After nearly a month of trial, Amber Heard’s defamation trial in a case brought against her by her ex-husband Johnny Depp is paused for a week.
Court will resume on May 16 at 9 a.m., under the chairmanship of Judge Penney Azcarate, as Heard continues his testimony for a third day.
Heard was sued by Depp for $50 million for insinuating that he had abused her in a 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post. Although she did not name him in the article, he claims that his accusations have impacted his ability to land major roles in film.
In 2020, Depp lost a UK defamation case against The Sun after the British tabloid branded him a “female abuser”. In that case, both he and Heard took the stand as witnesses, as did others who are testifying at the current trial. However, this time, a round of new video statements and in-person appearances on the stand are being broadcast live for anyone to watch.
To say that some of the revelations have been surprising is an understatement, and some of the testimonies have been heartbreaking.
The differences in the memory of the events are enormous and at some points the timelines have been confusing, to which the years since then and the alleged volume of alcohol and drugs involved during the relationship of approximately four years have not contributed.
However, many things have been revealed about the couple and their lives, both together and apart. This is what was learned at the end of the fourth week of the trial.
Johnny Depp’s Childhood Abuse
Depp spoke about his childhood, claiming that he and his siblings suffered abuse at the hands of their mother, saying it was a reflection of his relationship with Heard.
“[She] had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be,” he said of his mother, noting that this also affected his siblings and father. “It was quite violent and quite cruel.”
Depp said he could “throw you an ashtray,” and claimed that his mother would hit her children on the head and sometimes wear a “heeled shoe or a phone or whatever she had on hand.”
The actor claimed that the family was shocked and that his siblings instinctively protected themselves when their mother passed by because they “didn’t know what was going to happen.”
He described his father, for his part, as “kind,” “shy” and “stoic.” It was also alleged in court testimony that Depp’s father used to beat him with a belt at the behest of his mother.
The beginnings of the relationship
Heard described his first encounter with Depp in 2008, before the filming of the film The Rum Diary. After doing a couple of auditions, they asked her to meet with him.
“We talk about books, music and poetry. We liked a lot of the same things, dark writers… fragments of poetry that I hadn’t heard anyone else refer to,” he told the jury.
“I thought it was extraordinary. I left there with the feeling that I had my mouth open,” she said, adding that she had been told Depp would call her.
Heard said she didn’t meet him much on the set of the film in 2009 until the two set set to shoot a kiss scene. “It no longer seemed like a normal scene, but more real,” he explained. “He grabbed my face and pulled me to him and kissed me for real.”
He told the jury how he had visited him in his trailer after the scene: “He lifted the back of my robe with his boot and I turned around and laughed… He playfully pushed me to the bed, to the sofa. Playful and flirtatious. And he said, ‘Yum.’ And he kind of raised his eyebrows like that.”
“I felt chemistry, I felt this other thing that went beyond my work, for sure. Johnny clearly felt that for me,” Heard said. “But at the same time we both had relationships and it’s a job.”
She said Depp would send her gifts and invite her to his home, but they didn’t see each other again until the film’s press tour in 2011, when the two were newly separated. She visited him in his hotel room in London, where they kissed again.
“We sat on the couch and talked. We drank red wine. I felt there was electricity in the room. I got up and, when I came out, he grabbed me by both sides of my face as he did when we were shooting that scene and kissed me and I kissed him back,” he said.
He added: “We fell in love. We were on a trip talking about this movie that we participated in together. We spent the night together in my hotel room and for the rest of the press tour.”
They officially began dating in 2012 and married in early 2015. She filed for divorce less than 18 months later.
Key places in the relationship
The venues mentioned in the trial certainly reflect the jet-set lifestyle expected of a Hollywood couple. London, Tokyo, Puerto Rico, the Gold Coast, New York, the Bahamas, and, of course, Los Angeles, have all appeared.
The operation and layout of Depp’s private island in the Bahamas were detailed in the prosecution case, and its administrator testified about the couple’s wedding, guests and fights.
In Heard’s testimony, he clarified the couple’s situation in Los Angeles. Depp owns four homes in a cul-de-sac at the end of Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood, off Sunset Boulevard, which they referred to simply as “Sweetzer,” and which includes a recording studio.
When they started dating, Heard lived on top of a duplex they refer to by their street, “Orange,” but soon moved in with Depp for safety reasons, though he noted that they both traveled so much for work that they were often not in Los Angeles.
However, when they were, the couple stayed mostly in the five penthouses that Depp owned in the Eastern Columbia Building, a luxury condominium located in a converted art deco department store in downtown Los Angeles.
Three of the units were interconnected, and the semi-communal space was also occupied by Heard’s sister Whitney, Heard’s best friend at the time, Rocky Pennington, and her partner, in addition to the couple.
Another unit was kept open for guests and the fifth was occupied by Depp’s artist friend, Isaac Baruch, who testified early in the trial, as was the building manager and, above all, the janitor.
It was in the penthouses that some of the most significant incidents of alleged violence occurred, in addition to those reported to the court in the Bahamas, Australia, and after the Met Gala in New York.
Alcohol and drug use by both
Heard’s legal team has focused on Depp’s alcohol and drug use, as well as his struggle with prescription drugs, as a key part of his client’s advocacy.
She stated that she took pictures of him fainting because he forgot or denied what he did when he was drunk or fainted. Heard’s lawyers contend that Depp’s denials of abuse lack credibility because of these fainting spells.
Heard noted that Depp surrounds himself with an entourage of facilitators who are tasked with keeping everything in order and protecting him from any consequences of his alcohol and drug use. This came after a number of Depp’s witnesses testified that his alcohol consumption was greatly exaggerated and that he held up well with alcohol.
Depp’s witnesses also hinted that Heard also drank too much, pointing to his love of wine, and Depp’s business manager explained that the wine bill dropped from $160,000 to near zero after the couple broke up. The manager of his london home mentioned that two bottles of red wine were consumed a day, but he didn’t remember seeing Depp drink.
Heard also reportedly consumed MDMA and hallucinogenic mushrooms on several occasions, but denied asking Depp to get him the first ones for the trip to Australia, where he estimates he took eight to ten tablets in one session.
She also alleged a pattern of alcohol and drug abuse that fueled erratic behavior, including holding her dog out of the window of a moving car and accusing her of having an affair she claims she didn’t have.
“Johnny with speed is very different from Johnny with opiates. Johnny with opiates is very different from Johnny with Adderall and cocaine, which is very different from Johnny with Quaalude, but I’ve had to learn to pay attention to different versions of him,” he explained.
Depp claimed he has no problems with alcohol, but admitted he has a problem with opioids for which they both stated he sought treatment.
Different versions of the fight in Australia and the amputated finger
Both Heard and Depp testified about what each alleges occurred during a violent incident in Australia in early 2015, when Depp suffered a severe cut on his finger.
This has been a key point of the trial, in which Heard and Depp have shared gruesome accounts, which differ greatly about how the end of the middle finger was cut off.
Heard claimed she was not awake when the injury occurred and only saw the aftermath; Depp alleged that he injured his finger when Heard threw a bottle of vodka at him and it made contact and left the bone exposed.
Depp then scribbled the mirrors and lampshades with blood and paint, causing enormous damage to the house they rented, as staff members also confirmed in their testimony.
Heard alleged that Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle of liquor that night. Depp denied assaulting Heard.
How the op-ed was conceived and revised
As for the op-ed on domestic violence that is at the center of the trial, Heard allegedly wanted a section pointing to his relationship with Depp to be re-included, after lawyers edited the article to remove references to marriage.
In a pre-recorded statement, filmed in December, Terence Dougherty, chief operating officer and general counsel for the ACLU, told the jury how the ACLU’s in-house counsel helped draft and revise the article for Heard.
One of the ACLU emails addressed to Heard that was shown to Dougherty read, “Your attorneys should review this for the way I have avoided talking about your marriage,” adding that they hope it will not interfere with the nondisclosure agreement Heard signed in connection with his divorce.
Another email shown in court refers to Heard allegedly expressing a desire to “ingeniously” reinsert sections referring to obtaining a temporary restraining order from her “then-husband” two years earlier. But he said he agreed with the final draft if that wasn’t possible.
The article was then published by The Washington Post and soon after other media outlets linked it to Depp.
Different Medical Opinions on Amber Heard’s Mental Health
Two psychologists have testified about Heard’s mental health, one for each part of the trial.
For the indictment, Dr. Shannon Curry stated that she met with Heard twice for a total of 12 hours and that “the result of Heard’s evaluation supported two diagnoses: borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.” He also commented that Heard showed no signs of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Dr. Curry noted that Heard “externalizes guilt” and can be “self-righteous,” “judgmental” and angry, adding that there is a “desperate fear of abandonment” among those suffering from the borderline disorder and that the reaction to that is to try to keep an important person close and this behavior can become extreme. This supported other testimonies that Heard was violent with Depp and did not let go of arguments.
However, Dr. Dawn Hughes testified on Heard’s behalf and stressed that the actress suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from domestic violence at the hands of Depp, but also from previous abuse as a child.
Dr. Hughes said she spent 29 hours with Heard via Zoom and in her New York office and didn’t see any evidence suggesting personality disorders. He also dismissed the idea of the couple expressing signs of “mutual abuse,” as his marriage counselor had said.
Dr. Curry was sitting in the front row of the courtroom during Dr. Hughes’ testimony.
Estimated losses in Johnny Depp’s career
Depp lost $40 million following the publication of Amber Heard’s op-ed, a forensic accountant said shortly before the actor’s legal team concluded his case.
Forensic accountant Michael Spindler told the court that he analyzed the time between December 18, 2018, when Heard’s op-ed was published, and October 31, 2020, to determine how much income the actor may have stopped receiving as a result of the article.