Amber Heard recounts unraveling of marriage to Johnny Depp
By Julia Jacobs
Amber Heard testified earlier this week in the defamation case brought by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, that she filed for divorce and for a restraining order against him in 2016 after two blowout fights that made her fear for her safety.
“I knew I had to leave him,” Heard testified. “I knew I wouldn’t survive it if I didn’t.”
But after detailing the collapse of their marriage for several hours, Heard faced aggressive cross-examination from a lawyer for Depp, Camille Vasquez, who sought to discredit Heard’s account that the actor had beaten her repeatedly throughout their relationship.
Citing incidents during which Heard testified that she had been struck, Depp’s lawyers displayed photos taken at the time that show no apparent bruising or swelling. Heard testified that she covered the injuries with makeup so the abuse would remain hidden after many of the incidents.
“You should see what it looked like underneath the makeup,” Heard said of one photo she described as being taken the night after Depp hit her so hard that she thought her nose had been broken.
As the trial at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia entered its final two weeks, Heard spent the opening hours of the day finishing her testimony before facing off with Depp’s legal team, who questioned whether her accounts of spousal abuse were accurate and whether she had actually donated the money she secured through her divorce to charity, as she had pledged.
Her testimony included her account of the first time the issue of spousal abuse by Depp came into public view, in May 2016, after paparazzi photographed Heard at a California court, where she obtained a temporary restraining order against him. She had what appeared to be a bruise under one eye, and she told the court then, in a filing, that Depp had hurled a cellphone at her during an argument about a week earlier, hitting her in the face.
“The violence was now normal and not the exception,” Heard told the jury Monday.
Depp, 58, sued Heard, 36, for defamation after The Washington Post published an op-ed by Heard in 2018 in which she called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article did not mention Depp by name, but he has asserted that it clearly alluded to their relationship. The jury is also considering a countersuit filed by Heard, which accuses Depp of defaming her when his former lawyer made statements saying her accusations were a hoax.
In addition to repeated physical abuse, Heard has described multiple instances of sexual assault by Depp. He has accused her of being the aggressor in the relationship and denied ever hitting or sexually assaulting her.
Heard testified Monday about one confrontation that occurred after Depp missed her birthday dinner in April 2016 because he had a business meeting. When they were alone later that night, he initiated a physical fight, she said, and shoved her, grabbed her by the hair and threw a bottle of Champagne at her, missing her.
Heard said she did not see her then-husband for about a month after that. But in May 2016, when Depp visited the penthouse in Los Angeles where Heard was staying, the couple ended up arguing about Depp’s accusation that she or a friend had defecated in the couple’s bed as a “prank.” Heard called the accusation a “delusion,” attributing the feces to one of the couple’s dogs.
During the confrontation, Heard said, she was on the cellphone with a friend, who, overhearing the commotion and screaming, warned Heard that she wasn’t safe. That prompted Depp, she said, to grab the phone from her.
“He pulls his arm back with the phone and throws it at my face,” she said. “I put my head in my hands and immediately start crying.”
According to court papers, the friend on the phone called 911, but when the police arrived, Heard refused to cooperate.
“I wanted to protect Johnny,” she testified Monday. “I didn’t want him to be arrested.”
But two days later, she said, she filed for divorce, and several days after that, she filed for the restraining order because she was experiencing extreme anxiety and wanted an assurance that Depp would not return to where she lived. (She agreed to drop a request for a permanent restraining order as part of their divorce agreement.)
Depp’s account of those two incidents was markedly different during his testimony earlier in the trial. He said he had an important meeting about his finances and was late for Heard’s birthday party, prompting her to lash out at him later that night. He testified that she punched him in the face twice before he left the building and stayed elsewhere. His mother died while the couple was separated, and when he called Heard to tell her the news, he also told her he planned to file for divorce, Depp testified.
“Somebody had to call it,” he acknowledged.
When he returned to the penthouse to pick up some of his belongings, Depp testified, the couple got into an argument about the feces that an employee had found in the bed the previous month. Depp said he did not throw the phone at her, but rather, he “flopped” it onto the couch. He accused Heard of faking that she had been injured during the confrontation in order to convince her friends that she was in some peril.
“‘Stop hitting me, Johnny!’ she’s screaming in her best freaked out, upset voice,’” Depp testified.
Also played in court Monday was an audio recording of a phone conversation between the couple from June 2016 in which Depp challenged Heard on whether she believed that the accusations she had put in the application for a restraining order were true.
“Do you believe all this, Amber?” Depp said in the call. “You believe I’m an abuser?”
“Yes!” Heard replied repeatedly.
More than two years after she was granted the temporary restraining order, The Washington Post published Heard’s op-ed, which included broader policy-based arguments for national responses to gender-based violence. Heard testified that she had agreed to the op-ed because she wanted to raise awareness about those issues, not because she wanted to include specifics about her experiences with Depp or drum up publicity for her movie at the time.
Making an argument for her countersuit, Heard also testified about statements by Depp’s former lawyer that attempted to discredit her accusations, saying that it was “torture” to relive the accounts of abuse that she has shared in court.
“I just wanted him to leave me alone,” Heard said of Depp. “I wanted to move on with my life, and he won’t let me.”