The entertainment circles are always abuzz with rumours and gossip, but the defamation lawsuit that Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, in Fairfax, Virginia, has recently stolen the headlines.
Depp’s lawsuit might last up to six weeks. We’re barely halfway through and some shocking facts regarding the estranged couple’s marriage have come to light.
The Defamation Lawsuit
To contextualise the case, the 58-year-old actor filed a defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard for an opinion piece that was published in The Washington Post in 2018, titled “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
In the op-ed, the 35-year-old actress writes about how she become “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.
She mentions being subjected to physical and sexual violence, and harassment. She insinuates that her acting career was being threatened, speaking of how she would be blacklisted, how a global fashion brand she worked for had dropped her, and her worries about being able to keep her role as Mera in Justice League and Aquaman.
Surely, you perceive that there is a villain in the subtext.
While the piece doesn’t mention Depp by name, it’s quite apparent that it could only be about him, given that her only notable romantic relationship was her three-year marriage with Depp, which ended in a divorce in 2016.
Shortly thereafter, Johnny Depp’s acting career took a nosedive:
Despite playing the starring role of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean over five films in fifteen years, Disney suddenly decided that they wanted to drop him entirely or shrink his role.
Similarly, his role as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts, a spin-off that is set in the Harry Potter universe, was also jeopardised as he was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.
In Depp’s own words, he said: “I would be a real simpleton to not think there was an effect on my career based on Heard’s words, whether they mentioned my name or not.”
Hence, Depp is not only suing Heard for defamation, but he also has the burden of proving that she had done so with malice.
Depp’s lawyers claim that Heard orchestrated a complicated hoax to destroy Depp’s career. Should his case succeed in the eyes of the judge and jury, the court will order Heard to pay $50 million in damages.
To know more about defamation and damages, watch this video to the end:
In turn, Heard has counter-sued Depp, for alleging that she had lied about the domestic violence.
However, who is right and who is wrong?
The Depp Flaws
Before going into the specifics, it’s important to know where Johnny Depp stands.
Firstly, he asserts that he has never resorted to physical violence against Heard, or anyone for the matter. He doesn’t believe that violence can solve anything.
This is the main reason why he claims that Heard was defaming him in her op-ed.
On Tuesday (26 Apr), Depp testified, “Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms Heard in any way nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”
Secondly, he fully admits that he is an alcoholic, and he has been addicted to drugs.
This isn’t exactly a secret either; his problems with substance abuse have been publicly known for years, and he has tried to break off those vices only to relapse, and these are statements of facts that he has declared before the court.
However, when he was asked by Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, about the recordings of the couple’s arguments and the problem of his alcohol abuse which might have led to violence, Depp responded:
“Sir if anyone had a problem with my drinking, at any time of my life, it was me. The only person I’ve abused in my life is myself.”
He maintains that even when he was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, his method of dealing with arguments that might escalate to violence was retreat, because that was his coping mechanism as a child, and it’s a habit that stays with him.
One example that was brought up was the Boston flight to Los Angeles, which occurred while he was filming Black Mass in 2014.
Heard alleged that Depp assaulted her on the flight while he was blackout drunk.
On the other hand, Depp tells a different story.
He states that he wasn’t drinking excessively and was trying to kick the habit at that time; instead, he had consumed two oxycodone pills, which was his source of addiction then, and locked himself in the plane bathroom to avoid her pestering.
Depp then points out that he wasn’t the only one with problems with substance abuse, stating that Heard had similar issues too, where she would down wine, ecstasy, mushrooms, “and at a higher velocity speed”.
The Words of a Marriage Counsellor
If there’s one way to describe the marriage between Depp and Heard, their marriage counsellor and clinical psychologist, Laurel Anderson phrases it best.
The divorce couple were engaged in mutual abuse.
There were frequent arguments between the pair that often worsened into shouting and screaming profanities.
Both of them are equally guilty for calling each other a whole list of expletives, which will not be said here because it will just end up with more asterisks than letters.
Whether it was in the audio recordings or text messages, the verbal abuse that each side assailed the other with is horribly consistent.
Case in point: Heard calls Depp a “washed-up actor”, he responds with ‘fat a**”.
With regards to the verbal abuse, Depp has confessed that he is guilty of it, not that it was something he could deny given the amount of evidence stacked against him, but he also says that he’s not proud of words he has thrown about in his anger.
Verbally Abusive Text Messages
There were also text messages between Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany where they joked about drowning and burning Heard.
Depp doesn’t deny sending those messages but said that those messages are being read without the full context.
He explains that Bettany, being born and bred in the United Kingdom, had a “dry, obtuse, abstract, sense of humour” which the pair connected on easily. Their way of coping with the terrible was through humour, though it gets dark at times.
The text messages of burning Ms Heard, were in direct reference to Monty Python, a sketch about burning and drowning witches.
Needless to say, Rottenborn had grilled him on the stand for all the messages that he had sent,
LAPD: No Signs of Domestic Dispute
Another key witness that was brought to the stand (virtually) was Los Angeles Police Department Officer Melissa Saenz.
Under the defence’s questioning, the 12-year veteran officer details her experience when she was inside the couple’s South Broadway home around 9pm on 21 May 2016.
Officer Saenz bluntly states that she didn’t identify Heard as a victim of domestic violence.
Sure, she observed that Heard was “red-eyed” and “crying” but Heard hadn’t made any eye contact with her.
In that July 2016 disposition, Officer Saenz had also interviewed Heard and scrutinised her face, noting that there were no marks, swelling, or injuries on her visage.
This can be corroborated with the fact that Heard had personally told the police officer that she was not hurt, and Heard didn’t lodge a complaint against Depp.
Back then, Officer Saenz and her trainee partner Officer Tyler Hadden hadn’t been aware of the divorce proceedings, nor whose house they were being dispatched to. All they could deduce was that residents were rich.
Although Officer Saenz gave her testimony, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt because she admitted that neither she nor her partner had taken down any notes or photos in the Depp-Heard home.
Having to play by word alone is not convincing enough, even if Officer Saenz has had a long career in law enforcement.
Witness Statements: Depp is Not Physically Abusive
Therein lies the most important question: is Depp physically abusive?
From the witness testimonies of Winona Ryder—Depp’s ex-girlfriend of four years—and his other friends, they have never known Depp to be a violent man.
In 2020, Ryder released a witness statement to the court, confirming that she had never experienced any abuse during her relationship with Depp.
“I understand that it is very important that I speak from my experience, as I obviously was not there during his marriage to Amber, but from my experience, which was so wildly different, I was absolutely shocked, confused and upset when I heard accusations against him,” she recounted. “The idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the furthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved.”
She continues, “He was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me. He has never been violent or abusive towards anybody I have seen. I truly and honestly only know him as a really good man – an incredibly loving, extremely caring guy who was so very protective of me and the people that he loves, and I felt so very, very safe with him.”
On Wednesday (13 Apr), Isaac Baruch, Depp’s childhood friend and their next-door neighbour, offers some colourful insights into the relationship.
He testifies that he has witnessed two arguments between the couple, but it did not end up in a physical altercation.
He mentions one specific instance that happened on 22 May 2016, where Heard came over to his place after an argument she had with Depp the night before.
He remembers Heard telling him that Depp had come by last night and he had been violent.
Baruch later questioned, “He hit you?”
Heard replied with a “Yeah”, elaborating that he threw a phone at her and hit her.
At that point in the conversation, Baruch was only two feet away from Heard as he asks where her injuries were.
He asked Heard to tilt her head so that he could get a better view, but he testifies that he didn’t see anything. “I don’t see a cut, bruise, or swelling. It’s just Amber’s face.”
Baruch also insisted that Heard had not been wearing any make-up then.
When asked about whether he felt any anger towards the 35-year-old actress, Baruch admits that when he first saw the fake photographs and story in the tabloids, in addition to how she was using a fraudulent domestic violence claim to extort and blackmail his childhood friend, he was angry, frustrated, and upset.
But now? Six years later?
He gets a little tearful as he responds that he’s just “tired” and wishes that all this could end.
He told the court that he wanted Heard to go and heal and that “so many people were affected by this malicious lie she started… and it went around the world.”
When all is said and done, Baruch believes that Depp, the man met in the 1980s, the person who has always supported his artistic endeavours, is a good man that would never sort to physical violence.
Amber Heard: Victim or Abuser?
While there are witness testimonies to claim that Depp has never been the sort to resort to physical abuse, the same can’t be said for Heard.
Here’s the transcripts for the audio recordings that suggest that Heard has taken physical action against Depp before:
HEARD: I’m sorry that I didn’t, uh, uh, hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you. It was not punching you, babe, you’re not punched.
DEPP: Don’t tell me what it feels like to be punched.
DEPP: Did you start physical fights?
HEARD: I did start a physical fight.
DEPP: Yes, you did, and I had to get the f*** out of there.
HEARD: Yes, you did. You did the right thing. The big thing, that you know what you are… admirable.
In a separate legal case in Britain, Heard denied throwing a bottle and severing a portion of Depp’s finger.
Instead, she said she threw things only to escape when he was allegedly beating her, and punched him because she was afraid that he was going to push her sister down the stairs.
Regardless of whether it was an instinctual reaction, borne out of fear, her statements still imply that she had assaulted Depp, whereas Depp has completely denied ever hitting his ex-wife.
The Circumstances of the Severed Finger
The most damning evidence against Heard, perhaps, is Depp’s severed finger.
Depp testified that the top of his right middle finger was severed by shattered glass in 2015 after Heard supposedly threw a bottle of vodka at him because she was enraged he started drinking again in Australia, during the filming of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Depp had then used his injured finger to write bloody messages, with a mixture of paint, on the wall and other surfaces, of which included the phrase “easy Amber”.
He sought medical care afterwards, but lied to his doctor that he had injured his finger by slamming it in the door.
He said: “I didn’t want to disclose that it had been Ms Heard that had thrown a vodka finger at me and then took my finger off. I didn’t want to get her in trouble. I tried to keep things as copacetic and easy as possible for everyone.”
Depp also mentioned that he had multiple surgeries to repair the finger and contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—which causes staph infections that are resistant to some antibiotics and can be difficult to treat—during his recovery.
Dr David Kipper confirmed portions of Depp’s story.
The thing is, there’s no reason for Depp to mutilate himself for a sob story, especially not where his appendages are concerned.
Johnny Depp has been a guitarist since he was 12, and he found peace in loving and learning music.
To cut his finger off would be to ruin the ability to play the guitar.
Depp told the court that when the tip of his finger was severed, nothing had made sense to him at first because he didn’t really process the pain.
When he realised he was bleeding, his first thought was thank god it wasn’t his left hand because that was his fret hand.
“If you lose a finger from your left hand, I’d have to relearn how to play the guitar all over again. That’s not the case,” Depp said. “If I was going to admit to someone I actually chopped my finger off, it would have to be a long explanation. Not I can’t take responsibility for what I now call Little Richard, my chopped finger.”
The Wrong Concealer
Another piece of evidence that points towards the fact that Heard might not have been a victim of domestic abuse, is ironically the concealer she uses.
Her defence lawyer Elaine Bredehoft told the judge and jury that Heard had become skilled at using Milani Cosmetics’ All In one Correcting Kit to hide her bruises throughout 2012 to 2016.
Bredehoft held up the palette and said, “You’re going to heard the testimony from Amber about how she had to mix different colours for the different days of the bruises, as they developed in the different colouring and how she would use [the concealer] to touch those up, to be able to cover those.”
However, in response to their product being used as evidence, Milani Cosmetics made a TikTok video without any prompting from anyone, to contest the claims made by Heard.
Milani Cosmetics clarified that the All in One Correcting Kit wasn’t actually launched until 2017, a year after Depp and Heard divorced.
Captioning the video, Milani Cosmetics wrote: “You asked us… let the record show our Correcting Kit launched in 2017! 👀 #milanicosmestics”
@milanicosmetics You asked us… let the record show that our Correcting Kit launched in 2017!👀 #milanicosmetics ♬ International Super Spy – dylan
Talk about awkward, I guess?
Solemn Final Words
During the final minutes of the court hearing on 26 April, Depp remained on the stand for redirect examination from his own attorney, Jessica Meyers.
She plays a 2016 recording of a conversation between Heard and Depp, in which Heard expressed concern about regaining her reputation after press reports revealed the abuse that their relationship was riddled with.
When Meyers asked her client what he replied with, when he heard Ms Heard say, “Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them, Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim, too, of domestic violence—”
Depp could only give the honest truth.
He said: “Yes, I am.”
At the very least, for the finger that was cut off, what else could be, if it isn’t domestic violence?
Putting aside gender stereotypes, any person can be a victim of violence, whether it’s verbal, physical, or psychological.
It doesn’t make you a lesser being for admitting that you’ve been hurt and broken.
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