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., with a panel of 11 – seven jurors and four alternates – picked, according to Court TV, which is broadcasting the trial.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, 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, a claim she first raised during their corrosive divorce proceeding in 2016 in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, Depp is expected to take the stand in the tense trial.
Heard never proved she was abused because their divorce was settled out of court in the midst of a media uproar. And the settlement statement they jointly issued said in part: “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.”
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Ahead of the trial, Heard shared a statement on Instagram informing fans she will be “offline for the next several weeks” while in Virginia.
“Johnny is suing me for an op-ed I wrote in the Washington Post, in which I recounted my experience of violence and domestic abuse,” she wrote in the post, shared Saturday. “I never named him, rather I wrote about the price women pay for speaking out against men in power. I continue to pay that price, but hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world.”
Heard will eventually take the stand, along with testimony from Paul Bettany (for Depp), James Franco and Elon Musk (both for Heard).
Opening statements for the trial began on April 12 and set the tone for what is about to be a futile battle.
Here’s everything that’s happened in Depp and Heard’s trial (so far).
Johnny Depp’s doctor, nurse recall treating actor’s severed finger following fight with Amber Heard
In a video deposition recorded Feb. 22 and played in court Tuesday, 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, a concierge doctor, was asked about the alleged text message he received from Depp, and he responded: “I think that’s what it said, yes.” Kipper added that Depp told an emergency room doctor he’d cut his own finger with a knife, according to People.
However, Debbie Lloyd, a nurse who worked with Kipper, testified she heard different versions of how it all happened, according to The Washington Post. In one, Heard threw a bottle at him and in another, Depp slammed his hand with a phone.
Per Variety, Kipper also said he directed the staff to search the house for Depp’s missing fingertip. “(Depp’s chef) said he found it in the kitchen area,” Kipper said.
Lloyd said a house manager found the severed finger and brought it to the ER, according to Variety.
Further, 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. She added that after the finger incident, Depp was advised to stay away from Heard due to their “toxic” relationship.
Both Kipper and Lloyd said Monday they did not witness physical abuse between the couple. Lloyd said she saw them argue and once saw Depp push over one of Heard’s clothing racks during a vacation, according to The Washington Post.
Kipper and Lloyd were both hired to help the actor deal with drug abuse problems.
Heard’s former personal assistant says she was ‘dramatic,’ ‘verbally abusive’
Kate James, a former personal assistant to Heard, 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. The video testimony from James offered an inverse view: Depp was the peaceful one, she said, while Heard was frequently intoxicated and verbally abusive, including to her own mother and sister.
“Her poor sister was treated like a dog that you kicked, basically,” James said.
James, who worked for Heard from 2012 to 2015, said she was paid “very poorly.” She 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.
Regarding Heard and Depp’s time together, James said Heard was a “very dramatic person” who was deeply insecure in the relationship. Heard often called James to cry and complain about Depp, she said.
“I remember one time she called me when she was alone in New York City, and she was crying and walking around the streets,” James said. She said she told Heard to go inside: “I was worried that the paparazzi might take a photo of her.”
Some of the deposition focused on a text message that Depp had sent to James after he and Heard split up. Depp’s text read: “Come over for a spot of purple and we’ll fix her flabby (expletive) nice and good.”
A lawyer asked if “spot of purple” meant wine and whether “her” meant Heard. James said she didn’t want to speculate.
“This is the way he writes,” James said of Depp. “It’s very random and you don’t sort of question it. … He writes in a very abstract way.”
Depp’s longtime neighbor, friend testifies Heard confessed assault
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, has been friends with Depp since 1980. He also worked at the Viper Room when the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor partly owned the famed Los Angeles club. Baruch said Depp has financially supported him, providing him with places to live and giving him about $100,000 over the years.
Baruch testified that he noticed no makeup on Heard’s face when she said Depp hit her. But during cross-examination, Baruch conceded he didn’t know if Heard — who worked with cosmetics giant L’Oreal — had applied any concealer, foundation, powder or tint.
At one point, Baruch got emotional, stating that Heard needs to “take responsibility and move on.” “(Depp’s) family has been completely wrecked by all of this stuff, and it’s not fair,” he said. “It’s not right, what she did. … It’s insane.”
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He said he never saw violence from Depp.
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.
Baruch is the second witness called in the trial over Depp’s allegations that Heard falsely portrayed him as a domestic abuser. The first witness called for the trial was Depp’s older sister, Christi Dembrowski, who faced a barrage of questions from Heard’s lawyers about Depp’s alcohol and drug use.
When she took the stand April 12, Dembrowski said she and her brother endured a difficult childhood in which Depp learned to hide from an abusive mother. Dembrowski, who also worked as Depp’s personal manager, said she saw the same pattern in Depp’s relationship with Heard, adding that she would book an extra hotel room for Depp if Heard started a fight.
Heard’s attorneys argue for her First Amendment rights, zero in on Depp’s drug use
“You’re going to see who the real Johnny Depp is — behind the fame, behind the pirate costumes,” Heard lawyer 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.”
Rottenborn said the evidence will show that Depp physically and sexually assaulted Heard on multiple occasions. But he told jurors that they don’t need to make themselves referees of the couple’s turbulent marriage if they focus on the basics of libel law.
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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The attorney said the 2018 article did nothing to damage Depp’s reputation. He noted that the abuse accusations had been public for two years already, and he said Depp’s spiraling career was the result of his drinking and drug-using, which made him an unreliable commodity to Hollywood studios.
“This man’s poor choices have brought him to this point,” he said. “Stop blaming other people for your own self-created problems.”
On April 13, Heard’s attorneys zeroed in on the movie star’s drug and alcohol use, as they defended her from Depp’s allegations that she falsely portrayed him as a domestic abuser. Rottenborn resumed his cross-examination of Dembrowski, focusing on a February 2014 text exchange between Heard and Depp’s sister.
“Ms. Heard says, ‘JD is on a bender,’ and your response is, ‘Where are the kids?’ — correct?” Rottenborn asked.
Dembrowski said that was correct. She also confirmed a 2014 email exchange she had with a doctor who treated Depp’s addiction to pain medication.
“You believe that your brother needed help with drugs and alcohol?” Rottenborn asked.
Dembrowski responded that she was concerned about Depp’s use of one medication but didn’t believe that he had a problem with drugs or alcohol overall, or that he romanticized drug culture.
Heard’s lawyers have argued that Depp has no credibility when he denies abusing Heard because he frequently drank and used drugs to the point of blacking out and failing to remember anything he did.
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Depp’s attorney’s hit back in opening statements
“Everyone in Hollywood knew exactly what she was talking about,” said 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.”
Chew said that’s a clear reference to a restraining order Heard sought in May 2016 — right after Depp told her he wanted a divorce — in which she claimed she’d been physically abused.
“You’re going to learn that (Heard) is a profoundly troubled person who manipulated people around her, like she manipulated Mr. Depp,” added his co-counsel, Camille Vasquez.
Chew said the case is about how devastating words can be when uttered publicly. “They can cause irreparable harm to someone’s reputation, and when your career depends on your reputation that harm can be particularly devastating,” he said.
Chew said she showed up at the courthouse on May 27 of that year with a bruise on her face that was photographed by the paparazzi. But he said the evidence will show that Heard gave herself the injury to ruin Depp’s reputation. He said that Depp and Heard hadn’t seen each other since May 21: He’d gone on a European tour with his band, the Hollywood Vampires.
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Another of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, told the jury that Heard refuses to admit she lied and has now dug in even deeper.
“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: Matthew Barakat, Ben Finley, The Associated Press; Maria Puente, USA TODAY