Johnny Depp takes the stand: Inside his wild first week of testimony in Amber Heard defamation case
Johnny Depp's first week on the stand in his defamation trial against Amber Heard is in the books and there is a lot to unpack. From shocking allegations of substance abuse, domestic violence, and infidelity, to childhood trauma, severed fingers, and fecal revenge, there was rarely a dull moment during Depp's three days on the stand, all of which was televised live via various media outlets, including streaming on Court TV.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed chronicling her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. Heard never mentioned Depp by name in the piece, but he and his lawyers maintain the references to the actor and Heard's public abuse allegations were clear, and that the op-ed damaged his career and reputation.
Heard filed for divorce from Depp after a year of marriage in 2016, obtaining a domestic violence restraining order against him. She accused the actor of physical and verbal abuse during "violent and volatile" episodes while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Depp has called the allegations "heinous and disturbing" and "not based in any species of truth."
Below, EW recaps the most shocking moments from Depp's testimony from week one of the six-week proceedings.
Day 1: Diabolical abuse, disturbing texts, and childhood trauma
Obsessed with the truth
Depp took the stand for the first time on Tuesday to give his witness testimony. He began by expressing "complete shock" at the domestic abuse allegations levied against him, saying that they escalated to scenarios that "were not based in any species of truth."
"Truth is the only thing I'm interested in," Depp testified. "Lies will get you nowhere, but lies build upon lies and build upon lies. I'm obsessed with the truth." The actor said he was emboldened to push back on Heard's allegations to protect his children, Lily-Rose, 22, and Jack, 20, whom he shares with ex Vanessa Paradis. "I felt it my responsibility to stand up not only for myself in that instance, but stand up for my children," he said. "I thought it was diabolical that my children would have to go to school and have their friends or people in the school approach them with the infamous PEOPLE magazine cover with Ms. Heard with a dark bruise on her face." He called the allegations "heinous and disturbing" and "not based in any species of truth."
Parallels to his parents
Depp went on to describe his difficult upbringing, seemingly drawing parallels between the dynamic of his parents' relationship and his own marriage to Heard. Depp described his late mother, Betty Sue Palmer, who died in 2016 after a long illness, as "violent" and "cruel," noting that she would throw ashtrays, high-heeled shoes, and telephones. "The verbal abuse, the psychological abuse, was almost worse than the beatings," Depp testified. "The beatings were just physical pain. The physical pain, you learn to deal with. You learn to accept it. You learn to deal with it." In contrast, his father was "very kind," "quiet," and "not a confrontational person in any way." He added, "When Betty Sue, my mother, would go off on a tangent toward my father — and of course, in front of the kids, it didn't matter to her — he, amazingly, remained very stoic... He stood there and just looked at her while she delivered the pain, and he swallowed it."
Depp addressed text messages he exchanged with friends, which were read in court, including one that said he hoped Heard's "rotting corpse is decomposing in the f---ing trunk of a Honda Civic." He also exchanged messages with actor Paul Bettany about burning and drowning Heard, writing, "I will f--- her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she's dead."
Depp said he was "embarrassed" about the "heat of the moment" messages during his testimony, saying his love for the works of Monty Python and his late friend Hunter S. Thompson contributed to his "expressive" vocabulary. "Sometimes pain has to be dealt with with humor, and sometimes dark humor," Depp testified. "I grew up watching Monty Python... I tend to be quite expressive in my writing." He said of the "unfortunate words" in the text exchanges: "I know that it cannot continue."
Day 2: Violent needs, fecal warfare, and sliced fingers
During his second day on the stand, Depp told the court that his ex-wife "has a need for conflict. She has a need for violence. It erupts out of nowhere. The only thing I learned to do is exactly what I did as a child — retreat." Depp said the couple would argue often, and that small conflicts would escalate into violence. "It could begin with a slap, it could begin with a shove, it could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head. It could begin with throwing a glass of wine at my face. All in all, it was constant," he said.
In an audio recording played in court, Heard can be heard admitting to starting a physical fight with Depp. "You didn't get punched; you got hit. I'm sorry I hit you like this, but I did not punch you," she says in the recording. "I did not f---ing deck you. I f---ing was hitting you. I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was. But you're fine. I did not hurt you. I did not punch you. I was hitting you."
On one occasion, Depp said he was "roundhouse punched" by Heard. A photograph was then presented in court showing Depp's bruised face.
When Depp, who has maintained he never struck Heard or any other woman, was asked about a December 2015 incident wherein he allegedly head-butted Heard, he "vehemently" denied intentionally head-butting her, arguing instead that it was an accident while he attempted to restrain her. "I was trying to restrain Ms. Heard, and once I had restrained her, I would say if she's trying to still move around and kick at me or trying to get loose, any sort of movement when you're like this, your heads are this close together, it's not impossible for them to bump. But a 'head-butt,' that's pretty extreme definition of that," he said.
Depp told the court he found "human fecal matter" on his side of the bed days after an argument with Heard in April 2016, recounting a "grotesque" photo that his security guard, Sean Bett, sent of the feces. Depp said that when he told Sean Bett, his security guard, he was going to his shared residence with Heard, Bett advised that it wasn't a good time. "I was shown a picture of what the problem was," Depp said. "It was a photograph of our bed, and on my side of the bed was human fecal matter… It was so bizarre and so grotesque that I could only laugh."
Heard "tried to blame it on the dogs," according to Depp. "They're teacup Yorkies. They weigh about 4 pounds each. The photograph that I saw — I lived with those dogs for many years. It was not the dogs… I didn't feel like I deserved that kind of treatment."
The actor recounted losing the tip of his right middle finger in March 2015, while he was in Australia to film Pirates of the Caribbean 5, saying the injury resulted from an argument with Heard over a prenuptial agreement. When the idea of a prenup was brought up to Heard, "It would springboard into unpleasantness and arguments," Depp said, adding that he removed himself from the situation by locking himself in a bathroom. Later, at the bar, Heard "was nowhere around," Depp said. "I poured myself two or three shots of vodka, my first taste of alcohol I had in a long time. She came down to the bar and found me there and started screaming, 'Oh, you're drinking again! You're a monster!'" Heard "hurled" the vodka bottle at him "and it went past my head," Depp said, adding that he grabbed a larger bottle to pour another shot.
"My hand is on the edge of the bar, and she threw the large bottle and it made contact and shattered everywhere," Depp recalled. "I didn't feel the pain at first — what I felt was heat and something dripping down my hand. I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed, and I was looking directly at my bones sticking out and the meaty portion on the inside of your finger… I don't know what a nervous breakdown feels like, but that's the closest I've ever [felt to one]. I knew in my mind and my heart that this is not life. No one should have to go through this."
Regarding the fallout from Heard's abuse allegations, Depp said he lost "nothing less than everything," adding that regardless of the outcome of the defamation trial, he has already "lost."
"When the allegations were made [and] rapidly circulating the globe, telling people that I was a drunken, cocaine-fueled menace who beat women suddenly in my 50s… no matter the outcome of this trial, the second the allegations were made against me [and] turned into fodder for the media… I lost then," he said.
Day 3: Cocaine trails, jealously, blood-drawn penises
Partying with famous friends
Depp took a lighter tone during his third day on the stand, eliciting laughter from the courtroom on several occasions while testifying about his history of substance abuse. When asked about his friendship with Marilyn Manson, Depp testified, "Yes, we drank together and we've had cocaine together maybe a couple of times." When Heard's attorney clarified, "Pills, right, with Marilyn Manson?" Depp replied, "Um, I once gave Marilyn Manson a pill so that he would stop talking so much."
Later, when probed if he consumed whiskey in the mornings while shooting 2013's The Lone Ranger, Depp quipped, "Isn't happy hour anytime?"
On another occasion, photos were shown of Depp seemingly passed out with ice cream on his lap. Depp accused Heard of setting up the moment by handing him the ice cream despite knowing that he was "nodding out" and taking the photo.
Depp's text messages with Manson and former costar and friend Paul Bettany were also presented. "I use marijuana… A lot!!!," one 2012 text to Manson read. "The pill and the plant stuff keep me calm and detached." Another 2013 text to Bettany read: "Drank all night before I picked Amber up to fly to L.A. this past Sunday. Ugly mate. No food for days. Powders. Half a bottle of whisky. An angry aggro injun in a f---ing blackout, screaming obscenities and insulting any f--- who got near." His infamous texts with Bettany about burning and drowning Heard were also presented again.
When responding to a question about whether he had used a small box (shown in a photo as evidence) to store cocaine, the actor replied, "No, but it looks like it would fit some cocaine. Cocaine is, in my experience, is normally given in plastic bags. When you put it in a box like that, chances are you'll leave a trail, a long line of cocaine behind you as you walk down the street."
Depp also alleged that Heard and her "gang" of friends took drugs at their wedding reception, sharing a "communal bag of MDMA." He also said that a schedule for the day's festivities read: "Dinner, dancing and drugs."
Under cross-examination, Heard's attorney grilled Depp on his "insecurities" surrounding her relationship with costars James Franco and Billy Bob Thornton. Heard starred opposite Franco in 2008's Pineapple Express and 2015's The Adderall Diaries, and opposite Thornton in 2018's London Fields. Rottenborn cited a "heated discussion" Depp had with Heard about a scene with Franco, with whom he suspected she was having an affair. Depp responded that "occasionally, yes, it did" make him feel insecure when Heard was out with others. Heard's lawyer also presented an audio recording of Depp telling Heard, "I become irrational when you're doing movies. I become jealous and f---ing weird and we fight a lot more."
Returning to Depp's severed fingertip, Heard's lawyer accused Depp of using his bloody finger as "a paintbrush" to spell out messages on the wall of the couple's residence.
According to Rottenborn, Depp also dipped his fingers into paint and defaced a painting by drawing a penis on it. "I don't know about that. I don't remember drawing a penis on a painting," Depp said. On whether he may have forgotten that he drew it "given his state," Depp replied, "Drawing a penis on a painting was not the first thing on my mind."
He added, "I remember dunking my finger into paint thinner and using paint when I had run out of blood to paint with, and I could have defaced the painting I suppose, but I do not remember a painting specifically."
He later continued, "I had messages to write, reminders." On whether he denied drawing the penis, Depp said, "Well, given that I had written some messages on the bathroom mirror and then Ms. Heard added to them, it's also not impossible Ms. Heard may have drawn a penis on a painting somewhere."
Rottenborn then shared photos of furniture that Depp used as a canvas to write his messages with a "mix of blood or paint," the attorney said. The words "Starring Billy Bob and Easy Amber" were scrawled on a mirror after Heard filmed 2018's London Fields with Thornton. "Good luck and be careful at the top" was written on a lampshade. "I thought it was good advice," Depp told the court.
Heard's legal team presented additional audio recordings, photos, and videos portraying volatile moments between Depp and Heard. In one video, Heard recorded Depp slamming cabinets in their kitchen and pouring himself a glass of wine. "Yes, I did assault a couple of cabinets, but I did not assault Ms. Heard," Depp testified, noting it was a "possibility" he was intoxicated. "Clearly I was having a bad time," he said. "I don't know what it is in regards to… being recorded by your chosen other is quite fitting with the rest of the photographs and tape recordings she made. I thought what was most interesting was she tried to hide [the camera] from me and smiled and laughed at the end."
Depp admitted he has "had moments in my life where one does sway from complete control over their emotions." Rottenborn also played audio of Depp seemingly referring to "the day I chopped my finger off" in Australia in 2015, which contradicted Depp's previous allegations that Heard severed his fingertip with a large vodka bottle. (Depp has said he told others he cut his own finger to keep the alleged altercation with Heard private.)
Other audio recordings featured Depp, presumably drunk, wailing and allegedly trying to cut himself in Heard's presence. She could be heard in one recording imploring Depp not to do so, saying, "Please don't cut your skin off. Don't cut yourself. Put the knife down."
Check back for more developments in the case as the trial continues next.
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