Johnny Depp, Amber Heard libel trial: Everything that's happened so far
20th May 2022

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s legal battle continues as the divorced movie stars face off in a $50 million (or more) libel trial.

The trial began April 11 in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., and is broadcasting live.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million, alleging she defamed him in an opinion column she published in The Washington Post (which is printed in Fairfax County) in December 2018. In the column, she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse.

Heard took the stand for the first time on May 4 and through tears, she described the first time Depp allegedly turned violent against her. “I will never forget it. It changed my life,” Heard told the jury, recalling Depp allegedly slapping her “across the face.”

The following day, Heard continued her testimony and recounted how in a jealous rage Depp flung her into a ping pong table and then sexually assaulted her with a bottle that she feared was broken.

Depp has maintained that he was never abusive towards his ex-wife and alleges that she has an unstable personality that craved drama.

Johnny Depp takes the stand in Amber Heard trial, says claim has ‘no truth to it whatsoever’

Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial: Exes face off in court over multimillion dollar libel case

Here’s everything that’s happened in the trial (so far).

Ellen Barkin recalls Johnny Depp as controlling during their dating months

Barkin, the actress who dated Depp for a few months in the ’90s, described the actor as controlling and jealous in a recorded deposition played at the trial Thursday.

“Where are you going?” Barkin said Depp would ask her. The actress described their relationship as largely sexual. “Who are you going with? What did you do last night?”

Barkin added: “I had a scratch on my back once that got him very, very angry because he insisted it came from me having sex with a person who wasn’t him.”

Barkin, who co-starred in the 1998 Depp film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” said that during filming Depp threw a wine bottle in her direction while he was fighting with some friends in a hotel room. However, she said she didn’t know why he threw the bottle.

Other recorded depositions played for the jury also characterized Depp as an out of control force whose spending and drinking only escalated after he reached megastardom in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

Amber Heard’s sister says she saw Johnny Depp land blows

Heard’s sister, Whitney Heard Henriquez, testified Wednesday that she not only witnessed Depp land blows in a fight with her sister, but that she was forced to intervene in order to protect the actress.

Henriquez said the fight took place in 2015 shortly after the couple married. Heard had discovered that her new husband had cheated on her; Depp countered that Heard had forced him into the extramarital affair, Henriquez said. Her testimony is the first eyewitness account of Depp striking Heard. Depp has denied hitting his ex-wife.

Also Wednesday, a onetime friend of Heard’s, Raquel Pennington, said in a pre-recorded video deposition that while she never saw Depp hit Heard, she often saw Heard with cuts and bruises. After one fight, Pennington photographed Heard’s facial injuries. Heard told her friend that the actor had head-butted her.

The photos Pennington took showed a swollen nose, a cut lip, and two moderately black eyes on Heard’s face. She also took a photo of strands of hair that she said were ripped from Heard’s scalp.

Amber Heard talks about Washington Post op-ed, alleged sexual assault

Heard returned to the stand on Tuesday facing stiff cross-examination questioning about both a fight in Australia that resulted in an alleged sexual assault, as well as the more recent Washington Post op-ed at the center of Depp’s libel lawsuit.

The actress previously testified that he sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle during the fight, and he has testified that she severed the tip of his finger. Both have denied the other’s allegations.

Depp’s attorney Camille Vasquez said Heard didn’t seem to be scared of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor despite the alleged assault. “This is a man who tried to kill me,” the actress testified in response. “Of course it’s scary. He’s also my husband.”

Vasquez also addressed the op-ed during Heard’s testimony on Tuesday, asking if specific parts of the article were about Depp. Heard said the article was in response to the #MeToo movement rather than specific to her ex-husband.

“When powerful men, in general, do something horrible or something they shouldn’t there is a system in place to protect them, clean up after them, maintain them, keep them afloat,” Heard testified of her op-ed. “It was not about him.”

She later added: “It was a reference to a general larger phenomenon, not just Johnny.”

Amber Heard describes bruise cover-ups, denies leaving fecal matter in bed

Heard took the stand Monday and described a 2016 fight she had with Depp in which he allegedly threw a phone at her. The fight led to her filing for divorce.

Jurors in the trial were shown photos of Heard’s face after that altercation, which clearly showed redness and swelling. Depp’s lawyers have argued that Heard is concocting claims of abuse, and Los Angeles police officers who testified earlier in the trial did not report seeing evidence of facial injuries.

Heard also testified she became an expert at hiding evidence of abuse, using a make-up color wheel that allowed her to apply different shades of make-up that counteracted the bruising depending on the healing process stage. “I’m not going to walk around L.A. with bruises on my face,” she said.

Heard also rebutted accusations that in retaliation she left human fecal matter in the couple’s bed, saying it was likely the couple’s Yorkshire terrier who had developed bowel problems after eating Depp’s marijuana.

“Absolutely not,” she said about the alleged poop prank. “I don’t think that’s funny. I don’t know what grown woman does. I was not in a pranking mood.”

Amber Heard tells jurors Johnny Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle

A tearful Heard took the stand Thursday to recount how in a jealous rage Depp flung her into a ping pong table and then sexually assaulted her with a bottle that she feared was broken.

“I couldn’t get up,” Heard said, crying. “I thought he was punching me. I could just feel this pressure on my pubic bone.”

The incident took place in 2015, shortly after their marriage and as Depp was starting to shoot the fifth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series in Australia.

Heard said that Depp was angry almost from the moment she arrived at their home, convinced that she was having affairs with some of her co-stars, including Billy Bob Thornton and Eddie Redmayne. Heard denied having the affairs.

During the fight, Heard said she thought a drunken Depp was assaulting her with his fist, but later figured out that she was being assaulted with a bottle. “I looked around and saw so much broken glass. I just remember thinking, ‘Please God, please don’t be broken,’” she said.

Amber Heard begins testimony, recalls ‘falling in love’ with Johnny Depp

Heard began her testimony May 4 by recounting details from her childhood and early days in Hollywood, including meeting Depp on the set of 2011’s “The Rum Diary,” and how their relationship progressed from colleagues and friends to eventual romantic partners after filming wrapped.

The two had “no contact” for a while after filming – Depp at one point called her and invited her to his California home, Heard said, but they didn’t end up seeing each other until the press tour for the film later on. Heard said it was then that they began “falling in love” but kept things under the radar because his split with ex Vanessa Paradis, with whom he shares two children, had not yet been publicized.

“When I was around Johnny I felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world,” Heard said, later adding, “I fell head-over-heels in love with this man.”

As their relationship progressed, Heard said Depp took issues with clothing she wore and expressed concern she was cheating on him with friends. And arguments began to turn ugly, Heard alleged, with Depp tossing around expletives, smashing glass or turning over a table before leaving and coming back as the “wonderful, almost unreal… unbelievably nice, sensitive, warm generous funny man that I loved,” she said.

Amber Heard’s lawyers say she has PTSD from violent marriage

Heard suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from violence she suffered at the hands of Depp, including multiple acts of sexual assault, psychologist Dawn Hughes testified May 3.

Hughes said there is corroboration of many of the instances of abuse, including apologies and admissions made by Depp to Heard and admissions he made to friends in text messages about his bad behavior when he drinks. In some cases, Heard told her therapists about the abuse contemporaneously, Hughes said.

Depp has said he never physically abused Heard. Hughes said Heard acknowledged that she did at times push and shove Depp, call him names and insult his parenting.

Much of the violence, Hughes said, stemmed from Depp’s obsessive jealousy. He insisted she avoid nude scenes, if she worked at all, and accused her of affairs with actors Billy Bob Thornton and James Franco. If she did work on a film, Depp would call the director and others on set and say he “had eyes” there who would report to him if she fraternized improperly, Hughes said.

Lawyers argue whether Johnny Depp’s career was tanking before op-ed

Depp’s team contends that the prolific actor’s career was torpedoed when ex-wife Heard wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post in 2018 in which she spoke broadly about being a victim of domestic violence.

Depp’s agent, Jack Whigham, told the court that Heard’s piece was “catastrophic” to the actor’s career, specifically linking it to the disappearance of a $23 million deal to appear in a sixth installment of the lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series.

Lawyers for Heard countered that it was in fact Depp’s own self-destructive behavior that caused Disney to demur, and not welcome Depp back as Captain Jack Sparrow — not the article. They cited reports of heavy drug and alcohol use, a lawsuit by a crew member in July 2018 who says he was punched on set by Depp, and a separate libel lawsuit Depp filed against a British newspaper in 2018.

Amber Heard op-ed was supposed to mention Johnny Depp specifically

Much of the trial so far has been a look into the fraught relationship between Depp and Heard, and not the actual article at the center of Depp’s $50 million lawsuit against her. But on April 28, the article took center stage.

Terence Dougherty, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told jurors there was a push and pull between Heard and her lawyers, and the ACLU, which drafted the 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece under Heard’s name, reflecting her role as an ACLU ambassador on gender violence issues.

During those discussions, Heard sent back an edited version approved by her lawyers that “specifically neutered much of the copy regarding her marriage,” according to an email from Jessica Weitz, an ACLU employee who coordinated with Heard.

According to the email, though, Heard was looking for a way to have a deleted passage restored to the article.

The final article never mentioned Depp by name. Instead, Heard was identified as “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” and in another passage she wrote, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

Johnny Depp blackballed from ‘Pirates’ due to abuse lawsuit, says agent

Christian Carino, a one-time agent for both Depp and Heard, testified April 27 that Heard’s spousal abuse lawsuit resulted in Hollywood agents and producers wiping Depp from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel, although he provided no evidence for the claim.

“It is something within the industry that is understood,” Carino told the courtroom. Earlier in the trial, Depp told the court that even if Disney offered him $300 million to appear in a sixth movie in the lucrative franchise, he would reject it.

Also appearing on the stand Wednesday were two Los Angeles police officers who responded to 911 calls at Depp’s penthouse in 2016. Both officers indicated they saw no evidence of bruising or battery when Heard met them at the door. Heard’s lawyers countered that the police officers could not have accurately assessed her condition, given dim lighting and their distance from her.

More: Officer responding to Johnny Depp, Amber Heard fight testifies he saw no injuries on actress

Amber Heard has ‘histrionic personality disorder,’ doctor says

Forensic psychologist Shannon Curry took the stand April 26 to testify on behalf of Depp and delivered her opinion that Heard suffers from both a borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Curry said she came to those conclusions after a dozen hours of interviews with Heard as well as a review of her mental health records.

She described those suffering from borderline disorder as being “driven by an underlying fear of abandonment.” Histrionic disorder is associated with “drama and shallowness” and a need to be the center of attention, and noted that sufferers often were people who are physically attractive and “utilize their looks to get that attention.”

Curry’s testimony would seem to support Depp’s contention that Heard was the aggressor in the relationship. Heard’s attorneys countered that Curry had drinks and dinner with Depp at his home before she was hired. Curry said that was part of the interview process.

More: Psychologist hired by Depp’s team says Amber Heard suffers from histrionic personality disorder

Johnny Depp warned Amber Heard of ‘bloodbath’

During cross-examination on April 25, Heard attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn played a series of audio recordings of alleged fights between his client and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star.

“The next move, if I don’t walk away … it’s going to be a bloodbath, like it was on the island,” Depp says on the recording. Later, he yells, “You stupid (expletive)” at her.

Depp winced on the stand as the clips were played, while Heard appeared to fight back tears. Depp wrapped up his time on the stand by revisiting a fight that the actor said resulted in a severed fingertip after Heard threw a vodka bottle at him.

Heard’s attorneys countered with text messages from Depp to his physician in which he said “I have chopped off my left middle finger.” Depp said he was joking, adding that music was his first love and a fingertip is integral to playing guitar. “Why would I ruin the only thing that I was really good at in my life besides my children?” he said.

Amber Heard’s lawyers bring up Johnny Depp’s drug use with past texts

During court on April 21, Heard’s attorneys sought to undermine Depp by spending hours in court focused on the actor’s drinking, drug use and texts he sent to friends — including one about wanting to kill and defile his then-wife.

Depp’s text messages only bolster his ex-wife’s defense, her lawyers said.

“I, of course, pounded and displayed ugly colors to Amber on a recent journey,” Depp said in a text message to Bettany, in July 2013, which was shown to jurors. “I am an insane person and not so fair headed after too much of the drink,” he continued.

Heard’s lawyer Rottenborn focused on another exchange that year between Depp and Bettany in which Depp wrote: “Let’s burn Amber!!!”

Depp has previously apologized to the jury for the vulgar language in the texts and said that “in the heat of the pain I was feeling, I went to dark places.” He apologized again Thursday.

Rottenborn also showed the jury one of Depp’s texts to Bettany in 2014 in which he referenced whiskey, pills and cocaine. The texts were written during a period in which Depp said he had stopped drinking. And they were sent around the time of a private flight from Boston to Los Angeles, during which Heard said Depp assaulted her while he was blackout drunk.

Johnny Depp recalls last argument with Amber Heard

Heard has said the first time she was assaulted was when Depp slapped her in 2013 after she made fun of a tattoo he had — one that used to say “Winona Forever” when he was dating the actress Winona Ryder that he altered to “Wino Forever” after they broke up.

“It didn’t happen,” Depp said of the alleged assault when he testified on April 20. “Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body?”

Depp also gave a graphic description of a final fight as the couple drifted toward divorce, accusing Heard and her friends of pretending that he was assaulting her. Soon after, Heard sought a restraining order and was photographed with marks on her face.

The fight had started as Depp said he’d realized it was time for the couple to split. The argument intensified, he said, as Depp accused her of leaving human fecal matter on his side of the bed in the penthouse they’d shared. He said Heard kept denying it, blaming it on their small dogs, but he was convinced she was lying.

Johnny Depp calls Amber Heard’s Washington Post op-ed ‘heinous’

In court April 19, Depp shared his side of the story, opening his testimony by calling Heard’s Washington Post story “heinous,” adding “I never struck Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any women in my life.”

Depp added he took the stand to prove Heard’s claims have “no truth to it whatsoever,” and because he feels a responsibility to “stand up for my children,” referring to daughter Lily-Rose, 22, and son Jack, 20.

He also testified primarily about the early years of his relationship with Heard, saying she seemed “too good to be true” at first. He said there were little things though, that gave him indications of a rocky relationship ahead. And within a year and a half, it was as if Heard had become another person.

Johnny Depp’s doctor recalls treating actor’s severed finger

In a video deposition recorded Feb. 22 and played in court April 18, per People, Variety and The Washington Post, Depp’s doctor and a nurse recalled treating the actor after ex-wife Heard allegedly threw a vodka bottle at him in 2015.

Dr. David Kipper said he wasn’t aware how Depp had been injured when cleaning his wounds in Australia, where the actor was filming the fifth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” In July 2020, Depp accused Heard of throwing a bottle at him, which severed the top of his middle finger.

Heard has denied Depp’s claims, saying he may have injured his finger when he smashed a telephone. Heard’s attorneys have also referred to text messages in which they say Depp acknowledges cutting the finger himself.

Kipper added that Depp told an emergency room doctor he’d cut his own finger with a knife, according to People.

Kipper said Heard was present and seemed upset but added he did not notice any physical injuries on her and she did not seek medical attention. Lloyd also testified that at one point in Australia, she saw a bruise on Heard’s arm, according to The Washington Post. Both Kipper and Lloyd said on April 18 that they did not witness physical abuse between the couple.

More: Johnny Depp’s friend rejects Amber Heard’s abuse claim as ‘malicious lie,’ says he never saw bruises

Amber Heard’s former assistant call actress ‘verbally abusive’

Kate James, a former personal assistant to Heard from 2012 to 2015, said she never saw the actress suffer any physical abuse at the hands of Depp — but she said Heard once spit in her face when she asked for a higher salary.

Heard descended into screaming fits of blind rage, sent incoherent text messages at 4 a.m. and was often drunk and high on illegal drugs, James testified in a video deposition that was played in court April 14.

Depp, on the other hand, was very calm, almost shy, “like a total Southern gentleman,” James said.

James said she was hired with an initial salary of $25 an hour and that her duties ranged from picking up Heard’s dry cleaning to talking with the actress’ Hollywood agents.

James said she also was tasked with picking up two copies of any magazine that featured Heard and storing them in the garage to prevent Depp from seeing them. Heard went into a “blind rage” when James failed to place the magazines in the garage, she said.

Johnny Depp’s longtime neighbor saw no evidence of abuse

Isaac Baruch, a longtime friend and next-door neighbor of Depp, testified April 13 that Heard had told him the movie star threw a phone at her and hit her inside the couple’s Los Angeles penthouse.

But Baruch said he never noticed any evidence of abuse on Heard’s face, both when he first saw her in the hallway or the next day in the sunlit lobby of their art deco-style building.

“She’s got her face out like this to show me, and I’m looking, and I inspect her face,” Baruch said of the encounter in May 2016. “And I don’t see anything. … I don’t see a cut, a bruise, swelling, redness.”

Baruch, a painter, said Depp has financially supported him, providing him with places to live and giving him about $100,000 over the years.

More: Johnny Depp’s friend rejects Amber Heard’s abuse claim as ‘malicious lie,’ says he never saw bruises

Baruch also testified that he saw security video showing Heard’s sister Whitney throwing a fake punch at Heard’s face while the two waited for an elevator in the building where he and Depp and Heard lived. “And then they start laughing,” he said.

Depp’s attorneys argue that the sisters were practicing for a real punch to feign abuse from Depp.

Opening statements: An abusive husband or an unstable wife?

“You’re going to see who the real Johnny Depp is — behind the fame, behind the pirate costumes,” Amber Heard attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn told the jury during opening statements in the civil trial on April 12. “Because Johnny Depp brought this case, all of this is going to come out.”

He argued that Heard was exercising her First Amendment rights as an advocate when she wrote the article, which focused largely on the broad topic of domestic violence. He also pointed out that the article in question never even mentions Depp’s name.

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Depp, Heard opening statements: Remarks feel familiar to London trial from 2020

“Everyone in Hollywood knew exactly what she was talking about,” countered Johnny Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew. “Today, Johnny Depp’s name is associated with a lie.” Depp’s team argued that the article is an example of “defamation by implication.”

“You’re going to learn that (Heard) is a profoundly troubled person who manipulated people around her, like she manipulated Mr. Depp,” added Depp co-counsel, Camille Vasquez.

“She can’t back down. She has been living and breathing this lie for years,” Vasquez said. “She’s going to give the performance of a lifetime in this courtroom.”

Contributing: Marco della Cava, Maria Puente, Edward Segarra and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY; Matthew Barakat and Ben Finley, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial: Everything that’s happened in court

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