was to “laugh”.

“It was so outside, it was so bizarre and so grotesque that I could only laugh,” he added.

Depp tells how his mother’s death made him realise he wanted a divorce from Heard

Depp said his mother’s death in 2016 caused him to realise his marriage to Heard had to end.

“When those you love leave, we’re the ones stuck with the pain, with the grieving. But I was glad that my kids got to see her and give her her send-off, I suppose. But it opened my eyes quite a lot to a number of things,” he said.

Depp added: “It opened my eyes to the fact that – yes, try, in relationships, whether friendships, whether courtships, whether marriage. Try your best. If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work.”

Depp said he had then decided that he would call Heard and inform her of Palmer’s death, as well as his intention to file for divorce.

Heard filed for divorce from Depp on 23 May 2016 after 15 months of marriage.

Depp asked about texts saying he wanted ‘burn and drown’ Heard during cross-examination

Depp was asked about texts saying he wanted to “burn” and “drown” Heard. Mr Depp was asked if English actor Paul Bettany was “a good friend you’ve done drugs with” – a question Depp said was strange, but he later confirmed both aspects.

According to court documents, Depp texted Mr Bettany “Let’s burn Amber!!!” on 11 June 2013.

“Having thought it through, I don’t think we should burn Amber – she’s delightful company and easy on the eye, plus I’m not sure she’s a witch,” Mr Bettany responded. “We could of course try the English course of action in these predicaments – we do a drowning test. Thoughts? N.B I have a pool.”

“Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f*** her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead...” Depp responded.

“My thoughts entirely!” Mr Bettany wrote. “Let’s be CERTAIN before we pronounce her a witch.”

On 30 May 2014, Depp texted Mr Bettany saying, “I’m gonna properly stop the booz thing, darling...Drank all night before I picked Amber up....Ugly, mate...No food for days...”

Heard lawyer Ben Rottenborn also read a text from Depp to Heard’s sister, which read, “I never ever want to lay eyes on that filthy whore Amber”.

Former security guard Jerry Judge texted Depp on 26 April 2015, “Johnny it is lovely to see how you and Amber are so happy...” to which Mr Depp responded “Very, very kind mate!! All I had to do was send the monster away and lock him up!!”

On 28 June 2015, Depp texted his personal doctor David Kipper, “Amber and I have been absolutely perfect for 3 f***** months solid!! I have locked my monster child away in a cage deep within and it has f***** worked!”

Depp has testified that he only used the word “monster” to describe himself to placate Heard.

Depp elicits laughs with happy hour joke as he recalls doing drugs with Marilyn Manson

Depp got a laugh from the courtroom as he said every hour is “happy hour” and recalled doing drugs with Marilyn Manson, giving him a pill to stop him from talking so much.

Mr Rottenborn asked Depp about his drug use, to which Depp said he “found” drugs at an early age. Depp said earlier in the trial that he first took one of his mother’s “nerve pills” at the age of 11.

Depp said he was struggling in the spring of 2013.

“You would sometimes drink whiskey during the morning at that time?” Mr Rottenborn asked.

“I mean, isn’t happy hour any time,” Depp responded.

Depp reacts to audio of himself moaning ‘like a pained animal’ after mixing opioids and alcohol

Audio of Depp moaning in pain after mixing opioids and alcohol was played in court as the actor was cross-examined by lawyers for Heard.

On 24 May 2014, Depp and Heard flew on a private plane from Boston to Los Angeles.

Mr Rottenborn read an email from Depp to Heard sent the following day. “Once again, I find myself in a place of shame and regret,” Mr Rottenborn said, quoting the email.

In court on Thursday, Depp didn’t agree that he was “very drunk” on that flight.

Mr Rottenborn went back to the UK transcript in which Depp was asked if he had been drinking or taken drugs before or during the flight, to which Depp said, “sure, for the purposes of getting through this, let’s say yes – everything you have said – I agree”.

Depp said he was “caving in” to the questioning at the time.

The Heard legal team then played three excerpts from a piece of audio of Depp seemingly moaning in pain.

“It sounds like a pained animal and it’s my voice,” Depp said in response to the audio recording.

In the last excerpt, Depp’s former security guard Jerry Judge can be heard saying, “I’m going to stay with this f***ing idiot in case he gets sick”.

“The recording of the pained noises is not from that flight,” Depp said, without specifying where and when the recording was made.

Depp reacts to photo Heard took of him asleep with spilt ice cream while he was on opioids

The jury was shown a photo of Depp asleep on a couch with ice cream spilt across his lap.

Depp said he had worked a 17-hour day, taken some opioids, and that Heard gave him the ice cream “because she knew what was going to happen”.

Depp said the photo had been taken in Boston and that “Ms Heard asked me to hold the ice cream as she noticed that I was on the nod – that means falling asleep – from the 17-hour day that I had worked and also the opiates that I had ingested”.

“And if you’ll notice, my right hand is in my pocket, so I wasn’t participating in the festival of ice cream,” Depp added. “I was holding her ice cream because she knew what was going to happen – that I would fall asleep and it would drop and that was a wonderful picture to take for her.”

Mr Rottenborn asked Depp if it was her fault that the photo had been taken.

“She snapped it,” Depp said.

In an image shown in court, Johnny Depp can be seen asleep with ice cream spilt across his lap (Court documents)
In an image shown in court, Johnny Depp can be seen asleep with ice cream spilt across his lap (Court documents)

Depp trial shown messages he scrawled in blood and paint after severing finger in ‘vodka bottle fight’

On Thursday, the court was shown messages and “reminders” Depp scrawled in blood and paint after severing his finger in a fight during which he claims Heard threw two vodka bottles at him.

Among the pillars of Depp’s case is his claim that he was a victim of abuse by Heard.

Of the March 2015 incident in Australia which left him with a grisly finger injury, he told the court: “It was all getting too crazy.”

Being in the middle of something like a nervous breakdown, Depp said he started “to write in my own blood on the walls”.

“Little reminders from our past that essentially represented lies that she had told me and lies that I had caught her in,” he said, adding that he hid in a bathroom and texted his doctor to come over.

On Thursday, as Depp was questioned by Mr Rottenborn, he said there was “quite a bit of damage to the house during the entire incident” in Australia.

He added that there was “a coffee cup stuck into the screen” of the TV.

Johnny Depp wrote messages in mix of ‘paint and blood’ after his finger of severed, a lawyer for Amber Heard said (Court documents)
Johnny Depp wrote messages in mix of ‘paint and blood’ after his finger of severed, a lawyer for Amber Heard said (Court documents)

Mr Rottenborn said a window was broken and that Depp drew “a penis” on a painting, and that there were messages written in blood and paint all over the walls and furniture.

Depp suggested that Heard could have drawn the penis, saying that doing so was not “on top” of his mind.

Mr Rottenborn quoted Depp from his UK trial against The Sun, during which he said that “I recall painting on a lampshade, on a wall, on a mirror. I remember dunking my finger into paint thinner and using paint when I had run out of blood to paint with, and I could have defaced the painting I suppose, but I do not remember a painting specifically”.

Heard came to Australia after filming London Fields with Billy Bob Thornton. Mr Rottenborn said Depp wrote, “starring Billy Bob” and “Easy Amber” in one of the messages.