Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife, Amber Heard, for $50 million for defamation from a 2018 article she published in The Washington Post. Heard is counter suing for $100 million. The trial began on April 11th, 2022, and is expected to last about six weeks. Both parties have asserted that the other is guilty of domestic abuse.
Below, I’ll break down a timeline of Depp and Heard’s relationship and testimony from the trial thus far.
Early Relationship & Marriage
2009: Depp and Heard met for the first time on the set of the film “The Rum Diary”. Also in 2009, Heard was arrested by the Port of Seattle Police for domestic violence towards her then-partner Tasya Van See.
2012: Depp split with Vanessa Paradis, his longtime partner and the mother of his two children. Heard & Depp started dating.
2014: Depp confirms that he and Heard are engaged while showing off a ring.
2015: In February, the pair married.
2016: In May, Depp’s mother died. In the same week, Heard filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She was granted a restraining order against Depp based on allegations of domestic violence such as hair-pulling and Depp throwing a cell phone at her face. A $7 million settlement was reached, with the divorce finalized by January 2017.
Lawsuit, articles, & Countersuit
2018: The Sun published an article titled “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” Depp sued over libel, went to trial in the UK, and eventually lost in 2020. He was denied an appeal.
Also in 2018, Amber Heard published an op-ed titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” via The Washington Post.
In the op-ed, Heard said that, like many women, she had been “harassed and sexually assaulted” by the time she was of college-age. She talks about how she became a figure for domestic abuse during her divorce with Depp, who is not mentioned by name, which led to a loss of work and death threats. Heard writes, “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
2020: Heard testified in Depp’s libel lawsuit against The Sun. She filed a $100 million countersuit.
2022: The defamation trial begins.
Current testimony: Depp’s witnesses
Christi Dembrowski: Johnny Depp’s sister testified that Depp was “a shy, sweet little boy” with a “very caring personality.” She spoke about their parents’ relationship, stating that her mom would often scream at her father and hit him. Dembrowski also said that their mother hit, screamed at, threw things at, and name-called Depp. Dembrowski testified that even as an older child, Depp never hit his mother back.
Dembrowski testified about Depp’s 14-year relationship with Paradis, the mother of his children. “They were a great couple… they were happy together, they got along great,” she said. Sustained objections halted this line of testimony, which could have proved a lack of history of abuse.
Moving on to Depp and Heard’s relationship, Dembrowski testified on Heard’s insults to Depp during their relationship, saying that Heard called him an “old, fat man.” Dembrowski was scared and devastated to learn of Heard and Depp’s marriage. Heard refused to sign a prenup that would protect Depp’s children, according to Dembrowski.
Isaac Baruch: A stand-out witness with a charismatic personality, Depp’s long-term friend testified to Depp’s generous, caring behavior. He told the court that Depp gave him a home and funded his passion for art without expecting anything in return.
Baruch spoke on Heard’s accusation that Depp threw a phone at her face. Baruch described inspecting Heard’s face the night in question, saying, “I don’t see anything. Not a cut, bruising, swelling, redness.” The following two days, Baruch says he still did not see any signs of abuse on her face. Baruch also testified that he never witnessed Depp be physical towards Heard and feels frustrated and sad for how Depp and his family were ‘unfairly’ affected by Heard’s claims.
Sean Bett: Depp’s private security officer took to the stand on day four. He testified to hearing frequent arguments between Depp and Heard. Bett took a photograph of Depp’s face in March 2015, which shows bruising and swelling on Depp’s cheekbone. Bett testified to seeing scratch marks on Depp’s nose area, cheek, and forehead after a December 2015 argument with Heard. Bett testified that he never saw any injuries on Heard.
Kate James: Heard’s ex-assistant testified in a video deposition. James described Heard as a screaming, unfair boss who once spat in her face. In contrast, James testified that Depp behaved as a calm, sweet, gentleman in her presence. James testified that she never saw any evidence of Depp being abusive towards Heard. James also asserted that Heard’s mother told James that she was terrified of her daughter.
Current Testimony: Johhny Depp
Last but not least… Johnny Depp. Depp’s testimony included video and audio footage. The testimony was all over the place; Depp’s substance issues were brought up, and Heard was accused of defecating in Depp’s bed. Depp also accused Heard of slicing off the tip of his finger by throwing a glass bottle at him.
One video recording by Heard showed Depp angrily slamming cabinets. Multiple audio recordings between Heard and Depp demonstrated that Depp tried to get away during their arguments so that nothing escalated. One time when Depp wanted to leave a fight, Heard sobbed that she wanted to die and that Depp was ‘killing her’ in an attempt to make Depp stay.
Perhaps the most telling piece of audio concerns Heard starting physical fights with Depp (edited for clarity):
HEARD: I didn’t punch you, by the way. I’m sorry that I didn’t hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you. I was not punching you. Babe, you were not punched.
DEPP: Don’t tell me what it feels like to be punched.
HEARD: You know, you’ve been in a lot of fights, you’ve been around a long time, yeah.
DEPP: No, when you f*cking have a closed fist.
HEARD: You didn’t get punched. I’m sorry I hit you like this, but I did not punch you, I did not f*cking deck you. I was f*cking hitting you. I don’t what the actual motion of my hand was, but you’re fine. I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you. I’m not sitting here b*tching about it, you are. That’s the difference between me and you, you’re a f*cking baby.
DEPP: Because you start physical fights?
HEARD: You are such a baby, grow the f*ck up!
DEPP: Because you start physical fights?
HEARD: I did start a physical fight.
Conclusion & Why care?
The trial has just begun, and Heard and her witnesses have yet to take to the stands, so I hesitate to form any final opinions. However, it is important to reflect on several key themes from this trial: domestic abuse, childhood abuse, and the nature of toxic relationships.
Regardless of the outcome, our society can learn from this trial. In the United States, 1 in 4 women experience severe physical violence from a partner. Many women are quieted through shame, fear of not being believed, and societal institutions that protect men.
1 in 9 men face severe physical violence from partners. Many men fear ridicule for speaking out due to patriarchal stereotypes of physical power and strength. As a result, I found it very impactful when Depp declared to the court that he is a victim of domestic violence right after an audio recording of Heard alleging that no one would believe Depp since he is a man.
If nothing else, I hope this case brings awareness to the long-lasting, psychological effects of domestic abuse and helps alleviate the different stigmas surrounding men and women survivors of abuse.