Amber Heard finally got her chance to challenge Johnny Depp’s version of their marriage in court on Thursday as her legal team pressed the actor on his alcohol and drug use, and texts in which he described wanting to kill his then-wife and defile her body.
The cross-examination by Heard’s attorneys followed two days of unopposed testimony by Depp, in which the actor painted Heard as the aggressor in their three-year marriage.
Depp, 58, has accused Heard of defaming him with false accusations that ruined his reputation and career; Heard, 36, is counter-suing for $100m, claiming that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech when she wrote that she was as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” in a 2018 Washington Post article.
Attorneys for Heard sought to undermine Depp’s libel lawsuit against her by forensically examining his use of alcohol and drugs and presenting evidence of erratic or abusive behavior.
Throughout the day Depp appeared combative as exhibit after exhibit of alleged psychological or physical hostility toward Heard, coupled with Depp’s often damaging texts, audio or video commentary, were shown to the jury.
Amongst them were Depp’s history of damaging hotel rooms, smashing a bathroom sconce during an argument with his former wife, and defacing a mirror with “starring Billy Bob and Easy Amber”; a painting daubed with a penis; and a lampshade – each in his own blood mixed with paint.
In that episode, after losing the top of his finger during an argument with Heard in Australia, Heard’s attorney produced texts in which Depp said he had injured it himself. Depp has accused Heard of throwing a bottle of vodka, striking his finger.
In another incident during which Depp allegedly head-butted Heard – an accusation he denies – the actor testified that he was “trying to restrain Ms Heard”.
“If she was trying to move around and kick at me, any kind of movement, when you’re close it’s not impossible for them to bump, but a head-butt is pretty extreme,” Depp said.
In a later recording, Depp appeared to admit that he had head-butted Heard “but not to degree that he could have broken her nose”. On the tape, Heard then threatened to tell her side of the story which, she said in a recording, would differ from his.
“I went too far in our fight and I promise you it will never happen again,” Depp later texted Heard’s father.
Jurors were shown a video, filmed by Heard, of Depp punching kitchen cabinets and pouring himself a jar of wine. “Motherfucker! Motherfucker!” Depp could be heard shouting. Heard asks, “What happened? All I did was say sorry. Did something happen to you? I don’t think so. You drank this whole thing this morning? You’re smashing shit.”
Depp responded to video, “Clearly I was having a bad time. I don’t know what with regard to, but being illegally recorded by your chosen other is quite fitting with the rest of the photographs and tape recordings,” he said. “She tried to hide it from me and laughed and smiled at the end. That was the most interesting part.”
At times, Depp jousted with Heard’s attorneys, while they have allowed him to ramble. The court saw video – shot by Heard – of an intoxicated Depp pouring himself a large glass of wine; heard sound of Depp vomiting, and referring to his wife as a “lesbian camp counsellor”.
The issue for each party is credibility, as each has attempted to shred the other’s. At the start of the legal showdown in Fairfax, Virginia, 10 days ago, Heard’s attorneys said Depp physically and sexually assaulted her while abusing drugs and alcohol. On Thursday they followed up, asking Depp about text messages he shared with the actor Paul Bettany, singers Patti Smith and Marilyn Manson (real name Brian Warner), as well as his doctor and chief of security, Stephen Deuters.
In several of the messages, Depp used the term “monster” to describe the person he became under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The court heard damning exchanges from 2013 and 2014 between Depp and Bettany in which he described his desire to harm Heard: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!” he wrote, and said he would defile her corpse “afterwards to make sure she’s dead”.
As Depp brought the action, the legal burden is his to show that Heard defamed him when she described herself as a domestic abuse survivor. Heard has admitted to hitting Depp on a recording played in court during which she said she struck Depp but didn’t “deck” him.
In another exhibit, jurors were shown a photograph of Depp asleep after a 17-hour work day when he was also taking opioids. Heard’s attorney Ben Rottenborn asked Depp if he was aware of the lengths to which Heard went to help him, and played the court an audio recording in which she expressed concern that her husband might choke on his own vomit if left unattended.
“She didn’t like it when it was her perception that I was high on drugs and alcohol,” Depp said during Thursday’s testimony. Heard’s lawyers argue that Depp has no credibility when he denies abusing Heard as he often drank and used drugs to the point of blacking out.
To that purpose, Heard’s lawyers introduced text messages from Elton John, who was in 2013 helping Depp get sober during the early stages of his romance with Heard. Depp wrote to the singer describing his ex-wife Vanessa Paradis as a “French extortionist” who, he said, would seek to brainwash his new girlfriend against him.
The court also listened to a recording of Depp moaning during a now infamous flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Depp later texted Bettany to say that he drank “all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA this past Sunday. Ugly, mate. No food for days. Powders. Half a bottle of Whiskey, a thousand Red Bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of Champers on plane.”
Depp has previously testified that he drank only a glass of champagne as he boarded the plane and, after taking two painkillers, locked himself in the plane’s bathroom and went to sleep to avoid Heard’s badgering.
Jurors have also been shown a box in which Depp allegedly kept cocaine and several large bags of marijuana. In his text message to Patti Smith, Depp said he was “so disappointed in myself” after a visit to New York City in 2014 in which he got drunk and fought with Heard before they were married the following year.
Heard’s lawyers have sought to show that Depp’s loss of work, including being dropped from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, came before her 2018 opinion piece. They argue that the damage to Depp’s professional reputation was due to his own behavior.
In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org.