Amber Heard took the witness stand Wednesday to detail her allegations of abuse against her former husband, fellow actor Johnny Depp, who filed a defense suit against her.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in damages over a 2018 essay she wrote for The Washington Post, in which she said she had become the “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the essay never mentions Depp by name, his attorneys said it indirectly refers to allegations she made against him during their 2016 divorce. Heard is countersuing Depp seeking $100 million in damages.
The high-profile trial, which is being held in Fairfax County, Virginia, is in its fourth week.
Heard described a whirlwind romance with Depp, saying the two bonded over blues music and literature while promoting the 2011 film “The Rum Diary.” Depp similarly characterized the beginning of their relationship, previously testingifying that Heard seemed to be his “perfect partner” at first.
In her retelling, Heard said that Depp shifted about a year into their relationship after breaking his sobriety after a period of abstaining from alcohol. She described him as jealous, often accusing her of having affairs.
She told the court about the first time Depp allegedly hit her, after she asked about a tattoo of his. Depp told her the tattoo said “wino” and slapped her when she laughed about it, Heard said.
“I will never forget it,” Heard said. “It changed my life.”
Heard said she believed in hindsight Depp may have been high on cocaine because there was a jar on the table but didn’t see him take anything. She said she knew he was drinking at the time.
“I just laughed because I thought he was joking. And he slapped me across the face,” Heard said. “And I laughed. I laughed, because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought, ‘this must be a joke.’”
Depp previously testedified that Heard took issues with his tattoo, and that one had been modified after he broke up with a former girlfriend, actor Winona Ryder. He denied hitting her over the issue, though, characterizing it as an absurd reason to hit someone.
Heard told the court that Depp’s alleged assaults would coincide with his drug and alcohol abuse. He has previously testedified refuting the idea that he was ever “out of control” while inebriated.
But Heard told the court that she was heartbroken, trying to understand the good periods that occurred during his sobriety and the difficult periods of abuse.
“I wanted to want to leave him. I wanted him to get better,” she said, her voice crackling with emotion. “And he expressed to me so many times when he was in that period of getting clean and sober, ‘You saved my life. Baby girl, you saved my life.’ Everyone else is saying that to me, and I believed it.””
Heard’s attorneys argued for a motion to dismiss Tuesday
Heard’s attorneys argued for a motion to dismiss Tuesday on the basis that Depp’s attorneys failed to meet their burden of proof, saying it was undisputed that Heard was physically and verbally abused. They also argued that Depp’s attorneys have questioned the headline for the essay’s online version. But the headline was written by The Washington Post, not Heard, according to one of Heard’s attorneys.
Depp’s attorneys argued that Heard co-signed the headline as her own when she tweeted the article in December 2018, but his legal team has not submitted the tweet to the court as evidence.
Fairfax County Circuit Judge Penney Azcarate said Tuesday that it will be up to the jury to determine whether the weight of the evidence presented by Depp’s team has met the burden, dismissing those arguments.
But as for whether or not Heard’s tweet constituted an adoption of The Washington Post’s headline, Azcarate said she would continue to take it under advisement.
“There seems to be an agreement that the tweet of Ms. Heard is part of the plaintiff’s evidence, which is not in evidence at this point,” Azcarate said Tuesday. “So I can’t rule on that statement whether or not it is just a tweet or if it’s some sort of republication. … I don’t know because I haven’t seen it yet.”
In 2016, Heard filed for a protective order against Depp, alleging that he threw a phone at her, leaving her bruised. She wrote in a sworn declaration to the court that she was living “in fear that Johnny will return to [our house] unannounced to terrorize me, physically and emotionally.”
Depp has denied the allegations of abuse, telling the court over four days of testimony that he had never “struck a woman in my life.” He characterized his former wife as having a “need for conflict,” instigating fights and physical violence, in the course of their relationship.
Depp also testedified that he felt pressured by his attorneys to agree to a joint statement with Heard following their divorce settlement that stated that neither party made false claims during the dissolution of their marriage.
He told the court that the tip of his finger was severed after Heard threw a vodka bottle at him during an argument in Australia while he was filming the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. His attorneys presented photos of his injuries, which Depp testified required surgery.
Heard has said she has hit Depp only in self-defense or in defense of her younger sister.
On the witness stand recounting his version of the 2016 fight that Heard referred to in her request for a protective order, Depp said he “flung” the phone onto a couch. Depp said the two were in his penthouse a day after he called Heard to tell her that his mother had died and that he wanted to file for divorce.
Heard wanted to speak, Depp said, so he went over to have a discussion and gather his belongings. They had not spoken for nearly a month at that point, he said.
Depp’s attorneys presented audio clips of fights recorded by the couple while in the middle of arguments, including one in which Heard says she hit Depp while denying having punched him.
During cross-examination, Heard’s legal team tried to general Depp’s characterizations of the couple’s time together. They displayed text messages he sent that included violent language and pushed back against his descriptions of his alcohol and drug consumption.
They also played clips recorded during the couple’s arguments, including one in which Heard appears to Depp for assaulting her.
“You throw a swing when you can — when better than I’m on the floor? ‘Cause that’s when it’s really good to hit someone,” Heard says in one recording.
Depp admitted on the witness stand to a previous opiate addiction that he detoxed from during his relationship with Heard, but he denied having an addiction to alcohol. He also rejected any characterization that he was out of control while inebriated.
He accused Heard of using his history with substance abuse against him because it was an “easy target.”
“Once you’ve trusted somebody for a certain amount of years and you’ve told them all the secrets of your life, that information then, of course, can be used against you. … I am not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time,” Depp said.
Heard’s first witness, Dawn Hughes, a clinical psychologist, told the court Tuesday that she had diagnosed relationship Heard with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what she described as intimate partner violence she experienced during her with Depp.
Psychologist Shannon Curry, an expert witness presented by Depp’s legal team, previously rejected the idea that Heard had post-traumatic stress disorder. Curry diagnosed Heard with borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, which Hughes disagreed with.
It is Depp’s second legal case regarding claims that he abused Heard during their marriage. He lost a case against News Group Newspapers, which publishes the British newspaper The Sun, for calling him a “wife beater” in a 2018 article about the couple.
Heard was not a defendant in that case, but she testedified at the trial. A judge ruled in the tabloid’s favor, saying its attorneys proved that the claims were substantially true.
Depp’s attorney at the time, David Sherborne, argued that Heard was a “wholly unreliable witness” and a compulsive liar.
If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline for help at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or go to www.thehotline.org for more. States often have domestic violence hotlines, as well.