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Depp v. Heard

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Depp v. Heard
Seal of Virginia.svg
CourtCircuit Court of Fairfax County
Full case nameJohn C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingPenney Azcarate[1]

John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard (CL-2019-2911)[2] is an ongoing defamation trial in Fairfax County, Virginia, that began on 11 April 2022.[3] The parties are actors Johnny Depp (plaintiff) and Amber Heard (defendant), who were married from 2015 to 2017, after beginning a relationship in 2012.[4] In February 2019, Depp sued Heard over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post, in which she had written: "Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse." Although Heard did not mention Depp by name in the op-ed article, Depp claimed that the damage caused by the article caused extensive financial losses to his career and damaged his ability to profit from his vocation. Heard had described herself "seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse."[5][6]

Background

Depp and Heard's relationship

Johnny Depp (left) is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard (right) for defamation over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post
in 2018.

Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began a relationship in 2012 and got married in Los Angeles in February 2015.[7] Heard filed for divorce on May 23, 2016, and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against him.[8][9][10] In response, Depp alleged she was "attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse."[5] Heard testified about the alleged abuse at a divorce court deposition, alleging that Depp had been "verbally and physically abusive" throughout their relationship, usually while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.[11] The divorce received a large amount of publicity, with images of Heard's alleged injuries published by the media.[12]

A settlement was reached in August 2016 and the divorce was finalised in January 2017.[13] Heard withdrew the restraining order against Depp, and they released a joint statement stating that their "relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm."[5]

Depp paid Heard a settlement of US$7 million, which she pledged to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.[14][15] The settlement also included a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) preventing either party from discussing their relationship publicly.[16]

Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd

In April 2018, UK tabloid The Sun published an article entitled: "Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?"[5][17] In response, Depp sued News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, and then executive editor[a] Dan Wootton for libel in June 2018.[5][17] Both Depp and Heard testified in the trial, which focused on evaluating 14 alleged incidents of abuse, at the High Court of Justice in July 2020.[18][19] In November 2020, Justice Andrew Nicol found that Depp had lost his case as the allegations against him had been proven to a civil standard and were found to be "substantially true."[20][19] The verdict found that there was "overwhelming evidence" that Depp had assaulted Heard several times and put her in fear of her life.[21][19][22]

After the verdict, Depp resigned from the Fantastic Beasts film series at the request of Warner Bros., its production company.[23] In March 2021, the Court of Appeal rejected Depp's request to appeal the verdict, concluding that he had a "full and fair" trial, and that "the judge based his conclusions on each of the incidents on his extremely detailed review of the evidence specific to each incident [...] in an approach of that kind there was little need or room for the judge to give weight to any general assessment of Ms Heard's credibility."[24] According to The New York Times, use of material from the UK trial has been limited in the US case, but the specifics have not been disclosed publicly.[21]

Heard's op-ed in The Washington Post

In December 2018, The Washington Post published an op-ed article written by Heard, titled: "Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change."[25][5][26] In the article, Heard stated: "Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out. [...] I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse."[5][27] She further stated that as a result of this, she had lost a film role and an advertising campaign for a global fashion brand.[21] The op-ed, which identified Heard as an ambassador on women's rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, called for the Congress to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act and raised concern about the changes Betsy DeVos had proposed to Title IX, which Heard argued could potentially "weaken protections for sexual assault survivors."[21][25]

Trial

In February 2019, Depp sued Heard over her December 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post.[28][29][30] Depp also repeated his allegation that Heard had been the abuser, and that her allegations constituted a hoax against him.[29] In August 2020, Heard countersued Depp, alleging that he had coordinated "a harassment campaign via Twitter and [by] orchestrating online petitions in an effort to get her fired from Aquaman and L'Oréal."[31][32] The trial is being held in a court in Fairfax County in the state of Virginia, as the servers for The Washington Post's online edition are located in the county.[33]

Pre-trial developments

In October 2020, the judge in the case disqualified Depp's lawyer Adam Waldman from representing Depp after he leaked confidential information covered by a protective order to the media.[34] Following the verdict in Depp's lawsuit against The Sun the following month, Heard's lawyers filed to have the defamation suit dismissed, but Judge Penney S. Azcarate ruled against it because Heard had been a witness, not a defendant in the UK case, and because Azcarate would not allow British justice to impact American justice.[35] In August 2021, a New York judge ruled that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) must disclose documents related to Heard's charity pledge to the organization.[36][37]

The trial began with jury selection in Fairfax County, Virginia, on April 11, 2022.[4] Actors Paul Bettany, James Franco, and Ellen Barkin have been mentioned as being expected to testify.[38] Tesla CEO and Heard's former boyfriend Elon Musk was originally listed as a potential witness but ultimately decided not to testify, according to a source close to his legal team.[39]

Opening statements

On April 12, 2022, lawyers Benjamin G. Chew and Camille M. Vasquez made opening statements on behalf of Depp.[40][41] They accused Heard of making up domestic abuse accusations about Depp to further her own career, with Chew also stating that Heard made the accusations because Depp had asked for a divorce.[38] They argued that while Heard's 2018 op-ed did not mention Depp, it was clear by implication that it referred to him.[27] Chew argued that Heard's writing in that article ("two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse") was a reference to her May 2016 restraining order request, in which she claimed that Depp had physically abused her.[27] Chew discussed Heard appearing in public with a bruised face on May 27, 2016, accusing her of staging the injury, citing that Depp had not met her since May 21, 2016, and witnesses did not see her with the injury immediately after May 21, 2016.[27] Depp's lawyers described Heard as giving the "performance of her life" and as a liar, "obsessed" with her image.[42]

Heard's lawyers, Elaine Bredehoft and J. Benjamin Rottenborn, claimed that Depp had physically and sexually abused Heard on multiple occasions during their relationship, usually triggered by his addiction to alcohol and drugs.[27][38][40] They accused Depp of seeking to "humiliate Amber, to haunt her, to wreck her career" with the Virginia lawsuit and to turn the case into a "soap opera."[38] Rottenborn further argued that the First Amendment protected Heard's right to express her views in the op-ed, which was mostly focused on a broad discussion of domestic violence, and did not specifically mention Depp's name.[27] Rottenborn also argued that it had not changed Depp's reputation as the abuse allegations had become public knowledge two years prior to the op-ed, and that Depp had instead ruined his career in Hollywood with his drinking and drug use, making him unreliable in the eyes of film studios.[27]

Witness testimony for Depp

Week 1

The first witness to testify for Depp was his sister and personal manager, Christi Dembrowski, who testified that Depp had sworn never to perpetuate domestic violence after being abused as a child by their mother.[43] Dembrowski testified that Depp had to hide from their mother in the past, and also had to hide from Heard during the relationship, with Dembrowski stating she had to book an additional hotel room for Depp whenever Heard initiated fights.[44] Dembrowski denied she was concerned about Depp's use of alcohol and drugs; under cross-examination, she said she had been concerned about his use of a prescribed pain medication.[43][44]

Depp's longtime friend and neighbor during his marriage to Heard, artist Isaac Baruch,[44] testified that Heard told him in May 2016 that Depp had thrown a phone at her and hit her, prompting him to "inspect her face" and see no injuries.[43] Under cross-examination, Baruch said he observed no makeup on Heard's face that could be used to conceal injuries, but testified he was not an expert in makeup application.[44] He said that Depp's family had been "completely wrecked" by Heard's "fraudulent" claims of domestic abuse. He also testified to seeing security camera footage of Heard with her sister, Whitney, in which Heard was seen laughing after Whitney threw a "fake punch" across Heard's face; Depp's lawyer argued this was practice for Heard to "feign abuse from Depp."[44][45]

Eastern Columbia Building general manager Brandon Patterson provided a video-taped deposition, confirming the accuracy of approximately 80 CCTV videotapes from the building.[45] Depp's lawyers then called Gina Deuters, the wife of his employee, Stephen Deuters, to testify. Her testimony was interrupted when Heard's friend, Eve Barlow, showed Heard's lawyer an Instagram post written by Deuters, prompting the judge to ask Deuters if she had been watching the trial. Deuters admitted to having seen video clips, and her testimony was struck from the record.[46][47] Depp's attorneys later pointed out that the Instagram post was from January 2021, and accused Heard's lawyer of misrepresenting information to the court. The judge subsequently banned Barlow from attending the trial for violating its no-phone policy.[48][49]

The jury was then shown a pre-recorded deposition by Heard's former personal assistant, Kate James, who described Heard as "belligerent and abusive," saying Heard frequently screamed at her and sent abusive and "incoherent" text messages. She testified Heard used psychedelic mushrooms, ecstasy and cocaine, and was prone to "manic episodes ... similar to if someone was on some kind of amphetamine drug. Moving fast, not making a lot of sense. Hyper-organizing." She further testified that Heard had treated her own sister badly, with a "kick-the-dog kind of relationship."[50] James denied she knew what Depp meant with a text message he sent to her after the divorce, in which he asked James to “Come over for a spot of purple and we’ll fix her flabby ass nice and good.”[51][52]

Laurel Anderson, Depp and Heard's therapist in 2015, testified that there was "mutual abuse" during the marriage, with both parties at times initiating violent conflicts.[50][53][51] She described Heard as having a fear of abandonment that caused her to initiate violence against Depp, adding that he attempted to "de-escalate" the violence more often than Heard.[52] She further testified that both Depp and Heard had been beaten by a parent as children, characterizing Depp as "well-controlled" over decades and not violent against previous partners, but that he was "triggered" when with Heard.[53] Anderson stated that for Heard, it was "a point of pride to her, if she felt disrespected, to initiate a fight" and that if Depp was "going to leave her to de-escalate a fight, she would strike him to keep him there."[50][53][51] She stated she had seen bruises on Heard in both images and in person, and that Depp had told her that Heard ”gave as good as she got.”[50][53][51]

In a pre-recorded deposition, Depp's private physician, David Kipper, testified he had diagnosed Depp with ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, substance dependence and chronic reflux.[54] Kipper stated he attempted to detox Depp of addictions to alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines and cocaine several years ago, with Depp "concerned he'd never feel normal without his drugs."[50] During treatment, Depp attempted to fire Kipper because Depp "didn't think he could do it."[50] Kipper denied witnessing violence between Depp and Heard.[55] Kipper testified that when he visited Depp's rented property in Australia after the incident in which Depp’s finger had been severed, he saw blood and that the house was messy: "There were things that had been thrown around."[54][55] He accompanied Depp to hospital following the incident, where he said he would withdraw his care, if Depp did not comply with a drug treatment plan, saying Depp had to be "stable" for the surgeries for his finger. Kipper also testified that sometime later, Depp texted him saying he had begun using Xanax as it "takes the edge off. I don't take them all that often, just when my brain is inundated with this badgering and half-truths from my wife."[50]

Week 2

Debbie Lloyd, who worked with Kipper as a nurse, testified the relationship was "toxic" and that Heard would instigate arguments with Depp.[54][56] She said she attended Depp's rented house in Australia in 2015 after his finger injury, describing the property as being in disarray, with writing on the walls and a destroyed television set; she also described searching the property for Depp's severed fingertip.[54] Keenan Wyatt, Depp's on-set audio technician since the 1990s, testified he had never witnessed Depp being abusive.[56] He was onboard a private plane flight during which Heard alleges Depp was abusive towards her, and denied seeing Depp shout at Heard or pass out in the plane's bathroom.[57] Instead, he said Heard had been giving Depp "the cold shoulder" on the journey, and that she shouted at Wyatt after he attempted to speak to her.[58] Depp's security guard, Sean Bett, testified that he had never seen Depp or Heard be violent towards each other, but that their relationship eventually descended to "constant arguing and bickering." Bett also presented to the court photographs he had taken in March and December 2015 of Depp's injuries.[59]

In his testimony, Depp said he had "never struck" Heard or any other woman,[56] and had sued her to clear his name and to repair the damage her allegations caused to his career.[57] He described his childhood with an abusive mother, and said he used drugs as self-medication to cope with his childhood trauma. He denied having been addicted to any substance other than Roxicodone, and stated that Heard had "grossly embellished" the extent of his "quote unquote substance abuse."[60] Depp testified that Heard often insulted him verbally and that as these incidents "continued to escalate, I went straight to what I had learned as a youth, which was to remove myself from the situation so that it couldn't continue because there's only so much your ears can hear and never forget."[61]

Depp also testified that Heard had sometimes been physically abusive,[62][63] and testified about the specific incidents that Heard had alleged he had been violent.[64] He denied becoming violent over a comment Heard made about one of his tattoos in 2013,[63] and claimed Heard withheld his medication to help treat the withdrawal symptoms of his prescription painkiller addiction while he was detoxing in the Bahamas in 2014.[64] During the incident on a private plane flight in 2014, he testified that Heard had tried to initiate a fight,[64] but that he locked himself in a bathroom to avoid her and eventually fell asleep in there after taking two painkillers.[63] Audio recordings were played for the jury. In one recording, Heard tells Depp: "I did not punch you. [...] I did not fucking deck you. I fucking was hitting you. [...] You're a fucking baby. [...] Grow the fuck up, Johnny. I did start a physical fight."[65] In another, Depp accuses Heard of throwing pots and pans at him, which she admits to, while in yet another, Depp accuses Heard of kicking a bathroom door into his face, to which Heard says she cannot remember as she was on Ambien at the time.[65]

Depp testified the argument in Australia in March 2015 originated after Heard had a conversation with Depp's lawyer about signing a postnuptial agreement. He said he once again locked himself in a bathroom while Heard was "banging on the doors and screaming obscenities and wanting to have a physical altercation."[61] He said he was left distraught by the incident, and relapsed by drinking vodka when he exited the bathroom. When Heard discovered him consuming alcohol, he says she threw two vodka bottles at him, severing a finger on his right hand.[61] He said this had caused him to have a "nervous breakdown."[63] After hiding in a closet for some time, he began writing on the walls with his own blood about "little reminders from our past that essentially represented lies that she had told me — lies that I had caught her in."[64] He said he lied to Australian healthcare professionals about the cause of the injury because he "didn't want to get her in trouble."[63] In December 2015, he stated he had accidentally headbutted Heard while trying to prevent her from attacking him, and that Heard had tried to fake breaking her nose with nail polish.[64] He further accused Heard of hitting him in the face during an argument at her birthday party in April 2016,[64] and of leaving human feces on his side of the bed soon after.[63]

Under cross-examination, Heard's legal team played recordings of Depp.[66] In one recording, Depp tells Heard: "Walking away is necessary [...] especially between you and I. It's of utmost importance. The next move, if I don't walk away [...] it's going to be a bloodbath, like it was on the island."[67] In some of the audio recordings, Depp shouted insults and vulgarities at Heard.[68] In another recording, Heard says she ended their relationship "after you beat the shit out of me," and later on in the same conversation, Depp says he "made a huge mistake," but it was unclear what mistake Depp was referring to, Variety reported.[69] Regarding a recording where Heard tells Depp to put his "cigarettes out on someone else," Depp testified his belief that Heard "grossly exaggerated."[68][70] In a different recording, Heard tells Depp: "I want couch. By the way, you just threw a fucking cigarette on me." Depp testifies the incident was about Heard "ordering me on the couch," denied putting out a cigarette on her, but acknowledged that he may have flicked cigarette ash at Heard.[71] In a recording from July 2016, after the couple had filed for divorce and after Heard filed for a temporary restraining order, Depp asks Heard, "Where do you want the scar?" (where he should cut himself), while Heard responds by repeatedly asking Depp not to "cut" himself.[72] Depp testified that he "wasn't threatening to hurt myself," but that he was "broken" and "couldn't take it," and that he had asked Heard to "spill my blood because that was the only thing she didn't have at that point."[73]

Under cross-examination, Depp was also asked about text messages he sent.[69] In text messages to actor Paul Bettany, Depp made a call to "drown" and "burn Amber," then stated: "I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she's dead."[69] Bettany replied: "My thoughts entirely. Let's be certain before we pronounce her a witch."[74] Depp testified that these messages were a reference to a Monty Python skit regarding burning and drowning witches, calling it "irreverent and abstract humour."[69][68] Regarding a text message where Depp stated that he had "fucked up and went too far in our fight," Depp denied that this was describing physical violence.[69] In another message regarding a May 2014 flight, Depp states that he took "powders," "pills," and various types of alcohol including "a thousand Red Bull vodkas," becoming "an angry aggro injun in a fucking blackout, screaming obscenities and insulting any fuck who got near," to which Depp testified that he was exaggerating.[69] In text messages to various people, Depp referred to "the monster" — Depp gave various explanations to the term, such as alcohol and drugs. Heard viewed it as referring to his usage of drugs.[69]

Depp was also shown several negative articles about him from 2014 until 2018, which Heard's lawyers allege demonstrate that Depp's reputation had been damaged prior to Heard's 2018 op-ed.[68] He called the articles "hit pieces" and denied knowing that the Daily Mail had reported that he had been fired from the Pirates franchise in October 2018, over a month prior to Heard's op-ed being published.[69]

Week 3

Following Depp finishing his testimony and cross-examination, Ben King, his former house manager, took the stand, testifying about the aftermath of an incident at the couple's rented house in Australia in March 2015.[75][76] He described the damage to the house in detail and said that Heard was crying "uncontrollably." He also described searching for Depp's severed fingertip. On a flight back to Los Angeles with Heard, he noticed long marks on her forearms. He said that Heard had asked him if he had "ever been so angry with someone that you lost it with them?."[75] Tara Roberts, who had managed Depp's private island in the Bahamas at the time of the relationship, testified next. She denied seeing signs of injury on Heard.[77] She said that she had once seen Depp with "mark across the bridge of his nose" and had witnessed Heard calling him a "washed-up actor going to die a fat, lonely old man" during a dispute.[78] When cross-examined, Roberts described Depp's high tolerance for alcohol, and affirmed that in one incident Depp fell out of his hammock and was found lying face down in the sand.[79][80][78] Roberts testified that shortly after this incident, she had arranged for Depp's two children and Heard to leave the island.[79]

Pre-recorded testimony by officers Melissa Saenz and Tyler Hadden of the Los Angeles Police Department, who had responded to a May 2016 incident between the couple, was then played for the court. Both officers stated that they saw no visible signs of injury on Heard, saying that she looked "red with emotion" and that she was "uncooperative." They left the premises after determining no crime had been committed.[81] A third officer, William Gatlin, testified that he had visited the penthouse later that same evening but also did not see any signs of injury on Heard, leaving two minutes later.[82]

Shannon Curry, a forensic psychologist hired by Depp's team, provided evidence against Heard's claim that she had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from the relationship. Curry testified that she spent 12 hours with Heard, conducting multiple mental health tests.[83][84][78] She also examined Heard's medical records, "all the case documents," as well as audio, photos and videos.[84][83] Curry testified that Heard was "grossly exaggerating symptoms of PTSD when asked about them," as Heard told Curry that she had 19 of the 20 "core symptoms" of PTSD, which Curry stated was "not typical of somebody with even the most disabling form of PTSD." After further interviewing Heard, Curry found that Heard only had three of the 20 "core symptoms" of PTSD; Curry concluded that Heard did not have PTSD.[84]

Curry instead diagnosed Heard with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and histrionic personality disorder (HPD), based in particular on her results from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Volume 2 (MMPI-2).[80][78][77] Curry testified that Heard's borderline personality disorder manifested in "instability" that is "driven by this underlying terror of abandonment."[84] Curry testified that people with borderline personality disorder "will make desperate attempts to prevent" abandonment, and that the disorder "seems to be a predictive factor for women who implement violence against their partner."[84] Curry said histrionic personality disorder has correlations with "drama and shallowness."[77]

Under cross-examination, Heard's lawyer argued that although Curry did not meet Heard until December 2021, Depp's lawyers had already stated in their February 2021 court filings that Curry would diagnose Heard with borderline personality disorder and testify to her making false accusations of abuse.[85] Curry denied this was her opinion at that time, and said she based her diagnosis on evidence.[80][85] Curry stated that she did not conclude that Heard's behavior "suggests her allegations of abuse against Mr. Depp are false,"[79] and that even though she did not diagnose Heard with PTSD, Heard could still possibly have been "harmed psychologically" by the alleged abuse.[83] Separately, Curry stated that it was rare for male abusers to accuse their female partners of abuse.[79] Curry was questioned by Heard's lawyers about potential bias, regarding Curry having dinner at Depp's house with Depp and his former lawyer Adam Waldman before she was hired. Curry responded that the dinner was part of the interview process.[79][80][86] Curry also stated that she had not conducted any evaluation on Depp's mental health.[80]

Talent agent Christian Carino, who had previously been both Depp and Heard's friend and agent, testified that he believed that Heard's allegations were a deciding factor in Disney dropping Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.[87][88] A pre-recorded deposition of Alejandro Romero, who worked as a doorman at the building in which Depp and Heard lived together, was shown in court. He stated that he had not seen any injury to Heard's face, or makeup covering it. He also mentioned his disapproval of being involved in the case.[89]

In a video recording, Terrence Dougherty, chief operating officer of the American Civil Liberties Union, testified that the ACLU was involved with "conceiving, drafting, and placing" the 2018 Washington Post op-ed that was credited to Heard, and that the goal was to "capitalize on the tremendous campaign for Aquaman" (2018), which Heard starred in.[90] Dougherty also stated that the piece had been edited multiple times by Heard's legal team and the ACLU, and that "based on my review of prior drafts of the op-ed, I knew that she was referring to Johnny Depp and her marriage."[91] Furthermore, Dougherty stated that of the $3.5 million Heard pledged to donate to the ACLU, which was half of her $7 million divorce settlement received from Depp, only $1.3 million had actually been received, with four installments from 2016 to 2018, of which only $350,000 was directly from Heard, $100,000 from Depp, $350,000 from a fund tied to Heard, and $500,000 from a Vanguard account believed to be of Elon Musk, whom Heard was dating at the time. In 2019, the ACLU learned that Heard was "having financial problems and could not fulfill the remainder of the pledge."[90][91] Depp's accountant Edward White testified that Heard had initially asked for $4 million in the divorce, but had then increased the amount.[92] He also testified that Depp's wine bill had dropped from $160,000 annually "to virtually zero" after the divorce.[93][92]

Malcolm Connelly, a security guard of Depp's, testified that Heard "wanted to wear the pants in the relationship" and that he had seen her throw items at Depp.[94][92] He alleged seeing scratches and bruises on Depp, but never on Heard. He testified that when he had arrived to the couple's rented house in Australia after Depp had injured his finger, he had seen Heard scream at Depp, accusing him of being a coward.[94][92] Under cross-examination, Connelly testified that he had exchanged gifts with Depp, of which Depp's gifts to him were worth "a lot more" than $8,500. Connelly further stated that he was loyal to Depp, citing his loyalty to employers.[94] When a recording was played of Depp shouting "make me feel sick" in an incident in Australia, Connelly affirmed that Depp had been angry at the time.[94] Connelly also testified that he had seen Depp smoke marijuana and suspected that he used cocaine.[92]

Starling Jenkins III, another security guard of Depp's, testified that Heard had told him that the feces left in her and Depp's bed in April 2016 was a "horrible practical joke gone wrong."[95] He also claimed to have seen Heard vomit from alcohol and psychedelic mushrooms in Coachella, and denied that he could have confused Heard with her sister, who was pregnant and sick at the time.[95]

Week 4

Travis McGivern, Depp's bodyguard, testified that he had witnessed Heard verbally insult Depp and was present during an incident between the couple in March 2015 that Heard alleges Depp abused her. McGivern contradicted Heard's claims, stating that Depp did not attack her physically although he said Heard and Depp exchanged "verbal vitriol."[96][97][98] Instead, McGivern testified that he witnessed Heard throw a Red Bull can and a bag at Depp, and spat at and punched Depp in the face, resulting in his face becoming red and swollen.[97][99] He also testified seeing Depp throw racks of Heard's clothing down some stairs during the incident.[98] McGivern denied that Heard had punched Depp to protect her sister.[97][100] Separately, McGivern testified that Depp had a high tolerance for alcohol and substances, becoming "chill" when he was high.[97]

The court also heard testimonies from several people regarding Depp's career. Jack Whigham, Depp's agent since October 2016, testified that Heard's Washington Post op-ed, as a "first-person account coming from the victim," was "catastrophic" to Depp's career.[101][99][98] Whigham testified that after Heard initially publicly accused Depp of domestic violence in 2016, Depp was still able to appear in films such as City of Lies, Murder on the Orient Express, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, all of which were filmed in 2017, making Depp over $30 million, under contracts that had been made prior to the allegations becoming public.[97][99] He stated that after the 2018 op-ed, Depp suffered a pay cut for the film Minamata, and lost a potential $22.5 million that he would have received from acting in another Pirates of the Caribbean film, based on a verbal agreement with Disney.[97][99][98] Under cross-examination, Whigham testified that Disney executive Sean Bailey had not committed to hiring Depp for further Pirates films, although producer Jerry Bruckheimer had been very interested in the prospect.[101][99]

Richard Marks, an entertainment lawyer, testified that Heard's op-ed was "devastating" for Depp's career, as it was "the type of MeToo claim that has canceled a list of actors."[98] Marks said that the op-ed, in alleging physical abuse, was "something different" from articles discussing Depp's drug and alcohol consumption, which he claimed was behavior that Hollywood could tolerate.[98] During cross-examination, Marks admitted that various publications had written articles criticizing Depp.[98] Marks also affirmed that Disney had forwarded all their documents stemming from their business relationship with Depp, and that these documents did not mention Heard's op-ed.[101]

Douglas Bania, an intellectual property expert, provided testimony regarding Depp's reputation, using charts that showed his analysis of Depp's Q score, which is used to measure celebrity likability, and Google search results of his name.[101] Bania stated that since Heard's 2016 allegations, search results for Depp had become much more negative and his Q score had dropped.[101] He testified that his analysis did not attempt to differentiate the impact to Depp's reputation from his 2018 lawsuit against The Sun and Heard's op-ed.[101] Michael Spindler, an economic damages expert, testified that in the two years after the publication of Heard's op-ed, Depp "suffered lost earnings of approximately $40 million" due to Disney declining to cast him in Pirates 6 and for lost opportunities in non-franchise films. Under cross-examination, Spindler stated that he could not determine whether these losses were due to the op-ed.[102]

Erin Falati (formerly Boerum), Heard's nurse during the relationship, testified in a pre-recorded video deposition that Heard had sometimes reported to her problems with jealousy and insecurity, and that her "previous coping skills" included "compulsive anger and yelling."[103] Heard had also reported to her having an addiction to alcohol and cocaine, although she had abstained from the latter for "a couple of years."[103] Heard further reported to her a "history of anxiety, eating disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, codependency issues and occasional insomnia."[103] Falati testified that there was "a general sense of discord in the relationship … disagreements, reconciliation and kind of that repeating pattern."[1] In December 2015, she had witnessed Heard with a split lip, but otherwise had not observed any injuries.[1]

Depp and his attorneys rested their case later on May 3, 2022, after 13 days of deliberations.[1]

Witness testimony for Heard

Week 4

The first defense witness was board-certified forensic psychologist Dawn Hughes, who had been hired by Heard's legal team.[104][105][106] Hughes, an expert in traumatic stress, violence and abuse, began her testimony by describing the typical patterns in abusive relationships, and how victims of abuse usually attempt to keep up an "appearance of normalcy."[104] She stated that it was not unusual for women who are abused to act violently in self-defense.[104] Hughes evaluated Heard for a total of 29 hours in 2019 and 2021, conducted psychological tests on her, interviewed Heard's therapists and mother and reviewed all case records and Heard's medical records.[104][105][107][108] Heard reported to her several "incidents of sexual violence" and "physically violent behaviors" by Depp.[109][104][106]

Hughes testified that "Heard's report of intimate partner violence and the records [Hughes] reviewed is consistent with what we know in the field about intimate partner violence, characterized by physical violence, psychological aggression, sexual violence, coercive control and surveillance behaviors."[104][110] Hughes diagnosed Heard with post-traumatic stress disorder that was caused by the alleged abuse by Depp.[104][108] Hughes said that Heard did not have borderline personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder, contradicting plaintiff witness Shannon Curry.[106] Hughes also stated that none of Heard's previous therapists had diagnosed Heard with a personality disorder, that Heard had told them contemporaneously that she had been abused and that two of them had feared for Heard's welfare.[104][106]

Under cross-examination, Hughes agreed with Depp's legal team that she "did not render judgment on whether Depp engaged in intimate partner violence," but rather, she "formed the opinion that Heard's reporting is consistent with what we know of intimate partner violence."[105] When Depp's legal team noted that Hughes had never spoken to Depp, Hughes defended her conclusions about the relationship, saying that she reached them from analyzing testimony, transcripts and messages.[105] Hughes also stated that Heard told her that Depp had forced her to practise oral sex, but testified during cross-examination that Heard had initially described this as consensual "angry sex" without alleging any "physical force."[111][112] Hughes also testified that Heard admitted to hitting Depp "a number of times, in a number of instances,"[105] as well as shoving, pushing and insulting him.[108] She argued that this was not comparable to the abuse Heard claimed to have suffered from Depp,[104][108] and that establishing a full picture of the dynamics of the relationship is key to evaluating domestic abuse, stating, "You have to examine the differential of power and control — and coercive control — in the relationship to make a full determination."[113]

Following Hughes, Heard started her testimony.[114][115] She testified that the abuse began in 2012 with insults and controlling behavior from Depp,[116][117] and first escalated to violence in 2013, when she alleges that Depp hit her several times when she laughed at one of his tattoos.[116][117] Heard testified that Depp was deeply jealous, did not want her to work, and that their relationship became "a never-ending fight."[118][116][119] She said that Depp was especially prone to rage when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, often disappearing after a fight.[118][116] Heard testified that when he would get sober, Depp would "go back to being this unbelievable, warm, generous, kind man that I loved" and that she remained in the relationship because she wanted to believe that Depp would be able to remain sober.[118][116] During her testimony, the jury was shown multiple images of her injuries from different incidents, which she testified she would hide with make-up.[120][121]

Heard testified that during a weekend trip in 2013, Depp sexually assaulted her during a fight that had begun when he perceived that another woman was making a pass at her.[122] Heard accused Depp of ripping her dress and underwear before digitally penetrating her vagina, stating that she "didn't know what to do. [...] I just stood there."[117][118] In an incident on a private plane flight in 2014, Heard alleged that Depp accused her of having an affair with her co-star James Franco and then kicked her in the back, causing her to fall to the floor.[122][123] Heard testified that while the incident was witnessed by others onboard, no one intervened, and Depp soon locked himself in the plane's toilet and passed out.[123] The jury was shown a text message in which Depp states that he "will never do it again" and blamed his "illness," as well as a tape recording of Depp howling during the flight.[120] Heard also claimed that Depp slammed her against a wall and threatened to kill her after she attempted to comfort his daughter, who was distressed by his drinking during a visit to his yacht.[122][118] In another incident, she described Depp dangling her dog out of the window of a moving car.[117] Heard further testified that after the couple attended the Met Gala, that Depp "shoved me down on the sofa and at some point he just whacked me in the face. I suspected I had a broken nose. I remember it being swollen, discolored and red."[123] When she accompanied Depp to his private island, where he was to undergo detox, she testified that "he slapped me across the face."[123] Heard testified that she began attending Al-Anon in 2014.[123]

Heard testified that when they were married in early 2015, she had asked her lawyer to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement but that Depp had stated that "the only way out of this is death," and had fired the lawyer.[123][119][121] Heard further testified that in March 2015, Depp sexually assaulted her while they were staying in Australia, where he was filming the fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean.[124][123] According to Heard, the fight began when Depp, who had ingested ten tablets of MDMA, accused her of having affairs with her co-stars.[120] Heard testified that Depp threw bottles at her and hit her multiple times, before holding her by the neck and raping her with a glass liquor bottle "over and over again" while shouting "I fucking hate you, you ruined my fucking life."[120][123][125] Heard described being afraid to move as she feared that the bottle inside her was broken; she began to black out.[120][123][121] She also described cutting her arms and feet on the broken glass on the ground and that Depp had threatened to cut her face with a piece of glass, while holding it against her face.[125] She denied that she had injured Depp's finger, stating that she had taken a sedative and gone to sleep before it happened.[123] The court was shown photographs of the damage to the house.[121]

Testifying about a later March 2015 incident, Heard contradicted Travis McGivern's statement that she had thrown a Red Bull can at Depp, instead stating that Depp had thrown the can at her sister, who was trying to intervene.[123] Heard testified that she had punched Depp after he had tried to hit her sister. Heard also testified about an incident in December 2015, alleging that Depp was "pummelling her" and "pounding the back of my head with his fist" while screaming that he hated her. Heard stated that she "got really still," thinking that Depp was "going to kill [her] now and he won't even have realised it."[121] She also accused Depp of sexually assaulting her that Christmas.[121]

Week 5

Photos were shown to jurors of Heard's face, which seemed to show red marks and swelling after the final fight in May 2016, before their divorce, during which Heard claimed that Depp threw a phone at her face. Theses were separate from the photos of when Heard was photographed with a red mark on her right cheek after leaving a courthouse hearing, after obtaining a temporary restraining order from Depp a few days after the fight. These photos are contradictory to earlier testimony by responding police officers to the fight who claimed that Heard only looked flushed from crying and additional witnesses who claimed to not see bruises on Heard's face in the immediate days after the fight.[126] Under cross-examination by Depps lawyer, Heard claimed that the lack of bruising in photographs and seen by eyewitnesses after the fight was due to her color correcting makeup and ice, as she was "not going to walk around L.A. with bruises" on her face.[127]

Heard was also questioned by Depp's lawyers about her $7 million divorce settlement from Depp and her lack of fulfillment of the amount to charity as she had originally pledged. While Heard initially claimed that she was unable to fulfill her pledge due to the lawsuit, she did acknowledge that she had received the divorce settlement months prior to the lawsuit being filled.[127]

Reactions

The trial has drawn much attention from supporters of both Depp and Heard, along with the general population. The trial is livestreamed, with the comment section being compared by some reporters to a Twitch or VMA stream instead of a news channel.[128] Multiple users in the stream chat have expressed opinions about the case, or rallied against others doing the same, with similar comments and memes about those involved and the case seen on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.[129][130][131] Clips of the trial have been used to create memes as well as compilations or reaction videos, with multiple such videos going viral. Journalist Amelia Tait of The Guardian referred to the case as "trial by TikTok" and stated that on social media, the case has become "a source of comedy."[132] This was also noted by other journalists.[133][130][129][134][135] Several media outlets have noted that those posting about the trial on social media seem to mostly support Depp.[129][133][128][131][136][134] According to Sunny Hundal of The Independent, most of these images and videos portrayed Depp as "smiling, happy or making other people laugh" whereas "Heard is always pictured as angry or crying."[134] One video, a supercut of Heard's lawyer's repeated objections to Depp's testimony has gathered 30 million views on TikTok, and 15 million views on YouTube as of April 29, 2022.[137][138] Other viral TikTok trends have included videos where users act out Heard's testimony, or make "aroused facial expressions" over her testimony of sexual abuse.[132][134] Several false claims about Heard have also been disseminated through social media, including claims that Heard was "acting" during her testimony by passing off movie quotes as her own thoughts,[139] that she was using cocaine on the stand,[132] or that she was copying Depp's clothing choices.[129]

A review by Newsweek in 2016 of tweets that used the actors' names and were liked at least 100 times found about thirty-eight tweets that met the criteria and backed one of those involved. Since April 19, 2022, a similar study found that at least 509 tweets had been posted and met the criteria of the 2016 study, with a majority giving support to Depp.[140][141] BuzzFeed News reported, that between April 25 and April 29, 2022, there were 1,667 posts uploaded to Facebook using the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp, with over 7 million total interactions, i.e. likes and shares between them. Meanwhile, Heard comparatively only had 16 posts in support, with 10,415 interactions. Additionally on TikTok, videos tagged with #JusticeForAmberHeard have over 21 million combined views, while videos tagged with #JusticeForJohnnyDepp have over 5 billion combined views as of April 29.[129]

Companies have also involved themselves in the social media discussions about the trial. During the opening statements, one of Heard's attorneys held up a compact concealer makeup palette, stating: "this is what Amber carried in her purse for the entire relationship with Johnny Depp... this was what she used. She became very adept in it," appearing to be holding Milani Cosmetics' Conceal + Perfect All-in-One Correcting Kit palette though the wording may be interpreted as relating to a generic example of a compact.[142] Following this, Milani Cosmetics posted a TikTok video saying Heard could not have used their specific product to cover any alleged bruises during the relationship because it had not been released until December 2017.[143] Sellers on internet market places such as Redbubble and Etsy have also began selling merchandise related to the trial, such as t-shirts and mugs with the slogan "Justice for Johnny."[132][144]

Notes

  1. ^ Victoria Newton was The Sun's editor-in-chief while Dan Wootton served as Executive Editor.

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